As loss prevention professionals climb the leadership ladder, each new rung requires a mindset shift. When new leaders earn promotions, they are often hungry to develop their perspectives. Unfortunately, it is easy for senior leaders to assume that their rising leaders are aware of these necessary shifts and bypass opportunities to educate them.
Each level of leadership requires a more strategic, and less tactical approach. Success is no longer defined by case numbers, audit scores, and merchandise protection standards compliance. It is now defined by business acumen, budget management, relationships forged, new leaders developed, innovations, and process improvements.
This evolution in thinking can be challenging for people who earned their reputation by generating cases and enforcing policy compliance. As Marshall Goldsmith famously stated, “What got you here, won’t get you there.” Below are five best practices for loss prevention professionals to employ as they progress in their leadership journey.
Transition from doer to teacher and listener. As leaders progress in their careers, they are no longer expected to do many of the daily tasks they were previously responsible for. They are now expected to develop a team of people to tackle these tasks, evolve how these tasks are accomplished and identify new efforts that benefit their team and organization. This requires rising leaders to step aside and allow other team members to make mistakes as they learn to handle these assignments. The best leaders are teachers, and mistakes create the best teachable moments. Focus on developing the patience necessary to listen to how those around you think and feel so you can teach them the understanding necessary to be successful.
Shift your focus from numbers to outcomes. Metric driven leaders often find themselves chasing numbers. This tactical approach places leaders in a trailing position as they try to catch up to their numeric goals, which typically limits their strategic impact on the organization and their ability to develop others. Focusing on outcomes allows leaders to best deploy their teams and resources, evolve traditional efforts, and identify new best practices.
Teach problem solving skills, not task requirements. Gregg Smith did a great job with this when I was on his team. He was consistently inquiring about our thought processes and how our actions aligned with our goals. As a result, he wasn’t teaching us how to handle any one situation. He was teaching us how to think, understand our environment, consider various factors, and weigh alternatives. The problem- solving skills we learned transcended individual issues and helped us protect the organization by making better decisions, quickly, in novel situations.
Align LP goals with organizational goals. Adam Ostrowsky was the first loss prevention leader who taught me this lesson. It was easy to focus on generating cases and securing inventory while ignoring greater organizational needs. He was the first person who slowed me down and motivated me to consider how my actions impacted the entire operation. This is especially important in environments where loss prevention is working to overcome a us-versus- them perception with sales-focused departments. Loss prevention leaders earn greater support throughout the organization when they develop the ability to frame their initiatives around the goals and priorities other departments are focused on.
Build trust through follow-up conversations. People don’t trust what they’ve been told, they trust what they believe they’ve experienced. Building trust within your team, and your organization, requires providing everyone around you with experiences that consistently reinforce the belief you—and your team—are trustworthy. The more impactful information you can share with your team, and the more often you set aside time to listen to them, the better. This is especially true after stressful or difficult events.
There is no doubt it can be difficult to let go of tasks you previously handled, assume the role of teacher, focus on outcomes, develop your business acumen, and integrate yourself within the larger organization. Whenever possible seek out mentors who have previously navigated this change and ask their advice. Ask your team for their input and connect with leaders outside of loss prevention to learn from their experiences and perspectives. When in doubt, apply the “Disciplined Listening” leadership test. Ask yourself: Do those around me believe that I am calm, consistent, and making people better? If the answer is yes, you’re on the right track. If the answer is no, address these cornerstones and the rest of your leadership foundation will fall into place.
Michael Reddington is the President of InQuasive, Inc. where he teaches executives how to maximize their leadership conversations and negotiations by applying strategic and ethical observation and persuasion techniques. His book, The Disciplined Listening Method, was published in 2022. He can be reached at 704-256-7116 and firstname.lastname@example.org.