Tesco Terry

This morning at the CIPD 2011 conference I listened to the speech given by Sir Terry Leahy, former CEO of Tesco. Tesco’s dominance concerns me, and when he showed us the 2010 market capitalisation comparison between Tesco, Sainsbury and M&S I winced a little (so much so I blurred the photos!).

Tesco Market Capitalisation

Terry spoke sincerely and straightforwardly and afterwards I figured, if he really believes this stuff he’s telling us – then maybe I can see how Tesco has pulled so far ahead of the chasing pack. Here’s what I heard him say:

Find the truth: There’s tons of research, reports, reviews, and the more you read, the less you know. Human nature is to filter out stuff. We just need the plain simple truth, and the front line is where the knowledge is. Too often the managers in between create a culture where it’s not OK to speak the truth.

Customers are the best place for information: If you listen fine if you don’t listen that’s fine too and the customer will find a better place and buy there instead. Terry used to spend 40% of his time in stores, listening. He also mentioned listening to employees, but almost as an after thought.

Audacious goals: We spend a lot of time in work, people want to be inspired, and we want to stretch them. Work needs to be worthwhile, a big adventure.

Tesco values: We asked the staff two questions. What does Tesco stand for? What would you like Tesco to stand for? The answers: No one tries harder for customers, and respect, treat people how we like to be treated. These values came from the shop floor.

Competition is good: It keeps you honest and forces you to do better for your customers. And permanent dissent gets nothing done. So once a decision is made, we come to work and make it a reality.

Leadership: It’s not important what you do, but what you cause others to do. We have and need thousands of leaders, stepping forward, taking responsibility.

Four things that make work worthwhile: do interesting work, be treated with respect, have a chance to get on, even if people don’t want to take it, and have a boss who is a help not your biggest problem.

Creativity matters: it’s not often spoken about, and it can’t work with fear otherwise folks won’t take risks. Success and failure are two sides of the same coin.

Culture: We have a culture that rewards generosity, not self.

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

6 thoughts on “Tesco Terry”

  1. A great summary of Sir Terry Leahy’s comments for those of us unable to make it to Manchester. Thank you! Most of what he says is straight forward, common sense – makes one wonder what’s going on in Tesco’s competitors if they are trailing so far behind.

  2. Doug,
    A rather belated reflection:
    Ws there anything in the presentation or questions about how Teso engages with it’s suppliers? Rob’s post mentions the commercial side of the transaction but not about how a large corporate can recognise it’s responsibilities during the engagement.

    1. Hello Mark, I expect the belated nature of your reflection is reflected (sorry!) in the quality of it. Great question thanks. Sadly Sir Terry did not go there, and neither did we the audience pick him up on it. Shame really as it would have been an interesting debate I’m sure. I felt a little like we let him off the hook on that one, perhaps it was a shade too much of a Leahy love in?

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