Essential Things You Must Have in Place
Jack Welch was the quintessential corporate leader of the late 20th century heading up General Electric (GE) and remains as one of the ultimate business role models. As an overwhelming testament to his astonishing leadership capabilities, Mr. Welch took GE from a market value of $13.9 billion when he took over in April 1981 to $410.8 billion in the fall of 1999. He grew GE’s value by nearly 30 times because he knew what it took to be the leader that GE needed at that time and place.
We find ourselves mid-year and the perfect time to construct a viable business leadership plan in moving forward by adopting some new leadership and people growth ideas. The distinction between leaders and managers and the driving necessity to transform the latter into the former was at the core of Jack Welch’s preaching and practice. He had a seven-point execution program for management by leadership which was clearly articulated not just by his words but by his actions:
- Develop a vision for the business.
- Change the culture to achieve the vision.
- Flatten the organization (streamline).
- Eliminate bureaucracy.
- Empower individuals.
- Raise quality.
- Eliminate boundaries.
None of these stages could occur however without rock-solid leadership, to which management plays a secondary, supporting role. Essentially the difference between a leader and a manager is like that between a general and an officer downstream. The leader’s job is to allocate the available resources of people and money rigorously to generate optimum results. Those results will, however, be won under the “management” of the officers. Leadership has to be the catalyst in all this and the tactical work is left to others – and that means to let them run with it and don’t get in the way.
The difference between two equally talented teams is leadership.
– Don Shula
“Leaders are pioneers – people who are willing to step out into the unknown. They are people who are willing to take risks, to innovate and experiment in order to find new and better ways of doing things.”
– James M. Kouzes & Barry Posner
I often hear dealers and managers complain about how terrible their people are. To paraphrase Dave Anderson, “if you feel your people stink and your managers stink that means you stink.” They are, after all, a direct product of you and your position. Whether it is inadequacies in your hiring practices, developing, training, encouraging, etc. or inadequacies in your lack of concern for growing your people. It is just like your kids are a direct reflection of your parenting skills. If you are hiring people who are not challenging and a bit pesky you might need to re-evaluate your hiring practices. There is comfort in some stores I know, whereby the managers are reluctant to hire very qualified people for fear they might challenge them and/or their position. When I worked for Harris Corporation, I always hired equal or greater talented people than myself. My attrition rate was one of the lowest in the company, and my people were promoted more often than other regions to take on larger positions elsewhere. We controlled expenses and maintained super morale, and in turn, we were very profitable. However, all this was attributed to the fact that I hired the very best I could, then consistently developed, encouraged, and trained them.
Leadership management ability does not automatically come with the title of manager, owner’s son or daughter, supervisor, or team leader. It must be an ongoing learning process. Ask questions, observe carefully, and reassess the use of your resources regularly. Use your strengths, talents, and common sense, as you trust your instincts.
If you are described as a natural-born leader, accept the compliment. It means you’ve developed a charismatic personality and special talents that inspire people to follow your lead. You understand the vision, confidence, people skills, motivation skills, responsibility, and integrity involved in being a leader. John Maxwell was walking the cobblestone streets of a small European village years ago when he saw an interesting-looking elderly gentleman sitting in front of a storefront smoking a pipe. John sauntered over and asked the man this question, “were there any great men born here in this village?” The old man answered, “Nope, only babies.” You see, contrary to the popular slogan great leaders are developed not born. Moreover, they must continue their quest for daily, weekly, yearly conquests for improvement else, the edge will be lost. What got you here will not keep you here unless you pursue new “usable” knowledge and the courage to implement with passion. Gather all the meaningful, useful, and attainable knowledge then exhibit a disciplined, passionate effort toward implementation for the improvements. Do not confuse passion with locker-room raw-raw nonsense.
Real leaders can whisper and get their point across.
Before the customer ever gets to the dealership, there is another relationship construction site which needs to be developed, stabilized and rendered with consistency; the management team’s skill sets. We all know that most managers would rather manage paper than people. Paper does not challenge them, talk back to them, ignore them or in most cases, demand immediate attention. One of the problems in this business for way too long has been expecting monumental ‘employee developmental leadership’ skills from our managers without any ‘new marketplace/people place’ leadership program training.
We have all heard the slogan ‘top-down management’ but how many really subscribe to it? Essentially it means that everyone in management has to be committed to the business plan strategy (don’t have one? Email me), design elements, planning, implementation, managing, accountability, responsibility, and leadership of growing the store and its people. This commitment especially includes the dealer/principal. How do you attain this type of commitment? You have to start with the critically important ‘inter-relationship process’ between each member of the management team. They have to work side-by-side together by looking in the same direction toward dealership goal attainment instead of looking at each other or worse the people who report to them. Discuss with your management team the importance of this relationship process and make certain each member clearly knows that they are playing a key developmental role in this project. You will find that when you hand out a few praises to your management team you are more likely to engage them in the process. Just let them know they are valuable and essential to the project’s success because quite frankly they are. When the rest of your store sees this team working together as one team, it sends a signal that there is buy-in at this level (the top) and therefore it must be something good.
I particularly like Earl Stewart Toyota’s dealership motto (and the name of his Hatteras sport fisher);
Kaizen in Japanese means “Continual Improvement” – a long-term approach to work that systematically seeks to achieve small, incremental changes in processes in order to improve efficiency and quality.
I was recently contacted by a dealer who wanted to increase his store’s business. After laying out a plan to do so, I reconfirmed that in order to reap the benefits his management team had to be present in the learning workshops I scheduled. The dealer affirmed that he, along with his management team, would be in every session. The morning I was setting up the projector and curriculum materials for that workshop one of the managers came in and with bitter disappointment told me his dealer said he nor any of the managers would attend. Even though he gave his word to me and his people about his ‘top-down’ strategy, he breeched everyone’s confidence. The result? Although the entire team grew from this workshop they all said: “it must not be important to management so why should it be important to us?” This dealer then lost four of his most valuable people shortly thereafter because his message essentially was; I really don’t understand what good leadership looks and acts like. Sadly, there are a lot of good people going away because some dealers simply don’t get it and don’t seek outside counsel or don’t care enough to do the things that will encourage team and store growth.
“One of the greatest gifts a leader can give others is to lift them up to higher ground. The problem with too many people in leadership positions is that they want to lift themselves up above the people. What is your agenda? To lift up yourself or lift up your people?” – John Maxwell
In order for a store to grow, it must have managers growing in leadership skills before they can grow their people. And, this applies not only to sales but service, parts, and administration. You see, leadership needs to be an all-inclusive dealership campaign. The truth is there are a lot of managers but so few leaders. And, leadership is the single most important element of a dealership’s growth that has to be present for it to be successful. Conversely, without effective leadership, it becomes like a rudderless ship. The wind blows from the west the ship goes to the east. Usually, we end up going in circles instead of choosing the direction we wish to head. Leadership…choose it or lose it.
If you and/or your team do not feel you have the leadership skill strength or detailed knowledge to set forth the elements of this first strategy, get yourself someone to guide your team through it. Preferably someone with experience from the corporate America side of life coupled with car business expertise, else you run into the same ole vicious cycle of tired car stuff. You are looking for the identifying processes supported by and not driven by technology. The team needs to identify relationship enhancement between themselves, their direct report staff and the new improved culture.
“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.”
– Ken Blanchard
Your business at this juncture involves not the transactions, but people and the complex business relationships between them. I will leave you with these parting thoughts; You can take your team and the store to higher levels of success. Will it take a little energy and commitment? Sure, but the efforts are so worth it! I see stores all the time going from 97 units a month to 243, from 159 to 320, and you can too. It has to come from the top though. Get everyone on the same team understanding there will be some redesigning of how you do business in order to make it successful. The rewards will be awesome.
If you would like to receive my eleven-point Total Team Quality Management Guidelines, send me an email. Also, I would love to hear from you describing how your team is exemplifying leadership skills in your store.
Author: Chuck Barker
CHUCK BARKER is President & Founder of Impact Marketing & Consulting Group, located in Virginia. He has assisted Dealers & Corporations across the country in Sales & Service Development training programs, Management Leadership Workshops and Business Improvement/Analysis Consulting. He is a pioneer in BDC, CRM, Best Processes and Team Member Development since the early ‘90’s. Chuck has held Automobile, Corporate and International Executive positions for over 27 years. Chuck has been a monthly author/contributor for Dealer Magazine for over 11 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.