M&S stay focussed on guiding principles
Play • 38 min

Daisy why retail is a lot like working in politics and also offers lessons on leadership - as well as gems on reputation and communication.

Five key lessons stood out – three about leadership and two about communications. Let’s start with leadership:

  • Define what you believe in, your starting principles and use them to inform all of your decisions. It will make those decisions easier – because you aren’t starting form scratch – but it also sets you up for the holy grail of reputation protection, the moment when your stakeholders begin to believe that even if you did something wrong, you were probably doing it for the right reasons and will sort it out.
  • Explain your decisions and share the pain. Give the bad news yourself, as well as the good. That simple step will help build trust internally and externally.
  • You team are capable of extraordinary things. Every interviewee this season has described feats of stamina and ingenuity. So how can you help? Make clear the problem and the constraints. Let them wow you.

And for communicators in particular,

  • If you want customers to ‘vote’ for you with every purchase, you need to understand them, and that means having a team that reflects them and is curious to understand their needs. Sometimes that is going to mean engaging with some more extreme elements to get a feel for whether this is the start of something big, or a viewpoint that is truly peripheral – to make that judgment you can draw again on those core principles, but you also need a team that has a feel for what really matters to your target audience.
  • And finally, vitally, don’t undersell yourself. Communicators often feel stifled in the boardroom because they are different to other executives but that is why you are there. Learn to speak their language but never forget they need you to be the voice of your stakeholders into the business – as well as the line of communication out.
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