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Blog : Talking Talent - Kate Rowlands


Talking Talent - Kate Rowlands

This month we talk to Kate Rowlands, Service Delivery and Training Manager at Selfridges


  1. What role does leadership play in delivering great service at Selfridges?

Delivery of great service is only possible with clear, consistent and focused leadership. We are currently in a very exciting period of development within the restaurants department at Selfridges.

We have a very powerful vision of where we want to be which is shared across the restaurant team as well as being aligned with our overall store strategy to ensure we have consistent growth and a strong customer focus. Our leaders are engaged in the process – they understand where we are going and how we are going to get there. We empower them to cascade this information through their whole teams to ensure that the right messages are getting to the right people; helping us share not only our business strategy, but also our passion and excitement for the changes we are going through.

Our aim, to provide extraordinary service at the point of delivery for internal and external customers, sits at the heart of everything we do. By building different layers of leadership at department level, our core messages become embedded through role modelling behaviours and giving people ownership of different elements. This ensures extraordinary service and the behaviours, attitude and competencies associated with it, are part of our culture.


  1. How do you spot leadership potential within your organisation, or more specifically your department?

Looking for our ‘rising stars’ is a continual source of excitement for me. There are various behaviours we look for, such as passion, drive, championing change and consistently high performance. I love people that can show me energy, enthusiasm and commitment, that embrace change and are excited by our vision

To us, a great leader is open to feedback on their own performance, rises to challenges, is not afraid to question the status quo and always strives to make sure that things are being done to the highest standard in the best way.

We also listen to employees who ask for leadership development (through their PDP’s). This helps us to identify leadership opportunities at all levels in the department. For example, we’re currently in the process of developing our ‘Service Ambassadors’ who will become key to ensuring we move in the right direction in terms of service leadership.


  1. What do you do to develop and nurture this?

We have some fantastic internal training courses with our L&D department – it is key to ensure that not only our future leaders, but all leaders have access to these development opportunities. This also links to the work we are doing on building career pathways at all levels. It’s essential for us to become an employer of choice for people in the hospitality industry. My goal is to ensure that a career in restaurants within Selfridges will be as coveted as the extraordinary products that we sell in store. This starts with making sure that the people we employ are given every opportunity available to them.

At the moment we are developing our Restaurant Managers to become more involved and accountable for the structured development of their team. The introduction of regular one-to-ones that focus specifically on training and development of their teams is key. Coaching our Restaurant Managers to ensure that they have the right skills and confidence to nurture the talent that is identified is essential, and is helping us to develop our rising stars while at the same time retain talent within the business.


  1. It’s important that people drive their own learning – how have you encouraged this and made it happen?

There are a number of different methods that we use for learning and development which are easily accessible to employees. Just one example is the Extraordinary Service Sessions which have given our teams a ‘light touch’ overview of some brilliant modern organisational methods.

By giving them nuggets of information, we can then follow up with reference points to help them identify ways to learn more. Our people are inherently curious so it’s great when they come back to us with their own recommendations of books or YouTube videos.

Another source of learning is of course the internet– apps such as Mind Tools that people can dip in and out on the way to work, and other tools such as YouTube videos and Pinterest are all fantastic resources that people can easily access on their smart phones or tablets.

Other more traditional tools such as books also go a long way.  We give books as gifts to Restaurant Managers with encouragement to go away and read – our favourites include Setting the Table by Danny Myer and Eat That Frog by Brian Tracey – they both contain the messages which we talk about every day at Selfridges.


  1. What is the greatest piece of leadership advice you’ve been given?

A previous leader taught me that a true leader learns how to delegate responsibility to their team, gives them the resources that they need to find their own solutions, trusts that they have the ability to deliver the agreed goal – and is always there along the way to check in with them at key points and ensure that they have the support that they need to succeed. Having the confidence to take a coaching approach to manage my working relationships has been absolutely key to this for me, and has really made me rethink what being a leader actually means.


  1. Tell us how Purple Cubed have supported you so far?

 We have worked with Purple Cubed on the production and delivery of our ‘Extraordinary Service Sessions’, which at its heart examined what extraordinary service truly means to Selfridges. Their approach has been incredibly collaborative, and the team has always taken the time to really listen and understand what we needed – a truly bespoke programme in every sense of the word!

Purple Cubed have brought a huge amount of passion and experience to the table – the response to the sessions from our managers and team members has been amazingly positive. Their experts have done an incredible job of engaging our employees at all levels, and shown an amazing ability to adapt their style of delivery to match the room.

Most importantly for us, Purple Cubed have always had our ‘end goal’ in mind, and have supported us to ensure that the right tools are in place to embed the learning that they have delivered. I feel like they passionately believe in making the programme an on-going success for us – and I’m looking forward to sharing our success with them in the future.

Ready to get in touch?