Published by on Tuesday, 08 Dec 2015
Emma Savage, an OSS Foundation delegate, wrote a guest blog for our headline partner retailTRUST on her time at the school. Read the blog below:
One of the most memorable and enlightening moments (of which there were many!) from the Oxford Summer School Foundation course, was the talk given to the delegates by Danny Barrasso. Danny is the Managing Director of New Look for the UK & Ireland and is not only incredibly successful but he oozes charisma too. Despite it being 8.30pm on the first day of the course, our eyes heavy, heads full, and stomachs too following a delicious, yet carb-heavy dinner, Danny walked onto the stage and captivated us instantly.
He spoke about leadership and the traits needed to motivate, excite and inspire a team. In my business, we have a very very small team consisting of myself, my mother Sharon and a part time member of staff, Carol - who is also a family friend. Oh, and Charlie the Schnoodle - shop dog and resident hanger chewer. Expecting Danny to target the delegates that lead and manage huge teams at companies like Halfords, The Disney Store and Boots, I felt perhaps little of what he was going to say would apply to me. I was so wrong!
Danny’s talk included key points, and clear direction was the first thing he focussed on. He explained the importance of establishing, as a team, the goals and vision for the business. Oddly, this is something that we at Grace & Ted had never done! It makes perfect sense: if you don’t know what you want from your business, how are you supposed to know which direction to take it in?
It is easy for managers, supervisors and owners to get distracted by the day to day running of the business. It is so easy to fill the day helping customers, remembering to order more till rolls and trying to stop Charlie eating the faux fur trim on a pair of boots. Meanwhile, the reasons why we’re actually doing all of those things are forgotten. After sitting down (albeit at the pub around the corner) and sharing our long and short term goals, aspirations and plans for the future, mum, Carol and I had a much clearer sense of direction and were able to work with increased purpose.
Danny also expressed the need for integrity, honesty and openness in a leader. It is common for some teams to lack these attributes for fear of upsetting or offending other members. The importance of not assuming that a colleague will react negatively towards your opinions or concerns was highlighted by other guest speakers, directors of the Summer School and further demonstrated by the allocated tasks.
During our ‘team talk’ (overseen by Charlie, of course) we realised that we shared many of the same thoughts, opinions and worries and by discussing them we were able to establish resolutions and identify changes that needed to be made. It is so satisfying to know you’re all on the same page…and things function much better when you all decide that the chalkboard pens should be kept in the top drawer of the cabinet by the desk.
Positivity is important in all aspects of life and Danny spent the majority of his talk discussing mind management and the need for a ‘good mental diet’. He stressed that as leaders we should do everything with belief and conviction and explained that “the positive effect you have is the greatest asset you own”.
All of us in our small team consider ourselves positive people but when you’re having a bad day it’s easy to walk into work with a dark cloud looming overhead. When a delivery truck is blocking the entrance to your car parking space first thing on a Monday or you’ve arrived at the door of your shop to find multiple cans of Special Brew on the step - it’s easy to become flustered or irritated.
Grace & Ted can be found at number 10 Kingsmead Square in Bath - on the ground and basement floors of a small but perfectly formed Georgian building. Vibes spread quickly in small spaces and if anyone is in a bad mood, the energy changes. Like a ripple effect we can become irritated with one another and no doubt the customers can sense it too. Not good for business….or general wellbeing!
It is not possible to be positive and upbeat all the time but it is possible to make a conscious effort to leave negativity at the door and focus on the needs of the business, your team and your customers. Becoming more mindful, aware of ourselves and the way we are being perceived will take us a step closer towards becoming a motivating, inspiring and positive leader. One that, like Danny - your team will be captivated by.