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Business

Five questions for Lydia Diaz

WinesInner HarborLoyola University Chicago

Lydia Diaz went to work for Target right out of college more than a decade ago, helping to open, then manage a new store in Louisiana. Now she oversees several dozen stores and thousands of workers as Target's senior group director of stores for the Mid-Atlantic region.

During her career with Target, Diaz worked in California, managing first a single store, then a seven-store district. At the headquarters in Minneapolis, she helped develop plans for City Target, the mass discounter's small-format store.

In June, she took on her current role, overseeing 43 stores with 9,000 employees in Maryland, Virginia and Washington. Five district team leaders report to her.

A 44th store will be added to her responsibilities when a new location opens next month in The Shops at Canton Crossing in Canton.

As a manager, she describes her priority as reinforcing the Target culture among employees, which she describes as "fast, fun, friendly" and collaborative.

What attracted you to retail? What did you do before coming to work for Target in 2002?

I was recruited by Target right out of college into my first role as an executive team leader in Louisiana. Growing up, I always knew that I never wanted to sit behind a desk.

What I love about retail is that it allows me to be out and about with people, interacting with them all day long. Whether it's with my team in the store or guests doing their shopping, I spend my days chatting, learning and making decisions as I walk Target stores. I also enjoy seeing strategic, thoughtful, hard work result in sales and discovering the impact of a particular initiative — for example, when we move a product display to a certain area of the store, and then see those products fly off the shelves. Given the fast-paced nature of retail, there is an instant gratification that often comes along with the work, which is also very exciting.

What's a typical day for someone in charge of 43, and soon to be 44, stores? What types of decisions are you faced with on a daily or weekly basis?

In my job, there is never a typical day or dull moment. There is a new challenge to tackle every single day, but these challenges inspire and motivate me and keep me passionate about my work. I'm on the road almost 50 percent of the time, visiting my stores and meeting with my team — we have 9,000 team members in this region alone.

Some of the biggest decisions I face regard leadership. At Target, it's all about the team, so ensuring we have the right leaders in the right place at the right time is critical. Experience, instincts and drive are all factors I consider when hiring, promoting and managing talent. Another priority for me is to help ensure our stores reflect the community and our guests — from the merchandise we carry, to the way we display that merchandise, to ensuring that our team members authentically relate to our guests. Target's ability to be locally relevant is critical. Ultimately, every decision I make relates to ensuring that Target guests have the best shopping experience every time they enter our store.

What have been some of your biggest challenges as a manager and what have been some of your biggest successes?

It's important for me to guide, grow and support my team. I try to connect with my direct reports on a regular basis, and I would consider my style of management to be "open door." I believe that being a great leader means being transparent, especially when it comes to admitting mistakes. A guiding philosophy of mine is that no one should make the same mistakes I've made along the way. It's my responsibility to inform my team of what I've done wrong and how I've learned from my experiences, so we can all become better. I find that my accessible, honest style of management helps me build trust with my team and propels us forward.

My greatest challenge as a manager is to find the right balance between my professional and personal life. I strive to be the best leader I can possibly be, which means giving my work my all. However, as a wife, daughter and sister, I strive to be equally as strong — and present — in my personal life. What's inspiring about Target is that this company truly believes when we are at our personal best — healthy, happy, fulfilled — we can bring that personal best into work. It's an empowering philosophy and makes me proud to work at Target.

My greatest success as a manager has been mentoring a number of young female professionals over the years while at Target. It is deeply rewarding to coach these women as they are just starting out and help them along as they navigate their careers.

What are your expectations for the upcoming holiday season? What kinds of preparations are you and your team making now?

My entire team — and Target as a whole — is very excited for this holiday season. [The holidays are] an extremely important time for us, and we're preparing to make Target the one-stop shopping destination for guests, so they can make the most out of their holiday season. Right now, this means seasonal hiring. We're adding to the Target team to ensure our guests enjoy an exceptional shopping experience.

What are some of your favorite ways to unwind in your free time?

I recently relocated to Baltimore with my husband, and we're having a wonderful time getting to know our new home. Our favorite spots to explore are the Inner Harbor and Fells Point. Neither of us has ever lived on the East Coast, and we especially love the rich history in this part of the country.

As former Californians, we're also enjoying the food and wine in the area, and we look forward to checking out some of the local wineries. Speaking of food and wine, we also love to travel internationally, and this month we are traveling to Italy for the first time. We can't wait to eat the pasta, taste the gelato and drink the house wine.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

Lydia Diaz

Title: Senior group director of stores, Mid-Atlantic, for Target

Previous job: Group director of stores for Target, Northern California and Central Valley

Current residence: Baltimore

Education: Bachelor's degree in business management from Loyola University in New Orleans

Birthplace: New Orleans

Family: Married to husband, Reinald

Hobbies/interests: Pets (two dogs), travel, food and wine, being outdoors

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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