Some people may skip this article because they consider they take pride in not sweating the small stuff. After all, there are a great many consultants and gurus who consistently preach the message of “don’t sweat the small stuff…and, by the way, it’s all small stuff.” Good for them; they may have become successful by following that counsel. If you are one of those fortunate souls, congratulations.
If you are having trouble expanding your market, keeping people productive, growing your bottom line, and building lasting relationships with family members, clients, customers, vendors, and strategic partners, then you may want to consider sweating the small stuff. It’s the small stuff that makes the difference.
An early mentor often encouraged me to pay attention to details. It took me quite some time to understand why what I considered insignificant administrative minutiae was, in fact, so important. After hearing that multiple times and more than one near disaster, I finally learned that attention to detail is often what separates you and your dealership(s) from the competition. It is the distinguishing characteristic. Those details make Disney, Disney, and the Ritz Carlton the Ritz Carlton.
“attention to detail is often what separates you and your dealership(s) from the competition.”
Now there is a difference between running your children’s’ lives, micromanagement, and sweating the small stuff. And it’s important to know how to avoid getting trapped into doing what others should be doing for you, your family, and for the organization. If you are having trouble getting others in any area of your relationship to pay attention to the details that separate you and them from the competition, use this approach to help them get back on track.
- Focus on Values and Behavior. Somewhere in your organizational values or in your motivation and perspective as an owner, there are certain behaviors that you consider – or once considered – to be non-negotiable. As an example, many dealers treat Respect for Others, whatever their relationship to/with the organization, as a value set in stone. Over time and through growth, however, the behavior that indicates people are being treated with respect erodes. People begin taking short cuts; customers begin to feel unappreciated; managers shift from selling to telling; employees begin to sense they are being ignored; and pretty soon the respect that people once felt becomes even less than ordinary courtesy.
By the time you recognize what is going on, family harmony disintegrates, customer retention falls; employee turnover increases; and you suddenly find yourself involved in areas that you long ago delegated to the once competent people you brought into your organization.
- Talk to people about the effect of their behaviors on the well-being of the organization as a whole. Whether you used these words or not, remind them that the purpose of their role in the dealership or organization as a whole is to help increase market penetration, productivity, profitability, and build relationships that last. Give them some workable definitions of market penetration in terms of expansion, customer retention, customer acquisition, and other metrics that you feel comfortable sharing with them.
Talk about productivity in terms of activities that lead to results, even if those results are hard to measure. Going back to Disney and the Ritz, employees there probably know what activities are part of being productive. The same can be true for your organization if you take the time to work through them so that your people know the difference between activities and results. Now, it is true that some activities are necessary to lead to the desired result; but the activity should never be confused with the result it is supposed to produce.
- Make sure people understand what you expect. It would be nice if people intuitively knew what their manager or their company expected in terms of performance. Generally, whether they should or not, they do not. And they do not get the expectations automatically not because they lack intelligence; it is because they do not have extra sensory perception, or ESP as it is more commonly called.
Most people really do want to do a good job. Make it possible by making it clear to them what a good job looks like. If you are a parent, you can probably relate to a story that Steven Covey shared in his workshop on The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He sent one of his sons upstairs to clean his room and told the boy he would be up to check in 15 minutes. When he went upstairs, the elder Covey lost his cool and yelled “I thought I told you to come upstairs and clean your room! Why haven’t you done it?” The son’s response was a tearful “I thought I had.”
Sharing expectations rather than relying on ESP may be considered by some to be unnecessary. After all, it is small stuff and it is all detail the way most of us do it. Here is a simple formula that will help you share expectations:
- Tell people what you want;
- Tell people how you want it done (if that is important);
- Tell people when you want it done; and,
- Tell people why you want it.
It does not have to be any more complicated than that for you to delegate successfully.
- Review and Communicate. Many clients rely on formal written performance reviews to communicate with staff how well they are doing. For a new employee, these may occur at 30-, 60-, and 90-day intervals; and then they slip into an annual cycle. Once they fall into an annual cycle, they become worthless because the communication is too far removed from the time in which applauded or booed behavior actually occurred.
So, here is a different approach for you to follow. Communicate early and often; and do it in a way that provides inspiration for sustainably excellent performance going forward. Stress the importance of sustained excellence rather than perfection, which, as you probably know from personal experience, is not part of human nature.
If you choose to do the four “small stuff” suggestions mentioned above, you are going to find yourself on the way to distinguishing yourself, your family, and your dealership(s) from all the others. Being different in a positive way helps build family harmony, market penetration, productivity, profitability, and lasting relationships. Why would you not want that?
Author: Dan Schneider
Dan Schneider, MA, CSP is a Partner/Director of The Rawls Group, a business succession planning firm, and a Board member of the International Succession Planning Association(ISPA.) Dan’s expertise as a business succession planner focuses on enhancing family harmony, successor preparation, exit strategy facilitation, key manager retention, executive coaching, & strategic planning.