Success, achievement beyond what is required to “get by,” is a predicate to succession. The concept of success assumes something has been achieved beyond the ordinary; extra ordinary if you may. Business succession planning respects and acknowledges extra ordinary achievement (success) by pursuing a multifaceted, multidisciplined effort to provide for the “continuation of success through the next generation of owners and managers in light of predictable, probable and possible contingencies.” From a third party business perspective, where there is confidence that the people, processes, procedures, productivity and profits (five Ps) will continue at an extra ordinary level (i.e. success), leaders and managers create business value, scratch, boot or what is referred to in the automobile business as Blue Sky. Therefore a soap-box “Rawlsism” of the past has become a professional axiom: Succession planning builds and protects value.
As I work my way around the patch, I am often asked, “Swami of Succession, how do I build the success that justifies succession planning?” It should come as no surprise to you that I don’t have a “silver bullet” answer to this very good question. However, I can share some “dos” and “don’ts” regarding leadership and management that I repetitively see as components of success.
Do understand the source of success
When it comes to being successful, franchises, incentives, hot merchandise, locations, buildings and processes are not the answer. Otherwise success would not be extra ordinary. No doubt the most coveted of dealership attributes help, but they are mere components of the engine.
Your people are the most perplexing resource that fuel and make your dealership haul ass or just meander along trying to keep up with traffic. Unfortunately as a dealer, leader and manager you cannot make your people hit the gas and seek the extra ordinary. You can only teach, coach, encourage and ultimately choose to maintain or exclude each employee who collaboratively forms your organizational culture. Your employees must choose to work together as a team, must choose to go the extra mile, must choose to seek success and they must choose to pay the requisite price to be extra ordinary. They do this so they can make your business better today than it was yesterday. Every choice by every employee has an impact on your success, good or bad. As a leader and manager, your “assignment Mr. Phipps” (Mission Impossible) is to inspire and motivate them to make these choices.
Do be a role model for the behavior, attitude, passion and commitment you expect
A role model is the best motivator known to man. Recognize that every supervisor sets the standards for everyone below them. Anyone near the top of the organizational chart is under pressure to set the standard for the entire organization. Optimism breeds optimism, energy breeds energy and passion breeds passion. Unfortunately you can also reverse the formula and acknowledge that lethargy breeds lethargy and pessimism becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Therefore on those days when you or one of your managers doesn’t have the right stuff, don’t curse the field from which you are expecting a harvest. Stay home, go pound a golf ball or hang out with someone who can help you regain your focus and purpose.
Do expect the extra ordinary from everyone and express your confidence that they are going to deliver
Leadership is a game of sorts with the employees saying, “I don’t want to reveal really who I am by giving all I’ve got because my boss may discover I don’t have enough.” Unfortunately about 50 percent of your employees are scratching the bottom of their productivity tank and don’t have enough. However the others do have more to give and you will have more success if you simply acknowledge them along with the masses, continually expressing that you are depending upon their contribution and you are betting the farm that they will come through.
Do demand teamwork
You cannot compete without the willingness and capability to “do more with less.” A task master with a whip cannot create organizational alchemy whereas teamwork is the key to doing more with less.
Do praise that which is good
Don’t let any extra ordinary effort or achievement go unacknowledged. I assure you if you spend the bulk of your time affirming the good that your employees do, the “force” will pull from the dark side those who have not chosen to go the extra mile or they will be starved off the lot through lack of recognition.
Do not ‘praise but’
If you are motivated to praise a family member, manager or employee, let that seed of affirmation germinate into confidence and self-esteem before you follow with “but you can do better.” Otherwise, you are just wasting your breath and building frustration because no one hears a praise followed by a “but.” Minimally, use two sentences and lose the “but” or be prepared to be known as a butt.
Do not be crazy; assuming you can do the extra ordinary by continuing to do the ordinary.
If you are looking for different results you have got to be prepared to come out of your comfort zone and do things differently. Minimally that means new ways of doing things and probably that means new people that are receptive and motivated to try new things.
Do not tolerate mediocrity
Those who demonstrate that they are not willing to strive for the extra ordinary, not willing to subordinate personal priorities for team goals have no long term place in a successful dealership. Successful organizations are always in search of team members who will give their best and you can’t make room for dedicated team players or make them feel comfortable if slackers are hanging on.