Being a leader in a c-store environment is no easy task. From reducing turnover to keeping existing employees engaged and ensuring you’ve got the right people doing the right jobs, it takes a lot to keep your company ship sailing in the right direction.

For the past five months, participants in the NACS Leadership for Success Program have engaged in projects within their own companies, encouraging them—and their employees—to develop plans, set goals and track their progress.

The results of those projects were the forefront of Thursday’s two-part session “Ideas in Action: Solutions from the Frontline.”

Four teams comprising a total of 20 district managers, territory managers, division managers and other leaders shared stories of how they tackled issues within their own companies head on—and the lessons they learned along the way.

The first team up, team Phoenix, looked at team building, employee motivation and retention, and promoting and empowering leadership within the company.

Bruce Jenson, district manager for Parkland USA, shared how he helped create resources within his company to help empower his store managers, including an operational excellence team, a category management team and a facilities maintenance team. One of the big things he learned was to let his teams know there’s nothing wrong with making decisions and making mistakes.

“It’s been a cultural change for the store managers themselves,” he said. “Letting them know that it’s okay to make mistakes. I make mistakes every single day. I try to learn from them and move on. The biggest thing is make a decision. If we want a different outcome later we can talk about it and how you could have made a different decision. But really the first step is make a decision, it will be okay. There’s nothing we can’t fix down the road.”

For the next team, the Aviarists, the focus was on employee retention, defining a brand, following the process to improve results and building a pipeline of internal talent.

Joyce Jones, district manager for Love’s Travel Stops, outlined how she compared two stores in her company to determine the effect following processes would have on improving turnover and increasing sales. One store didn’t follow all processes and, while that store saw improvements, those improvements were not as good as the store that followed all processes to the letter.

“That store is now able to give better feedback about what worked and what didn’t and give better suggestions on how to improve the processes,” she said.

Team True Grit looked at training and retention, building your bench, developing leaders and recognition within the company environment. Derral Draper, district manager with Maverik Inc., decided to focus on recognizing difference-makers at his stores. He said he learned that he tended to over-recognize people for too many things instead of just focusing on the important accomplishments.

“I found that in certain stores, with certain leaders there was a perception that I didn’t recognize their efforts enough,” he said. “I found out that sometimes, too much recognition is not necessarily a good thing. Some of my store directors had become accustomed to this behavior and it was no longer effective. I decided to change my behavior in those stores and only recognize big wins. In this way I was giving meaningful recognition.”

The last team to present, the Learning League, focused on store management leadership, recognition, employee engagement and standardization.

Ron Walker, district manager for Fast Break of Oregon, detailed how he handled some of the poor image evaluations, demoralized team members and consumer complaints that were coming from his stores—most of which are located in small towns where there isn’t much else.

His solution was to create the position of image and maintenance supervisor. The person put into that position transformed how the company was able to maintain its stores and respond to customer concerns.

“He was able to foster such a positive environment and have so much fun that he was attracting other individuals from the field to work side by side with him,” Walker said. “We have happy new and existing customers. We ended up creating more opportunities in the organization.”