Two days before New Year’s day, I walked into a Kroger grocery about five miles from my home to pick up a few items. I should have known better. The parking lot was quite busy, and the store was packed with frenetic shoppers playing a nonstop game of chicken with one another using shopping carts, and scooping up all manner of items, most notably shrimp and champagne. Maybe the economy really is getting better?
Within two minutes of being in the store I couldn’t help but notice that the atmosphere didn’t quite match up with the cart bumping and competitive shopping. Things were somehow calmer. And then it struck me. Every single Kroger employee that I got within 30 feet of, and there were a lot of them in the aisles, offered a friendly greeting followed by, “Sir, can I help you with anything?” or something to that effect.
One of the things that stood out to me was that it seemed much more real than rehearsed. And then, I discovered the cause of this treatment, together with the reason why this particular store is by far the best-managed Kroger store I’ve been in, and I’ve been in a LOT of them.
In the main back aisle in front of the meat department stood a Kroger district manager, wearing a shirt so orange that it would have gotten him elected mayor of Knoxville, or free entry to an F250 full of deer hunters, holding court with a couple of store employees and greeting every customer. As I went about my business, I noticed that he changed positions about every 10 minutes, and repeated the behavior with shoppers and employees in another department.
This fellow has likely reached a station in life where he might easily have opted for a holiday week lounging on a beach instead of pressing the flesh in his stores. But knowing that this is a difficult week in any retail business, he chose to be front and center with his staff, coaching on the kind of behavior he expects, and showing support for them. And that’s one thing that good leaders do. When their teammates are having a tough time, they show up, literally (not via text or email). They get off their butt, get out of their warm house, and go to their “office” whatever and wherever it may be, and by their presence and example, let people know that they care. Nothing fancy. Just. Show. Up.