One hour into my two-day “Up Your Business 2.0 Super Leadership Workshop,” I present several key differences between managers and leaders. In this section, I help attendees overcome the common tendency to over-manage and under-lead. I suggest that leaders who are too management-focused and tend to spend more time with paperwork than with people-work. As a result, they invest most of their energies pencil-whipping numbers in an attempt to wring out every ounce of production possible. However, in their quest for more production, they begin to ignore the building of their capacity to produce. I caution them that if they persist in this out-of-balance approach for long, they will inevitably suffer a production reversal.
In contrast, effective leaders tend to project a longer-term perspective and place more priority on turning around people than turning around numbers. Thus, they continue to build their capacity to produce at a higher and more consistent level. These leaders understand that the only way they can sustain and increase production over time is by expanding their capability to grow that production by addressing the key disciplines within their dealership that build capacity to produce. Following are six of these disciplines that will help build your own dealership’s capacity to produce. Use them to evaluate where your team may have gotten off track, and then re-address these capacity areas as a priority with your leadership team.
1. Recruiting. Proactively building a pipeline of talent to help you upgrade current positions and to fuel future growth is a key to building your capacity to produce. Recruiting is far more than running an occasional ad and collecting resumes. Recruiting demands a comprehensive strategy to consistently look in the right places, for the right people, with the right qualities, so that you can bring on the best and avoid hiring wrong fits for your organization out of desperation.
2. Training. Consistently training both your front line and management staff keeps your people sharp, upgrades their skills and lets them know there is still plenty of room to improve. In order to increase production over the long term, it is essential that you commit to the ongoing process of both getting better people and getting people better. In dealerships where training is either haphazard or optional, production is more of a roller coaster than a rocket ship.
3. Coaching. Coaching involves observing, analyzing performance and offering feedback. Because of this, managers who spend too much time in their offices and over-managing, are often lousy coaches. Since they aren’t in the trenches to observe what’s really going on in their business, they are ill-suited to coach anyone on how to improve. In addition to coaching “on the fly,” while in the trenches, effective leaders impact and develop their team members with private, one-on-one coaching sessions. These more-formal encounters are best done with an agenda that includes: diagnosing, prescribing, reinforcing and challenging the team member. By helping to develop people through both on-the-fly and one-on-one coaching, a leader is able to build each employee’s personal capacity to produce, which will in turn elevate team produce.
4. Mentoring. While training and coaching are for the masses, mentoring is for the few. Leaders must carefully select those they’ll invest more time in because effective mentoring requires meaningful investments of both time and resources. Leaders should mentor team members who are ready, willing, and able to grow, and who have demonstrated that they have the highest upward potential for increasing personal and organizational results. By building an inner circle of more highly capable leaders around him or her, a leader exponentially increases capacity to produce and can expect steady increases in production over time.
5. Strategizing. A leader who stays in touch with the realities of his or her business by executing the four aforementioned disciplines will be well-positioned to plan and strategize for the future. Too often, highly talented leaders become lazy with planning disciplines, and begin winging it, shooting from the hip, and making their plan up as they go along. They can outrun the consequences of this failure to strategize for a period of time, but their neglect will eventually catch up with them. Leaders who plan well lock like a laser beam on their desired goal, but remain flexible in their approach to how they execute their plan. They know that conditions change, and so must plans. But by taking the time to think through their approach and strategize up front, they are better suited to make faster adjustments and continue to adapt while those who rely on improvising are often caught off guard and suffer setbacks when roadblocks appear in their path.
6. Rest. Physical and mental rest improves your personal capacity to produce, so that you are better equipped to guide your team to production increases as well. Many managers rest little, if at all. They work every shift and rarely take a day off because they fail to execute the previous five listed disciplines. Because of their neglect to recruit, train, coach, mentor and strategize with their team members, they become too dependent upon themselves, their own wit, strengths and talents. With so much on their solitary shoulders they eventually burn out, plateau and decline. Sadly, they rarely take responsibility for this failure. Rather, they are likely to point to how good things used to be and then blame conditions for their lack of greater success. After all, in their minds they’ve proven that once upon a time they could deliver the goods. Because they don’t face the real cause of their problem, they are never able to fix it. Many of these leaders turn into hired guns, hopping from one dealership to the next. They blow up the numbers to heroic proportions temporarily and then begin to sink when their failure to build and the capacity to produce creates a train wreck for production. Concerning rest, Vince Lombardi said it well: “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” And tired leaders are proof of this: they stop changing anything, making any decisions or taking any risks. As a natural consequence, they become yesterday’s news, right along with their now-anemic results.
One final note: many managers wait until business turns down to regroup, get back to the basics and begin to rebuild their capacity to produce. Don’t let this happen to you. Continue to plant the right seeds, even when all is well and all is likely to stay well rather than plateau or decline.