Blog Post

The 5 Critical Roles of a Field Leader

October 11, 2019 in Field Managing in Retail, Thought Leadership

Whether you call them Area Managers, District Managers or Regional Managers, retail field leaders are considered by many to be the most important role in any retail organization. Field leaders are the essential bridge between head office and the stores and make a huge impact on your brand and business.

Field Leaders: Critical to your Retail Business

From store performance, to planning, to ongoing operational effectiveness, your field leadership team is responsible for being the role model and leading your in-store teams on every change and initiative. They are your key employee that inspires the engagement of your store associates and your customers.

Within your organization, successful field leaders are able to:

  • Network, attract, and hire top talent
  • Motivate, inspire, and retain top store managers
  • Coach and develop store managers to lead high performing teams
  • Lead initiatives that have a significant impact on helping their stores achieve plan

The Roles of a Field Leader

The field leader is one of the most versatile roles in today’s retail workforce. The responsibilities of a field leader are broad in scope and the demands are great. The role requires your field leaders to wear many different hats. The five specific responsibilities that are critical to success are:

  • The Communicator
  • The Compliance Officer
  • The Recruiter
  • The Coach
  • The Cheerleader


1. The Communicator

A field leader communicating with its store managers' team.

The communicator leader sits between the corporate office and the store. When they communicate, how they communicate, and what they communicate resonates across the organization as a leading voice. They deliver and reinforce your brand values while collecting feedback up from your customers and associates.

The Communicator: Guidelines

Three communication principals allow your field leaders to truly be the great communicators they are. These are:

  • One voice and one channel: Often, too many areas (operations, merchants, visual, …) are communicating with your stores through too many channels. Keeping it simple – with one voice and one channel – will speed the directness of your communications.
  • Prioritize & calendarize: In many cases, field leaders don’t have a full picture of what activities are occurring – or about to occur – in their stores. The lack of communication and transparency can affect the prioritization of tasks. Prioritize and calendarize will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations.
  • Close the communication loop: The key to being a good communicator is being a good listener. And, at your retail business, feedback is essential for process improvement. Collect meaningful feedback on a challenge – or opportunity – will foster execution and performance going forward.

How Can You Enable Your Communicators?

  • Allow your field leaders to communicate with their teams with a single communication channel. This tool should corral all your communications – from all the areas.
  • Enable your field leaders to prioritize with a comprehensive calendar. They should be able to navigate all their stores’ activities, rolling events, and specific tasks that are happening – or about to happen – in one single tool or channel.
  • Allow your field leaders to capture the learning and outputs of past key store activities – into one single tool and channel.

2. The Compliance Officer

A field leader doing a store visit with a tablet on its hand

The compliance officer role ensures your stores are consistently delivering your brand standards, from visual and operations to people and services. Compliance officers will usually get what they inspect, but not necessarily what the retail organization expects.

The Compliance Officer: Guidelines

  • Set expectations and be specific: A field leader needs to be clear about their expectations and be as specific as possible. The expectation they give will determine the outcome of it.
  • Explain the inspection process of what they expect: The compliance officer must share with their team which tools they will use to inspect. How data and observation will be done.
  • Set regular and consistent review process: Field leaders must check in constantly with their teams. If they don’t follow up, their teams may assume it didn’t really matter.

How Can You Enable Your Recruiters?

  • Ensure field leaders’ inspections are set with a culture of good intent.
  • Make sure they ask the right questions to find the right answers. Inspection isn’t catching people not doing what you expect – it’s an opportunity to praise and reward retail teams.
  • Enable your retail leaders with a compelling application that ensures the consistency and compliance of your field leaders’ store visits. This should include KPIs, performance indicators, audits, and visual compliance.

3.   The Recruiter

A field leader conducting an interview to a potential store manager.

For the field leader, it starts with team-building. This role – the recruiter – focuses on identifying the hiring needs of the businesses they manage. A recruitment field leader plans onboarding structures and ensures the retail team acceleration within their region.

The Recruiter: Guidelines

  • Identify key talent gaps: Recruiters’ roles are to identify unassigned shifts according to recommended store coverage. They must work hand by hand with their store managers’ teams to identify required staffing levels – by day, segments, and slots.
  • Prioritize the right candidates: Field leaders must have a clear visibility to their region hiring needs. Prioritization should be based on peak coverage, traffic, and sales’ past data.
  • Enable a pooled labor culture: Pooled labor identifies stores that have the capacity to support staffing needs of your field leaders’ region.

How Can You Enable Your Recruiters?

  • Ensure your recruiters use a tool that helps effectively and efficiently with their recruitment process, unassigned shift coverage, recommended coverage, and availability by week.
  • Enable them with a clear vision of onboarding activities in store. In this sense, they can easily check store managers’ availability for recruitment process and onboarding activities.
  • Make sure they are able to leverage their talent pool accordingly where they can identify key players in their respective teams, ensuring a full pipeline in their region.

4.   The Coach

A field leader coaching its store leader.

The coach works with their stores to educate and build their business acumen. They identify opportunities within their stores to improve performance. The retail coach helps to connect KPIs to opportunities and define the actions required to capture them.

The Coach: Guidelines

  • Conduct business review exercises: As coach, field leaders must build business acumen within their stores. When the store team understands the business, it can improve their performance to achieve business’ targets.
  • Understand opportunities: Identify opportunities with store manager’s best and worst performance by using store statistics and time of day information. This will give a clear understanding if set opportunities were for all-day or isolated to a time of the day.
  • Clear action plan: The coach must create action plans to address opportunities within their region, by setting clear goals on how to measure success.
  • Constant follow-up: Follow up to ensure identified root causes have been addressed.

How Can You Enable Your Coaches?

  • Enable your coachers with real-time performance tools, where they can identify missing opportunities or great results. These tools should allow them to get instant indicators such as visit values, labor metrics, conversion rates, and more.

5. The Cheerleader

A field leader encouraging its store manager with a thumbs up.

A cheerleader is the person that can understand your challenges and perspective. Cheerleaders are fantastic listeners and have a way of showing empathy to their team. This positive field leaders are masters at making employees feel that they are important to an organization and a brand mission.

The Cheerleader: Guidelines

  • Keep a positive attitude: A field leader always show a positive attitude. They are rarely frustrated and are not easily frazzled when things don’t go their way.
  • Demonstrate commitment: A cheerleader doesn’t give up easily. They show commitment to the brand by being role models of their company’s brand values.
  • Show awesome confidence: They provide the team with realistic steps to achieve a common goal. They share a message of motivation at every step of the journey.

How Can You Enable Your Cheerleaders?

  • Enable your field leaders with a cheerleader communication tool. They should be able to send messages that motivate, celebrate, and congratulate to their leadership teams. By doing this, they will create an impactful culture of lifting one another. Remember, enthusiasm is contagious, especially when it starts at the top.

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