Being in high school the typical job for many of us was working in retail, usually at the mall at either Hollister or Abercrombie.
So I decided to give it a shot. I did not think it would be that bad. It would give me something to do after school and I’d make some money too. I am not going to lie, in the beginning it was not as bad as some of my friends had told me.
I dreaded the days I was put on the schedule and walking into a place with such dim lighting that played the same five songs all day long. Some days after clocking in, my managers would remind us what to do if we suspected someone was shoplifting, because the amount of missing apparel was increasing.
The managers tended to quickly jump to conclusions and blame us, the associates, for something like that. They just never really took the blame for anything.
If the store was not clean enough, if the jeans were not folded properly, or if the hangers were not evenly spaced out, we were always to blame. In a sense, most of it was our responsibility but they also never seemed to care unless their bosses were coming in to check on the store.
So if they did not care, then why should we?
I noticed that eventually that mentally spread around. In the beginning, I made sure I folded every jean the right way using the folding boards and made sure all the size labels were aligned perfectly.
But I slowly started noticing that my fellow employees that had started working there before me did not go about things the way I did. It did not seem to bother the managers, so then why was I trying so hard to make everything look perfect when it was not appreciated?
Hollister was successful enough to be classified as a “good” company, but it would never become a “great” company.
One of those reasons was that they did not have Level 5 leaders. They were more like comparison leaders. My managers were the type to look at other managers or employees to transfer the blame of poor results, but they would give themselves sole credit when things went well (Collins 35).
This was the reasoning behind why I think Hollister never made that jump into Level 5 leadership. Level 5 leaders blamed themselves and took full responsibility when things did not go well but looked to others or blamed good luck when things went well (Collins 35).
I never saw this out of my managers or their managers when they would drop into the store. I could definitely say that the year I spent working there, I went through 5 different managers and not one of them seemed to have a paradoxical mix between professional will and personal humility (Collins 36). They did not really care about the poor results that Hollister was generating because the amount of missing clothing had continuously increased during my time there.
Now that may be true since we didn’t have sensors on all our clothes or any security cameras in the store at all. The occasional mall cop walk through would take place, but what did that really do?
I would not consider any of my managers throughout my year there to be near a Level 5 leader. If they were driven and passionate about the job they had, they would work towards fixing these problems and achieving better results.
They need more associates like me who wanted to get the job done, essentially getting the right people on the bus and the wrong people off of it, as Collins would say (Collins 44).
If retail stores like Hollister and Abercrombie want to truly become good-to-great companies, they will need to find competent managers who are “fanatically driven, infected with an incurable need to produce results” (Collins 30). That would be one of the first steps they would need to take in order to reach that top level.