The convenience store industry proves time and again that innovation and hard work make up the foundation that supports steady, meaningful growth. This growth isn’t only important from a sales standpoint, but is vital to a company’s long-term stability when analyzing the human element. After all, great leadership and great people drive successful businesses.
But whether you are a family-owned business or a Fortune 500 company, eventually you will have to transition to new leadership, and it can be a complicated process. In the fast-paced convenience store industry, c-store chains must be able to produce young talent that will guide the business into an uncertain future, but they must first learn how to identify the next generation of great young leaders.
Leadership isn’t about a title or a position. It’s a mentality— an approach to how you do your job. Leaders don’t just give orders. In fact, someone can lead without ever taking charge of another person.
Leaders are people who take initiative. They’re the ones who don’t wait for someone else to step up. They hold others accountable and hold themselves to the same high standards. You can develop leaders at all levels of your company and teach them to groom future leaders.
In our January issue, Convenience Store Decisions and the Young Executives Organization (YEO) are proud to collaborate on the third annual 40 Under 40 to Watch, a select group of next-generation leaders that are already making their mark at leading convenience store chains.
Industry growth today, as it was decades ago, is a complex, multi-tiered web that requires everyone within in an organization to focus beyond their immediate needs and anticipate the needs of tomorrow. This is especially true when it comes to identifying the next generation of industry leadership.
For some organizations, this is a fairly simple process. The next-generation leaders will be family members. At non-family owned businesses, the road to leadership is a little more complex as young employees have to learn to navigate corporate policies and politics. Regardless of the set of challenges, young leaders must be given an opportunity to evolve.
YEO was designed to help next-generation leaders have a group of their own that gives members an opportunity to interact with others in a similar position of maturing within the competitive convenience store industry. It also provides members a platform to express their ideas, leadership abilities and vision for the future of convenience retailing by encouraging capable executives.
As chains look to develop a leadership pipeline, there are many important factors to consider: what your needs are, where you want the company to be in 10 years, how you want to go about recruiting, retaining and training future leaders—all of which are important questions.
Here are three things you should also keep in mind:
Clearly communicate expectations. If employees don’t clearly understand that leadership qualities are expected within the company, they’ll never feel empowered to step up and show the initiative your company needs to grow. Make it clear that this empowerment mentality is the rule, not the exception, in your organization. Team members who have shown a desire and ability to lead need to be nurtured through consistent communication.
Actively train. Back expectations and empowerment with training, which takes raw talent and molds it, turning leadership potential into leadership skills. Through active training, leadership-minded team members will learn important traits required for leadership, such as authenticity—never asking a co-worker to do something you wouldn’t do.
Be honest. Encouragement and training should produce results, and if they don’t, you have to communicate that to your team members. Difficult conversations should never come as a surprise. Your next generation of leaders—and really, everyone in the company— should know where they stand relative to the expectations set. Having that direct, honest communication is a major part of building a culture of accountability, which is essential to grooming leaders.