John Lewis sales prove principles can pay

by | Jan 6, 2012 | News

Nicky Little from Cirrus writes for Human Resources magazine.

The John Lewis Partnership (JLP) declared ‘outstanding’ 2011 Christmas sales against a backdrop of weak consumer spending. Quite an achievement in a tough economic climate, and a testament to JLP’s unique leadership model and strong values.

Many business leaders and many organisations aspire to authenticity, democracy, devolved leadership, transparency and openness. JLP and its leadership have long embodied all of these attributes – and outperform most of the competition.

JLP is famous for its guiding principles. The partnership’s ultimate purpose is ‘the happiness of all its members, through their worthwhile and satisfying employment in a successful business’ – a principle at the very heart of employee engagement. Partners share the responsibilities of ownership as well as the rewards. The JLP principles underpin its authentic, open and honest leadership.

Even though managing director Andy Street predicts a challenging year ahead, it is likely that JLP will meet any challenges successfully. The main way it does this is by involving partners wholeheartedly in strategy and decision-making. This does not mean that every decision is voted on, as this would reduce the level of agility a successful retailer needs. However, the executive is held accountable by the partners’ council, and open debate is encouraged. Because of this, employees across the organisation tend to feel fully engaged. They are more willing to accept tough decisions because they have a high level of involvement in decision-making. They are also much more likely to contribute to successful solutions and maintain high levels of customer service during tough times. Andy Street recognises that this great service is key to success.

JLP has had its fair share of criticism. Some find it too formal, too bureaucratic, too frumpy. However, there is no doubt that this most British of organisations is in many ways one of the most forward-thinking and innovative on the UK high street. Maybe more leaders and more organisations would benefit from a little JLP magic.

Please click here to read Nicky’s article in full.

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