25 August, 2016

The perfect judgement call

Initially, I was attracted to M&S by the attractive pay and benefits. This was back in 1981. I can still remember my first day. I was 16 and I’d just left school to enter the big wide world of work. From the moment I started at the Brent Cross store, I was put at my ease and felt confident of the support of those around me in the Menswear team. In fact, I’m still friends with one of the girls that I started with.

Four years later, I left to concentrate on bringing up my children. I was sad to leave but I wouldn’t have missed out on these years with my family for anything. 

I came back to M&S in 2003 as a temp and, in between, I owned my own café from 2000 to 2004. Having worked at M&S previously, I’d developed an in-depth understanding of customer service and what customers expect. These were invaluable learnings and undoubtedly helped me to run my business. 

If I had to sum up my role in three words, I’d choose troubleshooting, people and challenge. Being responsible for 85 stores and line managing 31 staff certainly accounts for the last two; fulfilling my role to the very best of my abilities most definitely relies on the first. What I do is demanding but I’m the kind of person who thrives on this; problem solving is in my nature and my job constantly requires me to think differently.

What I enjoy most about my current role is the ambiguity it entails. I’m constantly called upon to make judgement calls. Making the right ones calls for solid commercial awareness, a deep understanding of our values and the ability to analyse the information at hand. There is definitely an M&S way of doing things and this helps guide what I do. What’s more, every day is different. I travel between two hubs and my line management responsibilities add an extra dimension of interest. As the Switchboard part of the business continues to change, my role evolves with it, so we’re constantly innovating.

It’s not just the variety in my role that I like either. The people I work with our just great. We hire people because they share our values; this doesn’t mean their clones, far from it. We’re all signed up to a certain way of working but this is never to the detriment of our individuality. New joiners quickly learn what’s expected of them and I make a point of talking through the standards and level of service we expect. The most important advice that I give them is to be human, to care about what they do and add a little bit of sparkle. They say it takes all sorts and we definitely have all sorts of people at M&S. It makes for a richer work experience. The job security and emphasis on a healthy work/life balance are big plusses too.

My second life at M&S began in Foods at our London Colney store. I then moved on to work as a Coach to M&S Café staff before quickly stepping up to Section Co-ordinator. A year later, I was promoted to the first of my two Section Manager roles; the first being a six year spell in Foods, followed by two years in Homeware. These were the idea preparation for stepping up to become Regional Switchboard Manager. My on-the-job learning has always been supplemented by classroom-based courses to support my knowledge of M&S processes.

In terms of what make me tick, I think I’d say it’s my ability to work well under pressure. As a manager, I believe I’m fair in how I treat people and communicate well with all levels of staff, whether it’s with managers or advisors.

Inside M&S