What we can learn from Mr Selfridge


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Over the past few weeks I have been catching up with the latest drama to appear on ITV; Mr Selfridge. I am big fan of the store so I’m thoroughly enjoying this series but it has also made me think about how leaders communicate, inspire and engage a workforce. Now I’m not sure how much of it is fact, but from my sofa there are a few things internal communicators and our leaders can take away…

1. Perception is reality

Every time he addresses the people, his team or any stakeholder in his business he makes sure he has the right face on. He makes sure that the team are inspired to do their jobs and he does this by putting a brave face on it, or by sticking to the party line. This doesn’t mean that I think our leaders should lie their way through communications but it does mean that I think people look to leaders for guidance and stability – they need to demonstrate a sense of control and reassurance. There is a consistency to his approach that is comforting.

2. Everything that needs to be said can be done in 15 minutes

In the episode where Mr Selfridge was out of action his team couldn’t understand how he had so many meetings in a day. His view? You can say everything that needs to be said in 15 minutes and everything else is just hot air. I love this statement as we spend more and more time in meetings (91% of people admit to day dreaming in meetings and 39% admit to falling asleep) and can often achieve very little. Quick, to the point huddles or briefings can deliver much more in terms of engagement.

3. We decide on the what and the why and you decide on the how

This is the key to engagement, and actually links to some work by John Smythe that we covered on day two of my CIPR Diploma. Mr Selfridge demonstrates just how this theory can work. They decide to do a sale to compete with a new store and encourage everyone to come in and shop – what is included in the sale is down to the heads of department – the how is up to them. This is real employee engagement and empowerment and demonstrates what can be achieved if you use the power of the teams and the experts to deliver results.

4. Get to know your people

There are several examples throughout some of the earlier episodes where he goes out on a limb for people. People he thinks have credibility and are the right cultural fit for his business. Culture if the most important thing if you want to compete in today’s market and knowing your team is the key to achieving this. It’s also a lesson for IC Pros to make sure that we are credible in our roles – if we are, our leaders will go out on a limb for us and support what we are trying to achieve.

5. Network and use external events to your advantage

Mr Selfridge is all about his network. He is meeting people all the time and using external events that interest the press to his advantage. I was surprised, upon visiting the store at the weekend, that they aren’t replicating windows from the show in real time – I thought this would be a great idea to capitalise on the programme. Use external events to hook your internal audience and always make time for networking inside and outside the organisation – you never know when you need to make a deal!

I am sure there are many more things to take from the show, and there are probably many of you that haven’t even seen it, but for me it has shown the importance of inspirational leadership and how you can create a culture of engagement through short, sharp communications and real empowerment.

For those who have missed it and now want to check it out, visit ITV player.

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