There’s an old adage “If you aren’t the lead dog, the view never changes.” You gotta love that maxim. Of course any winner manager wants to be the lead dog, but getting there can be a difficult task when one approaches the challenges unaccompanied. Too often I encounter supervisors who will not ask for constructive input from subordinates, primarily because inside they are insecure (and they may not recognize this…), they fear they will appear to be unknowledgeable and/or incapable.
On top of that unfortunate state, these flat liners tend to surround themselves with marginal performers (and they may not recognize this…), which minimizes verbal challenges to his or her own performance – so that everyone is in the loser comfort zone – life is good – no pressures.
Ultimately, everyone (top down) pays / suffers financially and eventually all is recognized, so that this marginal-performing band has to move on to clutter up the next unwitting enterprise – and the beat goes on so to speak. I find this to be true in all dealership departments, but especially sales and service. And this has been especially exacerbated with the formation of “dealer groups”, where the successful founder has moved on to full-time empire building and other fun stuff. It’s no secret that the larger the organization, the more this is prevalent. Consequently, an expensive middle management assemblage has to be added to combat the constant firefighting created by employee turnover, and plain out crappy performance. Oh, and after their one-year burnout phase, they move on or get moved too. Say it ain’t so Joe.
As the story goes, I visit a dealership with a department occupied by one of these bosses – inhabiting a position a little (ok, a lot) over his head, man-handling a department of which he had no intimate knowledge, let alone experience. The tension was apparent and significant, and many of the key subs were ready to jump ship. “Communication …. communication, we don’t need no stinkin’ communication,” was the workplace mantra, so I got an earful and more immediately after arriving.
I Know Nothing
After a round of interviews it was noticeable that many (say, most) of the employees knew more about successfully managing the joint than their unmoved leader, and they had the experience(s) to back it up. The recent department history (some five years) included a series of very pitiable performing leaders, and now the newest one managed to ignore and even denigrate the remaining weakened soldiers. Of course, this state caused potential superstars to perform like underdogs, which seemed to be the only way to get any attention at all. It just didn’t pay to know or care much.
So, this was my sketched approach – I formed a “management team”, which included customer handlers, production managers, and the experienced but frustrated fixed ops director. I wrote a five-page management-exercise overview workbook (MEOW) with which we had a “come to the altar” meeting, which I mediated. After I explained how the cow-ate-the-cabbage (you know, the history), how the “team” can and will remold the place, and how this important collection will continually function (with a touch of or else), we went to work. Thankfully the elephant in the room went away, and wouldn’t ya know the constructive input was indeed impressive.
Don’t expect to be a high performance leader of minions if the minions aren’t part of the designing what constitutes “high performance.”
First we covered how a management team can successfully function (or dysfunction), then how constructive change is developed and installed, how the ultimate pushback is handled, why they must hang together as a team or hang separately, and then my favorite part – they developed a much-needed list of priorities, with which they will move the department forward. Fortunately, this branch has the luxury of a first-rate kahuna (the fixed ops director) to help keep the boys on the straight and narrow.
Bingo, the attitude and hidden aptitude changed immediately. The enthusiasm was contagious, and even the shop cat noticed the difference and stopped hiding under the rag bin. The challenge now will be to maintain the momentum, the much more difficult part. And then the ultimate test for the manager’s survival will be to follow the new daily, weekly, monthly communication regime we mapped out, including a modest agenda. Simply put, the head honcho will choose to become successful or not – it won’t be up to the kahuna. I was told this many years ago by an experienced sage, and it is as true today, “I don’t fire you, you fire you.”
The Skinny Minnie
Here’s the critical lesson in simple terms. Don’t expect to be a high performance leader of minions if the minions aren’t part of designing / improving what constitutes “high performance.” Most of us now-smarter-populace knew everything about the age of nineteen. However, as we got more learned/ practiced/ experienced/ bit-in-the-butt, we actually got dumber. This, after we realized we knew much less than the whole of our budding knowledge horizon, which was constantly expanding before our dubious eyes – and just after we knew it all dang-it!
If this info has struck a chord with you, send me an E-mail to Ed@Dealer-Communications.com and put on the subject line: “MEOW – I Need It Ed-man”. I will send you the aforementioned workbook to share with your hefty underlings. You will likely find they are a lot more knowledgeable and constructively observant than the music / racket they listen to in the shop, and just disregard their extensive tattoos (don’t you want to be there when their grand kids ask “why grandpa”). Ah, later gator.