More often than not I get the call to train a newly minted manager, usually in parts, but sometimes in service as well. I’m usually dealing with someone who doesn’t know what he or she doesn’t know as far as the job requirements are concerned, but I also have to deal with the fact that they’ve had little to no training in how to
manage a profit center. This is where the tough stuff starts since we’re dealing with concepts and people skills as well as tasks. The fact of the matter is that the task part is easy; it’s the people part that takes time and is the make-or-break point.
Getting comfortable in your own skin
The common reality in most dealerships is that field promotions are the norm, not the exception which leaves little or no time for long term lead-in training; it’s on-the-job-training all the way baby!! This leaves the new manager very self conscious and seriously doubting the wisdom of accepting the promotion just a few weeks
after saying “I do.” By the time I get there the GM or dealer executive is also doubting the wisdom of the selection, but has thankfully decided to give the new manager “one more chance,” so he/she and I both know it’s sink or swim time. This obviously creates a tense sense of urgency which puts everyone in the department on edge and usually creates one of two monsters.
- The ogre – this person has decided to hide their lack of ability in an overbearing persona, barking out orders and criticizing everyone’s actions. Instead of team building we have “conquer and divide” which immediately isolates our new manager from any support that they may have received from their former peers. They think that putting on a strong face will make everyone think they know what they’re doing and no one will question a dubious order…right! Watch the door swing as they all eventually quit.
- The wimp – this person has now become truly terrified. They’ve had a few bad incidents and have become paralyzed; afraid to make a decision and hiding in their office hoping no one will find them until the day is over. They’ve lost all respect from their staff and have become the joke of the store. The inmates are now running the asylum!
Getting back on track
The first thing we have to do is get this train wreck back on its wheels which means I have to go into my psychologist/coach mode, getting my student to admit that they need help and devising a plan that they see as being their road to salvation. The first step is to relieve the perceived burden of being alone in all of this, which means…delegation! Sharing the responsibilities immediately brings the team back into the game, but how do we do this safely and quickly?
Identify the players – I don’t mean by name since we already know this, but by abilities. What can each member of the staff do to contribute to the success of the department? Forgetting the traditional job functions for a moment look at each person’s individual skill sets and match them up to tasks, with accountability, that they can perform without too much direct supervision. It makes them feel needed and takes a load off the new manager’s shoulders.
Establish a training analysis – what does our new manager need to know to be successful:
- DMS – Do they have the understanding of all of the functions they will need to perform their job properly? For example does the new parts manager understand inventory control as it is managed by their DMS? Does the new service manager understand how to set labor rates and run analysis reports for sales and shop production?
- Factory training – what do they need to do to be certified by the franchise(s)? This is important since often times, particularly in service; authorization power for goodwill circumstances is tied to training. Usually your franchise rep handles this but in some cases they don’t come around frequently so you need to be pro-active about it.
- Outside training – this is where we come in, tying together the DMS utilization and basic factory training into a cohesive combination which the new manager now begins to understand. It may also include outside sources like your local community college for courses in accounting and business management. If you are part of a dealership group consider assigning a mentor from another store nearby, a lifeline, if you will.
- Provide management support – All too often we see executive management leaving the new manager feeling isolated. They are brought into their new position and literally left alone to find their way.
These folks need support! They need constant reinforcement; are they progressing? Are they meeting your (dealer executive) goals? Have objectives been established? Are they measured accurately? Does the pay plan support the objectives?
New managers succeed because they have guidance, training, support and most importantly, encouragement. There will be failures. If there are not, then the individual is not trying hard enough. You don’t need someone who is afraid of failure, you need someone who is not afraid of failure! The former will never achieve the objectives you set; the latter will meet and surpass them.
Jim Richter is a fixed operations consultant and performance coach with M5 Management Services, Inc., an international company working with dealers, distributors, and manufacturers. He has spent over 40 years in the automotive, power sports and marine industries analyzing and assisting parts and service operations throughout North America and Europe. His work experience includes dealerships, field and management positions with major manufacturers, and his own consulting company. Jim can be reached at 205.675.8624 or e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Call out: You don’t need someone who is afraid of failure, you need someone who is NOT AFRAID of failure!