The to-do list is seemingly endless: cash flow, team building, category management, board relations, reports, goal setting. Many general managers report feeling pulled in many directions during a typical workday, and too soon it seems, another day comes to a close. The feeling that nothing is ever quite finished can be disheartening.
The flip side is that being successful in the job means that the general manager’s work can bring out the best in people and drive a mission-driven organization’s ability to meet its goals in the wider community. Very few careers offer that level of personal impact on people’s lives or in one’s community.
So how does a general manager build that kind of lasting legacy in their work? According to a number of general managers, the answer is found in getting professional assistance and coaching.
Carrie Miller is a new general manager at Harvest Moon Co-op in Long Lake, Minn. and she has been using coaching to help her meet the challenges of the job. “It has been a very valuable tool for me as a new GM. It gives me a confidential advocate to help make difficult decisions. It has also provided me someone to bounce ideas off of, sort through and prioritize what needed my immediate attention, anticipate the needs of my team, and help position the co-op and myself for success.”
At the Brattleboro Food Co-op in Brattleboro, Vt., Sabine Rhyne is also a new general manager. She concurs with the real need for someone to talk to about the challenges. “Having someone in my corner to bounce things off of, both in a planned way and when oddball things came up suddenly, has really helped me,” she said.
Everyone contacted for the articles in this issue cited the need for continuing to build a strong relationship with the board. Josh Resnik, general manager of the Wedge Community Co-op, a multi-business food co-op that includes a warehouse and cafe in Minneapolis, Minn. said that coaching was an important opportunity to do that. “In the end, we became much more aligned,” he said.
Resnik also doesn’t underestimate the importance of a listening ear. “As a GM you do not have the same peer network within your organization as you would as a department manager. We have a pretty tight-knit group of GMs in the Twin Cities, and bounce stuff off of each other a lot on operational issues. But it terms of leadership development, my coach provided a great resource where I had someone I could go to regularly to share ideas with and work through the best approach to solving problems.”
Resnik is not a “new” general manager in years or experience, but before he became manager of the Wedge, he had never worked in a cooperative before. “My coach was a great resource for me in helping to gain alignment within my organization and to really make the most of the co-op model. It gave me more credibility as someone who was committed to the co-op model.”