LAS VEGAS—The first of four NACS Show General Sessions kicked off today in Westgate’s Paradise Event Center with Scott Stratten, founder and partner of UnMarketing—a firm aimed at moving away from traditional marketing practices and toward community-building and connections.

Back at the NACS Show by popular demand, Stratten tackled a huge issue we all face: How to get, keep and motivate employees. Stratten humorously covered the key aspects managing this new landscape—and thriving beyond it by looking at what works and laughing at what doesn’t work.

In UnLeadership: Leading for Tomorrow, Today, Stratten acknowledged not only what our industry has been through, but where we can go in the future; how to create a stronger team bond; the most important leadership trait going forward—self-awareness; how dealing with problem customers can strengthen your company; and create an environment where a multi-generational workforce can thrive.

Truly great leaders—who Stratten calls “unleaders” because they defy traditional norms—have an ability to clearly view their companies and themselves from the perspective of the employees on the front lines as opposed to those on top.

Stratten said there are two critical elements to succeeding as an unleader: self-awareness and empathy. Skills which, until the pandemic, had been thought of as secondary, soft skills, now take center stage. The pandemic, he said, has taught successful unleaders to listen to their employees and realize that customers will see how those employees are treated and will react to it.

Self-awareness is crucial to leadership—and it’s not a new concept, he says. These leaders know what they don’t know, and then let their people do what they do best.

Leaders need to remember three simple words: Stop. Start. Continue.

“Ask the people who work for you what should we stop? What should we start? What should we continue?” Let them be honest about what’s working and what’s not. Let them be human, he says.

“I like to surround myself with people who have no filter,” Stratten said. “I want to surround myself with insubordination.” That’s because insubordination breeds disruption, which breeds new ideas.

Leaders need to take care of their teams all the way down to the front line and stand up for them, he says. His most memorable boss as a teen was a movie theater manager who stood up for him when he was being yelled at by an angry customer. The simple act of his manager intervening in a tense situation changed his perspective on work and made him invest himself in his job rather than slacking off.

“Our people are our business. That’s it,” Stratten said. “You can have a competitive advantage—just treat people like humans.”

Armour welcome
Henry Armour, NACS president and CEO, closed out the General Session with an overview of the themes NACS Show goers should expect to see.

“Everything we do as businesses, and as an industry, begins with leadership,” said Armour. “We are going to expand on this leadership theme over the next three days. And we’ll dive deep into industry issues. Issues that significantly affect our collective future. And—this is very important—issues that we can lead collectively need to make our voices heard.”

Armour added, “Tomorrow we will cover advocacy, specifically our industry’s biggest issue: swipe fees. Joining us is Senator Roger Marshall, who along with champion Senator Dick Durbin, introduced legislation that we think has a real chance of moving forward—with your help. We also will explore the future of mobility, looking at how automakers and retailers are collectively addressing the future of mobility.”

“Then, on Monday, we’ll look at community. We’ll talk about what we mean to the communities we serve. And, how we can build a stronger community among each other. And how we can make a difference—together.

“Finally, on Tuesday, we will look at experience. We will see how best-in-class retailers are meeting the future now and we’ll unveil the 2022 edition of Ideas 2 Go.

And that’s just what we’ll experience in this room as we go full speed ahead.

We also have all the other elements that make the NACS Show the greatest show on earth. Education sessions, networking events and of course, an amazing expo that opens tomorrow.

So, get ready,” Armour said. “And let’s have some fun.”

Also in this issue from NACS Show Daily