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Congrats to those who just completed the SL Lead Program!

The 2020/21 SL Lead program was our first ever virtual cohort! It included 103 Store Leaders from across all regions. The program began in September of 2020 and concluded in March of 2021 (including a break for the holidays).

The group participated in development activities that focused on:

  • Enhancing relationships and coaching conversations through Situational and Empathetic Leadership.

  • Expanding their organizational knowledge and business acumen through conversations with members of the SLT.

  • Recognizing the value of collaborating and sharing best practices with their peers.

  • Building strong teams through a focus on talent development and succession planning.

  • Effectively leading and communicating through change to drive positive results in their stores.

  • Building confidence and ability to influence through group presentations and peer feedback.


  • Completed our first virtual SL Lead cohort, created and facilitated through a partnership of our development, Field HR, and leadership teams.

  • Sessions structured into smaller regional sessions, enabling our high performing SLs to further connect with peers, partners, and leaders in their areas.

  • Many of the sessions were led by DLs, allowing them to also focus on their development in facilitating this content as well.

  • SLs heard from many senior leaders across varying areas of the organization, including Store Operations, Merchandising, Customer Experience, Human Resources, and Belonging.

  • Participated in sessions and activities on topics of Situational and Empathetic Leadership, Talent Development, and Change Management.

  • As a part of the above content, the SLs focused on developing or enhancing skills and behaviors around many competencies, including Active Listening, Presentation Skills, Influence, Relationship Building, Talent Development, and Change Agility.

We'd like to give a special shoutout to everyone who worked so hard over the past several months!

Here are some of the things they had to say about #LifeAtPetSmart and what they gained from the program:

"I get to pet dogs (biggest perk) , see families and associates grow, and be a voice of wisdom for my team. What's not to love! PetSmart is composed of people who share a real love for people and pets. As such, we should treat each one we meet with understanding, a genuine interest in their well being and strive to best the best me I can be." - Randy

"I love that what I do everyday matters! That I have the power to positively impact the lives of My Peers, Associates, Pet Parents, and Pets. I love to drive and see the development of my team as employees, and as people - as they become more confident, empowered, and passionate. My goal is to make a lifetime lasting imprint in the lives of those I have the pleasure of seeing and spending time with in my time here (and then to see them pay it forward). I love that I work for a company that truly cares for the associates and is a trendsetter when it comes to innovation and acting with integrity. I loved and have embraced the way all of the things we reviewed around situational leadership, leading with empathy, talent development, and change agility can all be practiced at once by bringing all of these ideas together into one big master plan to support the company competencies, values, and vision - with the help of all of the tools and resources we have at our fingertips (SPRs, Belonging Site, Performance Management Site ect). I also very much enjoyed the guest speakers! It was so, so valuable to get a backstage pass into what we are doing, where we are going, and how we are going to get there. Just as importantly, (although it would have been super if we could have done all of this in person and I hope to get that opportunity in the future) I am taking with me a whole new crowd of connections from all over the company and levels of the organization that I have and will continue to network and partner with." - Tana

"PetSmart has been a big influence for me as an employee and in my personal life. What I love about this company is the unity of the team. I love to see how pet parents and employees have so much in common when they start to talk about their pets. This company has also transformed me as I have become a pet parent as well. Knowing how much care and love there is to give and the fact that PetSmart helps our communities make a difference in many lives, gives me joy to work here. The LEAD program was a great exercise to be a part of. I love the fact the PetSmart is spending time on leadership. Many of the classes we attended were beneficial for my growth in this company and as a leader. I liked the confidence I gained and being part of my district, I love that when my peers reach out to me as I can be a resource to them. From a development and operational standpoint, I know that any SL will benefit from this experience as a I have." - Santiago

"I love my life at PetSmart because I can spend time with my team every day and have fun. I really love the opportunity to be part of big moments in the lives of our pets, pet parents and associates. I really enjoy seeing a family with a new pet, helping a bather embark on a new career and help many associates along the way to further their development. My biggest takeaway from the program was really knowing and understanding just how powerful our influence is and how much our teams are really counting on us both for their development and to share the vision and mission every day." - Mayra

"I love my #LifeAtPetSmart because I love being surrounded by my district peers and store team, who exhibit passion for the pets in our care, passion for those that visit us every day and passion for their parents. Truly being United Together, from PHO to field leadership support, make it easy to love my life at PetSmart. One of the most impactful takeaways from LEAD is that leaders have the ability to change someone’s life and direction. This message has helped me to adjust my leadership style to be a more empathetic leader, being more open and honest, and to more often assume positive intent. I’m only going to be as successful as those around so utilizing the developmental tools we have at our fingertips is essential to understanding, developing, and leveraging the talent around me. Also, LEAD has taught me to invest in myself more by continuing my learning, to take more time to plan and analyze so that I can ultimately be more engaged with my team." - Greg

"The reason that I love my life at PetSmart is because this company has done so much for me. It has taken a chance on me. I started at PetSmart almost 23 years ago as a pet care associate and have worked my way up to store leader about 20 years ago. I know that I have had some great district leaders that have helped me along the way and continue to help me daily. I am so proud to work for a company that believes in their people to promote from within and to build up the current managers that they have to make sure that they are living up to their true potential. I took so much away from the lead program, this is the second time that I was able to attend by in person and now online. I am really happy that the company took the time to set this up even through all that we have gone through this past year. I loved getting a refresher on making sure that we are not just set in our ways as managers but that we are changing with our environment. Also, that we need to know that not all associates and managers are the same and learn the same or respond to one style of management and that has a leader we have to be willing to be situational. I did enjoy working with the other leaders from other stores and getting their insight and coming up with a plan of attack with a project that we were working. I do feel that this program going through it got me to step back and examine the way I was talking and dealing with situations in my building that maybe I could look at and handle differently. I love the BBPC culture and have spread that to my other leaders and got them looking at the way they handle coaching situations and how we can all change for the better of our staff." - Tiffany

"There are many things that I love about my life at PetSmart. On a broad spectrum I love that PetSmart truly stands for our vision and mission statements. I personally love pets and believe pets make us better people and the daily connections I make with pets and people alike brings joy to my life on a daily basis. The other aspect of my life at PetSmart that I love is the growth and development I see in my people. As a store leader I have the unique opportunity to help mold and develop people bringing out the best in themselves which is extremely rewarding. In many ways PetSmart has brought out the best in myself as well. I am very grateful for the life that PetSmart has given me. I feel that I am lucky to work for a company where, starting at the top of the organization from J.K. down to my district leader Greg, there is a true investment in our people. PetSmart is essentially a second home to me, and I am truly grateful that I Love My Life at PetSmart. SL lead was a great program that really helps highlight the aspects of what makes a successful leader. I had many takeaways throughout the program. This process really shows that the days of old school directional leadership have become something of the past and leading people is not one size fits all. To truly be successful as a leader you need to lead every person, every task, and every situation differently. Situational leadership will continue to be foundational in my store. Being a leader is very dynamic and calls on you to take your leadership abilities to empower others. The learnings of situational leadership and empathetic leadership will be tools I call on for years to come." - Dale

"I love my life at PetSmart because I believe in our journey to become the Trusted Partner to all Pet Parents! There is nothing like walking side by side with a new Pet Parent and educating them about nutrition, toys, potty training, our services, etc. Taking time and making these true, authentic connections and then watching their families grow with a new pet is extremely exciting. When they come back looking for you in particular, is beyond rewarding! My biggest takeaway from the SL Lead Program was how important changing my leadership style was to my team. Even though I was already tailoring my interactions with team members, I don’t think I realized how important It was to their individual success. By being either extremely professional, semi direct, or even humorous, I am able to truly connect with my team members and ensure they know they can trust me and that I hear them and care about their success." - Michelle

"I love my life at PetSmart because PetSmart feels like family. Never have I ever worked for a company that takes care of their associates the way that PetSmart does. The inclusion, the diversity, the belonging, and the development that PetSmart offers to its associates and leaders is unparalleled in the retail environment. The passion that PetSmart has for its people and pets is very inspiring and I feel like there is an honest level of care from all areas of the business. I have met some incredible people during my PetSmart adventure and many of them have helped make me the leader that I am today. I am excited to see what the future holds! My biggest takeaway from the SL Lead program was my learnings regarding change management and the BBPC. We work for a company that changes consistently and in a tier 6 building you have to know how to juggle whatever challenges present themselves, sometimes almost by the minute. To be able to properly connect with the team and build a relationship by engaging with them builds a great trust in my store. Observing an associate in the moment and then providing strong feedback will build in the trust, especially if I personalize the feedback and use empathy. Gaining alignment on something new will only help keep the associates engaged in whatever we may be changing. Creating commitments together will help reinforce positive behaviors and will help the culture in the building as we utilize PlayUp! for recognition, etc. And finally helping my associates by committing my support and following up with them in the moment to help cultivate permanent behaviors based on whatever changes PetSmart rolls out with! This new culture and coaching model excites me and I’m excited about watching it grow in my store!" - Joey

"I love my life at PetSmart because of the daily interactions I have with Pet Parents and their pets. It is impossible to find a career where I have the capability to help customers who care about their animals in every aspect of their lives, just as I do. Being able to build those relationships with other pet owners and have them trust my store and my team makes coming to work at PetSmart something I look forward to. In addition to that, I am able to have development opportunities I never thought were possible! I love being able to grow with a company who cares not only for their Pet Parents but their associates just the same! My biggest takeaway from the SL Lead program was the session on empathetic leadership. I am confident that I am now a leader who can listen to my teams needs and understand how to address those needs. I have used this daily with my associates and it has changed the morale of my store. I am grateful to have spent so much time on that lesson as I believe it builds a strong foundation and trust within your store. This led perfectly into our new Behavior Based Performance Culture and made the transition that much smoother!

- Abigail

"I love life at PetSmart because we have an environment that promotes diversity in all aspects. I also truly feel like we have a company that cares about every employee. My biggest take away from the SL Lead program is that your leadership learning journey is never complete . There’s always something you can learn as a leader to enhance your abilities to be better leader. This program has helped inspire my thirst for more leadership development. Since joining the program I’ve become more of a situational leader and I’m currently teaching my leaders to do the same. I’ve also I learned how to be more empathetic as leader." - Eric

1 Comment

Nicholas Burton
Nicholas Burton
Jan 31, 2023

Hi, my name is Nicholas Burton and I would like to become apart of the LEAD program. How do I go about doing that? My email is

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