In an episode of my podcast, The Game Changer Life, I talked about workplace “undertakers.” These team members fit into two primary categories:
- They do sub-baseline work. Someone else has to do their share, clean up their messes, or follow them around doing damage control.
- Toxic achievers. These team members may be a top performer, or even the top performer, but they cut corners, violate core values, demonstrate substandard integrity, abuse other people on the team, and the like
Oftentimes, managers are prone to look the other way concerning toxic achievers, because they are a top performer. In their reasoning, “You can’t argue with success.” They are wrong. Dead wrong. You absolutely can argue with success if you are getting results the wrong way. It’s the difference between building your success on sand versus stone. Building it on a sand foundation where corners are cut or values and people are abused is unsustainable. It’s like the college basketball coach who wins the championship, but in the process violates recruiting rules, pays players, and manipulates academic records. His results would suggest he is highly “successful,” when the reality is that his success is an illusion, a fraud, and in time he will self-destruct.
““…micromanagement often works in the short-term; but, in the long term, you will become overwhelmed, your people will be demoralized…”“
Following are four “successes” you can argue with. They are danger signs that your (or another’s) success is built on sand; and, that time will show it to be unsustainable.
- You are successful because you are a micromanager. You are really good at what you do, so you make every decision and have all the ideas. In fact, everything has to be cleared through you.
An inconvenient truth is that micromanagement often works in the short-term; but, in the long term, you will become overwhelmed, your people will be demoralized and feel stuck, and the organization will decline as a result.
Remedy: To build your success on a foundation of stone, work to make your people less dependent on you, not more so. This frees you up to do bigger-picture leadership tasks: to create vision, determine strategy, and build your culture. Leave the decision of what type of paperclips to buy to someone who is closer to the situation, and someone more likely to make a good decision as a result.
- You are successful because you are a jack-of-all-trades, and can do everyone’s job; in fact, you often do.
While it is helpful to know a little about a lot of things in your dealership as it gives you a more valuable perspective, it’s not wise to do a little of a lot of things, as that will continually break your focus and momentum, and take you out of your strength zone far too often. Working on too many things, rather than on the right things—the big-picture- leadership things—is a recipe for eventual decline and irrelevance.
Remedy: Jacks-of-all-trades are, of course, masters of none; but, while many brag about the first half of the cliche, they conveniently forget the consequence so clearly spelled out in the second half. Highly effective leaders delegate weaknesses, and staff weaknesses; they don’t engage in them. To excel at anything, and leadership is no exception, you have got to spend more time in your strength zone doing what you are wired to do, the tasks you are best at, and what is most likely to leave you most fulfilled personally, and leave the dealership most profitable.
I have met managers with immense people skills who can inspire, stretch, and develop people to entirely new levels of performance, but they never spend time with people because they are still designing the weekly ad, or writing out next week’s schedule— something they should have delegated long ago.
- You are successful because you work bell-to-bell and never take a day off.
Do I really have to explain why this is unsustainable? Perhaps you are already suffering marriage problems and health issues, and are experiencing the consequences a severely out-of-balance life brings, and know full well. If not, you have probably seen it if you have been in the business a while. Don’t be foolish enough to think that you are somehow the exception.
Remedy: A key to having a balanced life away from work is getting better at what you do while you are at work—both personally and through building a team. This will result in your not having to spend as much time on the job as you are now, and mean you can actually have a life. Until you learn how to work smart, from your zone, and consistently execute (with excellence) the non-negotiable activities most predictive of creating the desired result, you will just be another overworked, out of shape, twice-divorced, addicted-to-something, “car dog,” who makes a good living but never really has a great life; one who has been “lived,” but never truly lives.
- You are successful because you lie, cheat, steal, or shortcut processes.
Ok, this one is uncomfortable, but I would be remiss not to mention it. It happens. Like me, you probably know someone, or multiple people, it has happened to over the years. They looked good for a while, and may have even been the person pointed to as an example: to be like “Joe” or “Jane.” But then the storm came, and the success built on sand crumbled almost overnight. You can call it cause and effect, sowing and reaping, or whatever else you like. I call it inevitable. It will happen. And it will happen to you if you are guilty. It is just a matter of time.
Remedy: If you are really as good as you think and say you are, do you really need to lie, cheat, steal, or shortcut processes to get results? Is it worth losing your self-respect, reputation, family, and possibly your freedom?
There are numerous other examples I don’t have space to elaborate on: having a hot product or robust economy that puts results on steroids and seduces you into abandoning sound disciplines because it’s gotten so easy, and more. But, as it should be quite obvious, you absolutely can argue with success. Because what’s more important than the fact you are achieving success is how you are getting it. The how tells the real story about where you are headed—to an unsustainable foundation of sand that is here today and gone the next quarter, or to a do-it-right foundation of stone that stands the test of time.
Author: Dave Anderson
Dave Anderson is President of LearnToLead which provides in-person and virtual training to many of the world’s best dealerships. Dave speaks to dealer groups over 125 times each year and has given seminars in 15 countries. He’s written the leadership column for Dealer Magazine for the past fifteen years. Dave’s 13th book, “It’s Not Rocket Science: 4 Simple Strategies for Mastering the Art of Execution” is now available worldwide. For daily leadership tips follow Dave on Twitter @DaveAnderson100.