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Doug Shaw

What Goes Around Limited


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CIPD Conference Blog: Sir Terry Leahy on how Tesco pulled ahead of the pack


The other morning at the CIPD 2011 conference I listened to the speech given by Sir Terry Leahy, former CEO of Tesco.

Tesco’s dominance concerns me, and when he showed us the 2010 market capitalisation comparison between Tesco (about 6 times bigger than both), Sainsbury’s and M&S I winced a little.
Terry spoke sincerely and straightforwardly and afterwards I figured, if he really believes this stuff he’s telling us – then maybe I can see how Tesco has pulled so far ahead of the chasing pack. Here’s what I heard him say:
Find the truth: There’s tons of research, reports, reviews, and the more you read, the less you know. Human nature is to filter out stuff. We just need the plain simple truth, and the front line is where the knowledge is. Too often the managers in between create a culture where it’s not OK to speak the truth.
Customers are the best place for information: If you listen fine if you don’t listen that’s fine too and the customer will find a better place and buy there instead. Terry used to spend 40% of his time in stores, listening. He also mentioned listening to employees, but almost as an after thought.
Audacious goals: We spend a lot of time in work, people want to be inspired, and we want to stretch them. Work needs to be worthwhile, a big adventure.
Tesco values: We asked the staff two questions. What does Tesco stand for? What would you like Tesco to stand for? The answers: No one tries harder for customers, and respect, treat people how we like to be treated. These values came from the shop floor.
Competition is good: It keeps you honest and forces you to do better for your customers. And permanent dissent gets nothing done. So once a decision is made, we come to work and make it a reality.
Leadership: It’s not important what you do, but what you cause others to do. We have and need thousands of leaders, stepping forward, taking responsibility.
Four things that make work worthwhile: do interesting work, be treated with respect, have a chance to get on, even if people don’t want to take it, and have a boss who is a help not your biggest problem.
Creativity matters: it’s not often spoken about, and it can’t work with fear otherwise folks won’t take risks. Success and failure are two sides of the same coin.
Culture: We have a culture that rewards generosity, not self.
Doug Shaw is head of employee and customer engagement consultancy, What Goes Around Ltd.

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Doug Shaw


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