Sainsbury's - 'Tough Love'

Supermarket bn

Sainsbury’s – ‘Tough Love’


Following Group Chief Executive Justin King's 'Making Sainsbury's Great Again' sales-led recovery announcement in 2004, the Board and HR Team recognised that the engagement, buy-in and involvement of Sainsbury's 150,000 employees was vital to sustained business performance.

‘Tough Love’ (high challenge, high support) had already been identified as one of the key leadership behaviours fundamental for ‘Making Sainsbury’s Great Again’.  However, feedback had shown that the concept was often misunderstood and required more attention to truly embed the behaviour throughout the organisation.  


Sainsbury’s engaged Lane4 to partner with their HR team to design and deliver the Tough Love Programme to help leaders throughout the business deliver high performance within their teams. 

For this programme, we combined a range of delivery methods including experiential learning, real business case studies, practical role play workshops with actors to stimulate real business situations, and motivational talks from elite performers. The key measures were directly linked to business objectives.

As part of the Tough Love programme a group of participants from across the business also went on to become 'Master Coaches' who are now a resource within the business to support mentoring, career coaching and performance coaching.


The programme achieved its goals and ultimately built the coaching skills and confidence necessary to create high performing teams. Perhaps one of the strongest indicators of success was the way the programme created its own momentum as participants went back into the business and recommended it as a ‘must’ to colleagues.

The wider culture change programme at Sainsbury’s, of which Tough Love was a key part, has had a significant and measurable impact on the business at every level. This is demonstrated through improvements in their people, customer and financial performance metrics.  


"We know that engaged store colleagues on the front-line make the biggest difference in delivering satisfied customers and improving sales. Partnering with Lane4 to support us to develop a real coaching culture at Sainsbury's has really helped us move towards this"
Former HR Director, Sainsbury's