News Feature | August 7, 2014

RetailNOW Panelists Tell The Secret Of Better Employees: A Better Boss

Bernadette Wilson

By Bernadette Wilson

RetailNOW Panel Better Boss

This year’s W2W event on Monday at RetailNOW featured a panel discussion on the topic of leadership. W2W, the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) community that is a resource and support for women in the Retail IT industry, based the discussion on the book Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek.

Panelists Kelli Stewart, operation manager with Advanced Data Systems; Julianne Rose, marketing manager for ConnectWise; Brenda McCurry, VP of merchandising at ScanSource POS and Barcode; and Tina Lux-Boim co-founder, president and CEO of MMI shared insights and candid advice on what it takes to be an effective leader in your workplace.  

In her comments on the panel, Stewart explained the phrase leaders eat last. “The more you give to the people you lead, the more you get back. Put yourself second and, ironically, you will get more back because they do their jobs,” she says.

“The reality is what we do every day is associated with a service or goods we are delivering to our customers,” she points out. Stewart says at Advanced Data Systems, making sure employees’ needs are being met removes those distractions and opens the door for the team to rally and be passionate about their work. “If you can inspire people to feel personally accountable for satisfying your customers, you’ve done your job.”

Lux-Boim says good leaders can paint a picture for their teams that lets them understand the project and its rationale. She says also can delegate to their teams— with an air of trust — and are not afraid to let them fail. Lux-Boim comments that mistakes can be learning opportunities that can often make bigger impacts on a career than easily achieved successes.

She adds MMI encourages a family environment and “ownership thinking.” The company focuses on personal recognition and regardless of position, after a certain amount of time, employees share in the profitability of the company. “Everybody has something. They understand their how their roles help the company and that they’re part of it.”

Using the leadership at ScanSource as the example, McCurry agrees and stresses good leaders also display honesty and integrity and care about their employees. They also create a culture that mitigates stress. “We celebrate the victories. We have a work-hard, play-hard environment, and we can laugh at ourselves,” she says, adding it helps to have the right environment to handle challenges. “Things can get tense. Helping employees to have a relaxed atmosphere and know it’s ok to pick up the pieces and move forward is a good thing.”

Another facet of that environment is having employees, like, says Rose, those at ConnectWise who are empowered with responsibility and the ability to make decisions. In her comments on the panel, Rose cited Sinek’s book, that states empowered employees, regardless of title, generally experience less stress.

Rose also has observed that good leaders have the ability to successfully resolve disputes. “Different people have different goals — if there is a conflict, it’s up a leader to resolve it and encourage concessions.” She explains having empathy, focusing on relationships, and working collaboratively are also traits that foster good work environments for a team.

In addition to the list of what makes a good leader, the panel also discussed how to learn and develop leadership skills. The panelists agreed leaders have to be lifelong learners, but also that it’s not necessary to go it alone. Stewart says there is much value in the mentor-mentee relationship.  She says finding someone who has had the same experiences, challenges — and maybe doubts — can help you work through it and learn. “To be able to share that later is even more valuable,” she points out, encouraging leaders to not only find a mentor, but to be one if the opportunity presents itself. “You will be surprised how much you will get back.”

In her remarks during the discussion, McCurry provides a call to action for anyone called to leadership role: “Everyone has leadership ability in them. Challenge yourself and look for ways to grow.   

RetailNOW 2014, hosted by the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA), was conducted Aug. 3-6 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, FL. For more information on the event, go to