In my previous post, Exaggerated Understanding, I wanted to focus the reader’s attention on the glaring issue of too much superfluous content. Over the years, I’ve been chided a bit for not offering solutions to the problems I’m trying to bring attention to (which is how I make my living, but I digress…). Based on that feedback, I’d like to offer a follow-up post that will offer a suggestion.
For the entirety of my automotive career, it seems that we celebrate the achievements of individuals far more than that of the organizations they work for. Although the retail auto magazines have come and gone, it seems that there’s always just one person that graces the cover. That person typically walks into someone else’s building, calls on someone else’s phone, uses someone else’s computer, and depends on dozens of other people to finish their job. The articles focus on that individual’s accomplishments, while often times highlighting someone else’s technology. It sounds like that individual performs a one-man show, around a series of one-man shows. Except that’s not how it works.
The truth is that businesses are the sum effort of all the members that comprise the organization. Everyone plays a role in the success or failure of a business. If you’re building your business around one superstar, then the sustainability of your business depends on that one individual. What happens when they disappear? You’re investing in something that isn’t yours. Don’t believe me? Look at the vendors that parade around their former retail superstars.
Unfortunately, my experience indicates that the opposite is also true. If the business is built around the failure of an individual (which can be extremely hard to detect), then the failure of the business depends on that one member. More often than not, that member is a member of the senior management, or the very individual whose name is on the building. That person’s cancerous attitude impacts everyone they touch. By design, people have to answer to them, ensuring that the disease spreads.
When I wrote the Chief, Singing the Same Song, and Not Enough Fire Stations, it was a not-so-subtle nod to the management crisis that’s holding businesses back, especially inside of car dealerships. While the fire hydrant of dealership content sprays information about tools and techniques geared towards the rank & file, very little of that content focuses on management and leadership. Why don’t we see more stories about the manager who took the worst employee to the same level as the best one? Why do we hear about technology to hold the foot soldiers accountable, but nothing to monitor the field generals? Why aren’t there more success stores about managers who nurtured the ideas that came from their staff? Is it because they don’t exist or because those instances are suppressed?
Want more content ideas? How about an article about metrics that focus on sales and/or marketing efficiency, as opposed to how much revenue or sold units generated. How about success stories from dealerships that practice group bonuses versus individual spiffs (which don’t work anymore for most, by the way). How about a piece or two about dealerships who have onboarding processes, employee academies, or who have a defined path to employee advancement. Or, is it better to create the 1,247th post about the decades-old practice of personal intro videos? You decide.
If you haven’t gathered by now, this strikes a very painful nerve in me. Businesses have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into the training of their employees, just to have those employees take their talents elsewhere. It happened to me at the first dealership I worked and has happened to hundreds of awesome people I’ve worked with over the past decade of consulting. As I write this, I’m being struck by a powerful wave of sadness thinking about the talented people…those who really gave all to their work…being forced away from a career they loved just because a manager got in their way. Tough love is for addicts and serial criminals. It’s not a management technique. If you’re a practitioner of tough love, and there is no love, like put-your-career-on-the-line love, then it’s just tough. In other words, you’re just being a dick.
We owe it to ourselves to continue to learn. If we’re limited by the trusted sources of learning material, then we should demand more from those sources. If we depend on our managers to teach us, both as owners and subordinates, then we should also demand more from them as an extension of that same reasoning. You still can’t spell dealership without leadership. We’re robbing from our future. Hierarchy is in place to execute a business plan, not to govern fiefdoms.