As your indie retail business grows, leading a team becomes a crucial part of your store owner responsibilities. And while being a leader may not come naturally, being a better leader is thankfully a skill that you can cultivate. 

Keep reading to learn the five essential skills you can quickly learn to be a better leader. You’ll be known for your kindness, respect, and humility as a leader after implementing these tips!


Growing into your leadership role as a store owner isn’t always easy. But there are some basic skills that we can build upon and practice to develop our leadership muscles. 

While I’ve interviewed experts about leadership strength in the past, I want to lay the foundation for store owners in stages 4, 5, and 6 of their shopkeeping journeys. I’ll be hosting Leadership Month for Master Shopkeepers in July, so this blog post and podcast episode are the perfect introduction to the more in-depth training we’ll have during Leadership Month. 

The number of store owners in stages 4, 5, and 6 is growing in Master Shopkeepers. For some, leading is a new skill that has to be learned. It isn’t a natural skill for many store owners. 

By the way, if you haven’t taken the Savvy Shopkeeper Quiz, you should! You’ll learn what stage of shopkeeping you’re in, plus get a curated roadmap of resources to guide you during your shopkeeping journey. Plus, it’s incredibly helpful if you regularly listen to the podcast or are in Master Shopkeepers

A store owner in stage 5 generally has 10-12+ employees—and in some cases, as many as 30-40 team members with one or more store managers! That’s a LOT of leading, right?! 

If your business grows quickly, you may suddenly find yourself with a big team. If you’ve not developed your leadership skills, you may struggle to lead them or find yourself with a frustratingly high amount of staff turnover.

Just like so many other things in entrepreneurship, being a good leader is a muscle we can build. Let’s explore some of the layers in the leadership muscle we can work on.

being a better leader

1. Be Inquisitive: Ask What’s Helpful to Them

As a store owner, it’s essential to maintain a curious mindset. This means regularly engaging with your employees and asking them what tools, resources, or support they need to perform their jobs better. 

Plus, showing genuine interest in their work and personal development will give you a better understanding of both how you can support them and what you can improve upon. 

When you ask, “What can I do to help you succeed?” you open a dialogue that fosters trust and collaboration. Their answers will not only help you identify and remove obstacles but also make your team feel valued and heard.

Asking how you can help them succeed—along with carefully listening to their answers and following through with the support they ask for—can significantly boost morale and productivity.

Other Key Questions to Ask Your Team

  • “What challenges are you facing with your current tasks?”
  • “Are there any additional training or resources that would help you?”
  • “How can we improve our processes to make your work easier?”

One Master Shopkeepers member asked her staff, “What’s the one thing you wish I would have trained you better on when you started working?” Their answers were her guiding light when building an operations manual

being a better leader

2. Act as a Guide—Teach Them!

Leadership isn’t just about giving orders. It’s about guiding and mentoring your team, too! You can do so by teaching them new skills, sharing your knowledge, and providing constructive feedback. 

When you act as a coach, you empower your employees to grow and take on more responsibilities. This not only improves their performance but also builds a stronger, more capable team.

How to Coach Your Team

  • Conduct regular training sessions on new products or technologies.
  • Offer one-on-one mentoring to address specific skills or career development.
  • Provide opportunities for employees to take on new roles or responsibilities under your guidance.

We have a husband/wife duo in Master Shopkeepers that coaches their team SO well. We often joke that the husband loves to “people.” He loves learning about people, talking to them, and identifying what and why they need to work on something. He is a consummate people-person who thrives on chatting and engaging with his team. For him, this is a natural skill. 

We’re not all built like that, though! Some of us are more focused on ourselves, are introspective, or are just introverted. But no matter how you’re built, being a better leader does require some “people-ing.” 

being a better leader

3. Practice Humility by Admitting When You’re Wrong

Humility is a critical trait in effective leadership. Acknowledging your mistakes or areas where you can improve shows your team that you are both a) a regular human who makes human mistakes and b) approachable. 

Being honest fosters a culture of transparency and mutual respect. When employees see that you’re willing to admit your faults and work on them, they are more likely to do the same—leading to a more honest and productive work environment. 

How to Demonstrate Humility

  • Publicly acknowledge mistakes and share what you learned from them.
  • Seek feedback from your team on your leadership style and areas for improvement.
  • Show appreciation for employees who bring new ideas or solutions to the table.

If you’re always right and your team is always wrong, you’ve got a problem. Just because we’re leaders doesn’t mean we’re always right or that we do everything right! 

At Savvy Shopkeeper, I have a team of seven. They’re all remote subcontractors, but just because they’re independent workers doesn’t mean I’m not leading them.  

My team members often tell me how much they appreciate my systems (no surprise there, right?!). While I do have things systemized, sometimes things still don’t work. And when something isn’t working or I’m dropping the ball, I HAVE to accept responsibility. 

In these situations, it’s easy for leaders to blame their team for inefficiencies. But if you step back and look at the full picture, is it possible it’s actually YOU?

The next two tips are where I often find shopkeepers who are becoming leaders struggle the most. Being a people-pleaser or lacking systems is what keeps store owners from building this part of the leadership muscle, but you CAN work on it. 

being a better leader

4. Create Accountability with Clear Communication

Accountability is crucial for a well-functioning team. That starts with ensuring that each team member knows their responsibilities and the expectations you have for them. 

Clear communication about goals, deadlines, and performance standards helps prevent misunderstandings and ensures that everyone is on the same page. Regular check-ins and performance reviews can help maintain this clarity and keep everyone accountable!

How to Create Accountability

  • Set clear, measurable goals for each team member.
  • Regularly review progress and provide feedback.
  • Use project management tools to track tasks and deadlines.

For some of you, you’ll feel like you’re micromanaging, especially when you start building this part of the muscle. It may feel annoying and unnecessary but trust me, it is necessary.

If you haven’t given your team members expectations or created a system for accountability, you may find yourself in a position where your undermanagement leads to micromanagement. 

The better you get at this, the less it will feel like micromanaging.

being a better leader

5. Be True to Your Word and Follow Through on Consequences

Integrity in leadership means keeping your promises and being consistent in your actions. When you commit to something, follow through. This builds trust and reliability. 

Following through also means you have to establish and enforce consequences fairly. If expectations are not met, address the issues directly and constructively. Consistent follow-through on both rewards and consequences reinforces a culture of accountability and respect.

How to Maintain Integrity

  • Follow through on commitments to your team, whether it’s a promise for new resources or a scheduled meeting.
  • Address issues of non-performance or misconduct promptly and fairly.
  • Reward and recognize employees who meet or exceed expectations to reinforce positive behavior.

When store owners have a toxic team member and the owner hasn’t worked on accountability or being true to their word, the toxicity of that team member leaks into every part of their team or business.  

Once they identify this and start building their leadership muscle, they get the courage to remove the toxic team member and EVERYONE feels relief.

Anyone Can Be a Better Leader

Although it might seem difficult, you can become a more effective and respected leader. 

These 5 practices will not only enhance your leadership skills, but also contribute to a positive, productive, and cohesive work environment for your entire team. They’ll appreciate the support, guidance, and clarity you provide. And ultimately, your leadership will encourage better performance and improve their job satisfaction.

If you’re a member of Master Shopkeepers, we’ll be digging into this topic much more in July. Get ready!

If you want to grow, you’ll need the support of a team, even if you’re currently a solo shopkeeper. Join us in Master Shopkeepers to attend Leadership Month and access so many other lessons, resources, and helpful conversations. You can apply to join at https://savvyshopkeeper.com/groupmembership

Resources

Timestamps

  • [04:36] 1. Be Inquisitive: Ask What’s Helpful to Them
  • [07:06] 2. Act as a Guide—Teach Them!
  • [10:36] 3. Practice Humility by Admitting When You’re Wrong 
  • [14:51] 4. Create Accountability with Clear Communication
  • [18:04] 5. Be True to Your Word and Follow Through on Consequences
  • [21:05] Anyone Can Be a Better Leader

Connect With Kathy

Kathy Cruz is an Independent Retail Coach who helps store owners work smarter, profit more, and grow their brick and mortar businesses. 

Connect with Kathy and learn more here:

Website: www.savvyshopkeeper.com
Instagram: @savvyshopkeeper
Mastermind Group: Master Shopkeepers

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