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3 qualities every leader needs to succeed on a team


Peter Bregman“I want your help developing my direct reports into stronger leaders,” John*, the new CEO of Fasseni, a $350 million technology company, told me several years ago.

Initially, I approached the request like any consultant might.

First, I asked John why he wanted my help. He told me that Fasseni had stagnated. They had been hovering around the same revenue point for years and their competitors were gaining market share. He saw opportunity and knew that success lay in the hands of his direct reports. That made sense to me.

So John and I defined a list of qualities a great leader should have, like expertise in their field, strategic thinking capability, common sense intelligence, powerful communication skills, problem solving prowess and similar traits.

Then I spent some time interviewing him and his direct reports to better understand their strengths and weaknesses as they related to the list of leadership qualities we had defined.

Identify the goal, assess the current situation, understand the gap, and then close it. Consulting 101. Simple, right?

Only in this case, it wasn’t so simple—because there was no gap.

On the whole, the leaders at Fasseni were smart, capable, communicative, strategic people. A few were even charismatic. They were good leaders. Maybe we could have made incremental improvements, but, I told John, I didn’t believe it would be a good use of his resources. Our work wouldn’t move the needle enough.

We sat in silence for a moment and then I chanced a gut feeling. “There is one more thing I’d love to do. I can’t exactly tell you why, but I’d love to see your direct reports in a meeting together.” He hesitated—so far I hadn’t added much value—but he took a risk.

Here’s what I saw:

One item on the agenda was the slow down in sales. When that conversation started, the head of sales started to defend his organization. Prices are too high, he said, because of the CEO’s focus on margins. If manufacturing could reduce costs, then sales would pick up.

Hold on, the head of manufacturing argued, we can’t reduce costs because of the way the product is engineered. If engineering didn’t overcomplicate things, the product would be cheaper to build.

Wait a second, retorted the head of engineering, we’re only responding to what marketing is telling us we have to create to meet customer demand. If we didn’t have to be so customized for each unique customer situation, we could engineer a more efficient product.

And so the conversation continued, like a game of hot potato, everyone hoping, desperately, that the blame wouldn’t land with him when the song ended.

“We’ve been focused on the wrong problem,” I told John at dinner that night. “You asked me to help you develop your direct reports into strong leaders. But they’re already strong leaders . . . individually. They’re just not strong leaders collectively.”

Each leader ran his organization successfully, aggressively pursuing his organization’s interests. And each one succeeded in meeting—often exceeding—his goals. Each one was committed to—and cared deeply about—his organization’s performance.

But that’s all they cared about—their own organizations. They were impressive as leaders, but destructive as a leadership team.

As I watched John’s team struggle, I was reminded of the popular columnist Dan Savage, who employs a formula of “good, giving and game” on the topic of personal relationships. In some ways, a leadership team is no different than any long-term relationship. If you want to be a good partner—personally or professionally—you need to be three things:

  • Gifted. Simply put, leaders need to be good at what they do. Smart, prepared and well-informed, they need to engage in conversations with curiosity and capability. But to be on a team, they need to go beyond that. They need to be gifted communicators and gifted learners, mastering conflict without being offensive, and adapting to their own changing roles as the organization grows.
  • Game. They need to have the courage to take risks. To be vulnerable and open to challenge and criticism, they need to be willing to consider anything. This requires a tremendous amount of confidence. The kind of confidence that allows them to be questioned by others—even take blame and feel threatened—without becoming defensive.
  • Generous. They need to put the good of the company above their own department, team or agenda. They must be good-hearted, mutually respectful and gracious, resisting the urge to dominate, take the upper hand or shine at the expense of others. Part of being generous with others also means taking an interest in, learning about and offering opinions regarding the other team members’ functions.

Being gifted, game and generous is tremendously hard to do because those qualities can make us feel tremendously vulnerable. That’s why I teach emotional courage during the Leadership Week I run for senior leaders. We need that courage if we’re going to lead with others.

John and I started to develop each member of the team—and shape the dynamics of their collaboration—to bring out these qualities. It took time, hard work and commitment and it didn’t work for everyone. Those who could not bring themselves to be gifted, game and generous did not remain on the team.

Over time, our focus on the leadership team paid off. Since we started working together, Fasseni has grown from approximately $350 million in revenue to about $1 billion. During that time, the stock price went from around $10 per share to around $80 per share.

That kind of growth is inevitably driven by a number of factors. But one factor stood out, a single element that gave them a clear advantage compared to their competitors: A gifted, game and generous leadership team.

*Names and some details changed. Originally published at the Harvard Business Review.

Peter Bregman helps CEOs and their leadership teams break down silos and tackle their most important priorities together. He is the author, most recently, of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, winner of the Gold medal from the Axiom Business Book awards, named the best business book of  the year on NPR, and selected by Publisher’s Weekly and the New York Post as a top 10 business book. He is also the author of Point B: A Short Guide to Leading a Big Change and co-author of five other books. Featured on PBS, ABC and CNN, Peter is a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Forbes, National Public Radio (NPR), Psychology Today, and CNN as well as a weekly commentator on Fox Business News. Click Here to be notified when he writes a new article.

You have got to see this place!


Online Reviews

Museums excel at providing experiences that stir the soul, cause reflection on world events, ideas and cultures, and create life-long memories. Understanding the immediacy of experience can shape the impact and the lasting perception of an institution. We know the store is often the final destination for visitors. How does your store shape the perception of your institution? What perceptions do visitors have of your displays, customer service and overall quality of merchandise?

Have you ever Googled yourself? (I know, it sounds so silly, you can stop giggling now—but don’t you love how so many nouns have now become verbs?) It's interesting to find out all the places your name may appear. Have you ever Googled your institution or your museum store? This can be an eye opener and a great way to gauge visitor perceptions. An open, honest and blunt opinion now comes in the form of a permanent record on the Internet. Millions of people can read about others’ perceptions of your prices, store layout and return policies.

Here are just a few examples of actual online reviews for museum stores: 

“Oh, and the gift shop is really, really awesome. A huge mishmash of toys a lot of people will remember from their childhood, and an eclectic mix of various decorations. Hard to describe, but definitely a fun store to walk through.”

“It's just one of those places that if I walk in, I'm tempted to buy all sorts of stuff I really don't need but somehow decide I suddenly can't live without it.”

“This has GOT to be one of the best museum stores in the world!”

“Still doing your Christmas shopping? The museum gift shop has gifts you won't find any place else. You can find something for those hard-to-buy-for people on your list. Unique, classy and definitely not overpriced! I love their western Christmas Santas!”

And talk about perception leading to differing opinions, here are two reviews for the same store:

“I like museums, but I usually don't like the store. Like... I wouldn't just go shopping in a museum store. But, this one is great. I think it's the eclectic options.”

“Don't bring your kids in here. They will be bugging you to buy this or that ‘cool’ item. Cool for a kid, but not for an adult.”

How can you achieve an increased online presence? Ask others to write about you. The comment card has gone digital. It’s acceptable and customary to ask a visitor to write to a standard visitor services email address. Take it one step further—ask them to go to sites such as Yelp to comment on their stellar shopping experience or to post something to your Facebook page.

Okay, I know you want to…go Google yourself…and your store!

MSA 2014: Extend the Experience

Top 5 retail articles from the past quarter you may have missed


In case you missed them, here are some of the most popular articles for nonprofit retailers from the past quarter:

Top 5 image

How to use color psychology to give your business an edge

Whether you’re wondering what color to paint the office or you’re looking to redesign your retail space, the colors you choose can increase your chance of reaching your goals. Color greatly influences human emotion and behavior. If you’re hoping to make your workers more productive or you want to encourage shoppers to spend money, understanding the basics of color psychology can help you design a space that will maximize your potential.

What to expect from consumers in 2014?
Consumer Goods Technology

As 2014 begins, here are four trends set to impact the American consumer market that examine the areas of commercial opportunity for brands and what consumers will be buying this year.

The face of retail is about to change
Biz Community

With consumers searching for shopping experiences and not merely driven by products and pricing, the face of retail is about to change drastically over the next few years. Here are just some of the trends we will start seeing from 2014.

4 ways to manage employees you can't stand

Being a manager doesn’t mean that you have to befriend everyone who works for you. In fact, in many cases, that’s probably a bad idea. Sometimes, we’re charged with managing someone who’s annoying, obnoxious or just grates on every nerve. How can you be a good manager when you dislike even being around one of your employees? It’s not easy, but there are some strategies to address and possibly resolve the situation.

Top museums worth traveling for
The FlipKey Blog

Whether you’re a history buff, a lover of fine art, or you just want to spend a day inside in an air conditioned building while learning something—there is definitely a museum for you. The weird, the wild and the "wow!" can all be found in museums across the United States. This list includes some of the most sophisticated and high end museums in the country too.

What were the hot topics for you this past quarter?

If you're not already getting Culture & Commerce News Brief, make sure to sign up to receive the latest MSA and industry news affecting nonprofit retail managers and buyers.

MSA 2014: Extend the Experience

What is your body language telling your customers?


BodyLanguageRetailers are constantly trying to identify what their customers are thinking by the way they act. If they pick up an item, does that mean they want it? If they browse your museum store really fast, does that mean they don’t like it? If they never make eye contact, does that mean you shouldn’t continue talking to them?

The list of questions that pertain to how customers act in your store is endless. But one list you can control is how you and your employees act in your store. To get started, ask yourself and your team the following:

1. Do you make eye contact with every customer, even if they come in with a group of people? 

2. Do you always—without any exceptions—stop what you are doing to greet your customers? 

3. Do you immediately return to an operational task (that does not involve customer service) after greeting your customers? 

4. Do you appear disturbed/interrupted/frustrated when a customer asks you a question for any reason at all? 

5. Do you respond to all inquiries with ease, eliminating any frustrations or disappointments you may be feeling? 

6. Do you act equally to all your customers, not just your paying ones? 

7. Do you (even if unintentionally) ever roll your eyes at a customer? 

8. Do you rush through any customer service procedures due to your own personal judgment/feelings/predictions? 

9. Do you respond in a friendly manner through your actions? 

10. Do you appear closed off and unapproachable for any reason at all? 

Now if you are like most people, you may not be a good judge on yourself. It often takes an outside observer to really identify just how you act. With this in mind, consider your next store meeting to be focused on how your team interacts with customers—without ever saying a word. Customers respond to your actions (or lack of them) and make judgments on your store team as a result, like it or not. It may be time to do some role playing to help strengthen the “appearance” of your actions.

Body Language Pointers That Help Retail Sales 

Ready to amplify your body language to help amplify your sales? Consider these pointers:

1. Stand Openly. Appearing closed off is a signal that you do not welcome or want to be approached. For retail, this is especially important. Get out from behind your cash wrap or desk, avoid crossing your arms or leaning on something, and stand up straight and tall. A slouch screams lazy and unwelcoming.

2. Use Positive Facial Expressions. A raise of an eyebrow, a little smile, a simple nod of the head—these all communicate that you are listening to someone as they speak to you and offer them a sense of comfort that you are both engaged and care.

3. Avoid Dominant Gestures. Anything too extreme in your body language can scare a customer off. Remember to respect their personal space, even when helping them up close in whatever you may be selling. Additionally, don’t move your mouth (bite on lip, etc.) as a customer is speaking with you, as this sends the signal you are ready for them to hurry up and that you want to move on. It’s distracting for them, as well, which is never ideal. Finally, don’t stare. Eye contact is important, but it’s more natural to have some “breaks” while looking at someone while you talk—or for that matter, while you aren’t talking.

Your store can be beautiful and your product can be outstanding, however if your team’s body language is not welcoming, it won’t matter at all.

Do you practice role-playing or similar customer service training techniques with your retail team?

MSA 2014: Extend the Experience

5 tips on stocking local


ShoppingBagsShop Local! Small Business Saturday! Go Green! We’ve all heard the logic of why shopping local makes sense for members of a community. You strengthen the economic base by having more of the dollars spent being reinvested locally (versus going to the big box retailers) and jobs are created for others who live, work and shop in the community.

In addition to residents of a community shopping local, it makes good business sense for a local shop to stock local—particularly for a museum store that depends on community support to keep the lights on and keep the museum thriving.

Here are five smart tips:

1) Increase traffic. Showcase the work of your local artist, writer, musician or photographer. You better believe they are going to let their friends, family, local artist’s guild, writer’s group and more know! Word of mouth will increase your local foot traffic.

2) Original merchandise. Even though the world marketplace is becoming smaller and smaller—the purchase of an item from Sub-Saharan Africa is just a mouse-click away—visitors still love the thought and feel of picking up a souvenir from a memorable outing or as part of a bigger vacation. Bringing home a treasure unique to where you’ve traveled feels like a marvelous little find! Create a display devoted to the artisan. Incorporate a picture of the artist and a short story about their work. Ask the artist if she has a prop to share that will attract attention to the display.

3) Form partnerships. Get creative with a store discount coupon or some free tickets to an exhibition in return for your local artisan promoting your shop and the museum. What about promoting your local framer every time you sell a print, in exchange for him keeping current museum exhibit fliers on his counter?

4) Social media exposure. Seek out local vendors who have a healthy social media fan base and link to their pages on your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram pages. Share their posts and “like” information relevant to what you are stocking to increase your visibility online. This will generate some free advertising for your store.

5) Music to your ears.  Does your museum hold concert series in the summer or host weddings or other gatherings? Make sure to stock the CD of the local performer to cross-promote their gig and your store merchandise.

Have you had a good experience with a local artisan? We’d love to hear about it! Please share in the comments section below.

MSA 2014: Extend the Experience

In the news: Are you keeping your customers’ information safe?


creditcardSince last year’s hack into point-of-sale (POS) systems at large retail outlets Target and Neiman Marcus, consumers have become more aware of the activity taking place on their credit cards. New reports indicate this breach has affected one in three Americans. 

Revenue for credit monitoring companies has skyrocketed as a host of new clients are seeking to protect their financial data. Top executives from Target and Neiman Marcus were on Capitol Hill in February to testify on the incidents and propose solutions.  Target CFO John Mulligan detailed a plan to place a rush on the implementation of a chip system debuting early next year. The chip system is considered more secure than the magnetic strips found on today’s credit card. 

The issue has brought up a flurry of advocates, both for the consumer and retailer, on what laws and regulations should be in place. How far should national, state and local government go to protect the rights of the consumer and/or the rights of the retailer?

In addition to the concerns surrounding financial data, consumer suspicions have been raised towards the use of email addresses, phone numbers and other personal information. As museums, we often ask this information of our visitors for exhibit announcements, special event invitations and sales promotions. Data collection systems, from the store’s POS to the donor database, contain confidential information the museum is trusted to protect. What can we do as an industry to demonstrate our commitment to protect visitor information? Do you have a written procedure for the use and, when necessary, the destruction of this information?

There is no denying it—credit card and information fraud is here to stay. As technology improves to protect consumer data, so will the tools used to access that data illegally.

What has your museum store put in place to protect visitor information? Has your museum been discussing the use of visitors’ personal data?

MSA 2014: Extend the Experience

Spring forward: Checklist for effective museum store displays


JFKCenterDisplayMost of us are climbing out of the deep freeze and eagerly awaiting spring. With that thought in mind (and especially if in your area, springtime seems like it will never come!), it’s time to refresh our museum stores and spirits for the coming year. Here are some visual merchandising tips to get you started.

  1. To offer visitors a clear view of their shopping options, it’s ideal to create displays that are simpler and lower toward the front of the store, becoming higher and denser toward the back.
  2. Use height and depth to create visual interest and show more product in a smaller footprint. Using risers of various sizes, start at the back and move forward and down as you go. Place the tallest risers towards the back and smaller risers towards the front. Usually the tallest products look best on the tallest risers, but be sure each item is stable.
  3. Best sellers should always be in the sweet spot—between knee height (20” to 24” from the floor) and eye level (66” to 70” from the floor). Products displayed directly on the floor create tripping hazards, gather dust and devalue the product
  4. With the exception of large or fragile objects, every product display should be “shoppable.” This means a shopper can remove a product from a display and handle it without worrying that the entire display will take a tumble.
  5. Choose a container type for small products and stick with it. No tippy or shop-worn containers! The cash wrap desk is a great place for smaller impulse items, but keep containers neat and organized. Be sure cash wrap displays don’t clog up the line to ring up sales.
  6. Keep signs simple, readable, clean and in good condition. No more than one color and type of paper. Choose a font and a typeface that coordinate with your museum brand (get help from your marketing department). Signs should be near their objects and facing the same way as merchandise.

A spring refresh—even if there’s still snow on the ground—will help you prepare for the busy seasons ahead and re-energize you, your staff and your visitors.

Tell us about your favorite, creative and shoppable visual merchandising display!

Become a Master Merchandiser

5 reasons you should complete the MSA Retail Industry Report Survey


Monthly SalesWe are very excited to announce the return of the MSA Retail Industry Report! Chock full of financial, operations, salary and best practice information for the nonprofit retail industry, the last report was released in 2009—and it’s time to get some updated and accurate data.

Last week, MSA members and other nonprofit retail professionals received an invitation to participate in the 2014 MSA Retail Industry Report Survey and we strongly encourage everyone to take the time to complete it. The more stores that participate, the better the data collected and the more useful this data will be to the success of your store operations.

We know it takes time to collect and organize all that information—you’ll want to have your last full fiscal year data at hand when you take the survey. But, we’ve created a few perks for your participation.  When you complete the survey, you can enjoy the benefits of:

  1. A complete report of the data you entered. Perfect for the next time the grant writer asks you for detailed sales data, especially when she needs it “tomorrow” to meet the grant deadline.
  2. The option to buy the full report at a deep discount at the end of the completed survey.  You’ll be ahead of the game. Nothing more to think about. Just wait for the report to come to your email inbox.
  3. The option to purchase a customized report built for your specific museum type. Want to know how you compare to other history museums or science centers? This customized report will help you make even more accurate decisions about purchasing, staffing and strategic planning.
  4. Knowing you helped to create a better report for the nonprofit retail industry. The more data collected, the better the report will be. (The full report will release in June and presales begin in April.) 
  5. The chance to win an Apple iPad Mini with the submission of a completed the survey! This handy device can help you with mobile store sales, emails and social media, plus so much more.

If you have questions about the survey, please contact Andrea Miller, MSA, at If you did not receive the email inviting you to participate, but think you should have, please contact Martha Love, On Campus Research, at

MSA 2014: Extend the Experience

5 beautiful and easy-to-navigate e-commerce sites


AddtoCartWhether you have a brick-and-mortar storefront or sell exclusively online, having a website is critical to your business success. Customers are constantly engaging on the Internet prior to making purchase decisions, as well as social decisions. If your store is part of a community they may be visiting or even part of customer’s hometown, you want to have strong visibility on the web. On the contrary, if you sell online only, your website is even that much more valuable to your business since it’s your one and only chance to capture customer attention.

To help see if your website is standing out among the online crowds of stores, consider checking out these five sites below. They all have a few things in common, but our reason for choosing these websites is that they are beautiful and easy to navigate.

1. Au Lit Fine Linens

The soft, delicate features of this site caught our attention, but it was the easy-to-navigate layout that kept our attention. This is key when trying to keep customers on your website versus losing them because they don’t like shopping your online store due to lack of ease and frustrating next steps.

2. Ugmonk 

Clean and crisp sums this site up. It’s easy on the eyes and enjoyable to experience, making it a top pick in our website favorites.  Another reason we love this site is because their product images were strong. Never underestimate the value of good photography for your website!

3. Leather Head Sports 

Like Ugmonk, this site is clean and crisp in design. But what makes Leather Head truly stand out is its use of rotating images on the home page that really highlight their products’ unique qualities. Have one-of-a-kind products to sell? This may be a site to consider mimicking in comparable design.

4. Leif 

Once again, Leif stood out as a favorite e-commerce site thanks to its easy navigation, beautiful design and overall easy-on-the-eyes appeal. It doesn’t hurt that their products are absolutely stunning, as well. We particularly loved how their products so beautifully popped out on their website…allowing them to truly capture their customer’s attention. This comes down to web design, plain and simple.

5. Good as Gold 

So here’s the thing…when you have a lot of inventory to sell, you need a well-crafted website to help you do it without compromising user experience and overall web aesthetics. This website accomplishes just that. They have lots to sell and lots going on, yet their website never loses focus on retaining the customer and helping to capture sales. Brilliantly done.

The best part about all of these websites, is that they were created from website templates, allowing the store owners to better manage their time and budget while also supporting them in well-constructed, well thought-out, beautiful online stores. Another thing they had in common? Each of these websites used

Whether you sell exclusively online or want to support your brick-and-mortar business with a stronger website experience, remember to consider how customers like to shop online. Keeping your website free from clutter, easy to navigate and beautiful in overall aesthetics and layout can help. You should also consider your checkout process, website security and overall management of your website to ensure you are best prepared to not only support your customers effectively, but also yourself.

Do you have any tips on how to easily create and update your museum store’s e-commerce site? Let us know!

MSA 2014: Extend the Experience

Don’t miss this golden opportunity


AuctioneerAre you ready for an auction? They can be great fun, but a little noisy. So, MSA is going with the idea that silence can be golden by hosting our first silent auction in Houston at MSA 2014 this April! 

We’re excited for you to participate—and you won’t even have to bequeath a Monet or the $80.4 million for it! However, in order to make it great, we do need your donations—and we know that you have a lot of interesting, unique and extraordinary merchandise! Please consider donating items and experiences that will attract bids from our conference and expo attendees and exhibitors. These items can be any price range (within reason!).

MSA members love to experience the host region’s many attractions, restaurants and shops. If you’re a local, be an ambassador for Houston and get your name in front of these passionate shoppers/tourists!

The auction will benefit MSA to strengthen the association and enable MSA to provide the tools, resources and events our members in the nonprofit retail industry need to make their businesses successful. Plus, 10 percent of the net proceeds will benefit MSA’s Southwest Central Chapter for their assistance as the host chapter. 

Check out all of the details and guidelines and donate an item by downloading the Silent Auction Donation Form. The deadline to ship donations is April 1, 2014! Contact  me at (720) 390-7610 with any questions.

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