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What impact are you having as a leader?

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What impact are you having as a leader?  This is a scary question for me because I know that, sometimes, I don’t have the impact I intended – and sometimes, noticing other peoples’ impact helps me reflect on my own.

Over the weekend we took family members shopping to a pleasant local town with great facilities.  The highlight of the day, for me, was intended as a browse through a branch of an internationally-renowned designer clothing company.  Dressed head to toe in their products, I went looking for inspiration to brighten up the wet winter days ahead.

What I noticed was that the experience wasn’t as pleasant as usual. 

My husband tried on a 2-piece suit – and discovered that his size ratio differed from the format offered.  He suggested that he bought trousers and jacket separately but this idea was rejected.

In the ladies’ department my usual ‘select a few things and see how they go together’ approach was stalled by a female figure looming over the racks.

Coming away empty-handed, I wondered aloud why that hadn’t been much fun.  It turned out that the person who watched my activities was the regional manager – who frowned on customer deals and untidy shop floors.

This is a store that succeeds by attracting and entertaining coach-loads of tourists – who come with the express intention of enjoying their day out and splashing out at a high-profile store.

I’d love to be a fly on the wall when they look at their sales for that afternoon – how they matched previous Saturdays around this time of year.  My guess is that they were down – because that was the feeling I got as I visited that store.  I would also hazard a guess that the impact of the manager was one of depressing the natural good humour of the floor staff.

What really put the nail in the coffin, as a customer, was when I heard a man claiming responsibility for the ‘amazing turnaround’ of this organisation talking on the radio.  His claim that the organisations he took over were previously poorly run, with “bad management” was a litany of despair; disrespectful of the hard-working people in that organisation.

What I see is that, since his organisation took over, the quality is downgraded, and the brand taken down-market.  I’m personally not persuaded by this strategy.  I keep in touch with the success of luxury brands and the evidence shows that when you match your brand to your customer, you attract and retain them.  It’s the people who aspire to your brand (but can’t really afford it) who drop away when times are hard for them.

Now I know that, for some retailers, times are tough.  But that is even more reason to make shopping in person enjoyable and worthwhile.  You get to touch the fabrics, try on new styles and mix accessories with the clothes themselves.  All-in-all it generally adds up to more fun (and higher spend) that way.

So, is this just a dig at a clothes store?  A superficial attempt to justify my own retail therapy.  I would like to persuade you that I really am talking about the impact we have as leaders: on our staff, our customers and our investors.  Even if you work for public sector organisation, or charity, you still have all three.  Think of your customers as your patients, carers and family members if you work in the health sector; your donors as investors and your volunteers as ‘staff’, if you’re a charity.

Here’s three simple ways to have a positive impact as a leader – starting today:

  • Get interested in your staff and get to know their strengths – they appreciate being treated as human beings
  • Start noticing what’s going well – and share it out loud – success is infectious
  • Observe actual user behaviours and make their pathways easier – whether they are customers, patients or window-shoppers – they’ll appreciate you for it


If you like reading, the book by Paco Underhill “Why We Buy” is a great explanation and description of this.

As leaders we achieve more by engaging, acknowledging and supporting others to be successful.  Leadership is no longer a position of knowledge and power; it’s a position of facilitator and enabler.   Staff have never been better educated and intelligent; they know what works and the impact we need to have is to encourage more of what they’re good at.  By being aware of the impact we have as leaders give us choice and options.


Author: Helen Caton Hughes

Leadership and Team Coach based on inspirational and practical tools. Works with leaders around the world; trains coaches to International Coach Federation standards. Passionate about finding best ways for leaders to inspire themselves and get the best from their teams

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