A colleague and I were recently having a discussion about the people he manages. His main complaint was that he found himself having to constantly retrain his people. “Why do people have to constantly be reminded to do their job? Why must I always check behind them?” he said. “It seems they can’t master the basics and need someone pushing them every day!”
The only thought that came to mind while listing to his rant was, “Welcome to management.”
I know my friend was just venting, and I’m pretty sure he’s heard this line more than a few times: “Training is a process, not an event.” Hey, it’s just part of our job as managers to keep drilling lessons into our people.
Take salespeople. With all the training they receive on the sales process, you’d think they’d know when it’s the right time to get a manager involved. Yet, time and again, we’ve witnessed them let a customer walk prematurely. And no amount of reminders — and maybe a few choice words to hammer the message home — will stop them from doing it again.
Again, that’s why managers exist. In fact, I would venture to say the reason why people in our charge go off track is because we don’t pay enough attention to their needs. I mean, we’re ultimately responsible for their ability to execute their job with precision. You can’t train people to do a job, then retreat to your office and expect them to produce. After all, part of being a manager is to coach the team.
And coaching isn’t easy. It’s labor intensive and it’s never ending. It’s also a thankless job sometimes, but not always. Just look at professional athletes. How many of them are quick to recognize their Little League or high school coaches after they’ve made it to the big show? That’s because they realize how important all that repetitive training and practice was to their career.
Now there are those individuals who take the ball and run. It’s difficult to identify them before you set them loose to do the job. But once they’re on their own, it’s clear they take well to mentoring and soak up everything you say like a dry sponge. Don’t you wish everyone was like that? Well, the best managers know how to get the best out of their people, so accept the challenge and the reality that self-starters are rare.
And good luck if you think firing people until you have the ideal team is the answer. It’s not. And that’s because even the good ones are going to need a little handholding from time to time. Perhaps a better approach would be to drill down into the problems that drive you nuts. Yeah, that means getting out of your office and finding a remedy.
Yes, I know there are dealerships out there that don’t seem to have problems. Their numbers are always strong, they lead the 20 Group your store belongs to, and they seem to do no wrong. Do they just know how to hire the right people? Maybe, but I’m going to bet it’s the development program they have in place that’s driving their success, not some magical hiring tool.
So how do you motivate your people? Do you follow the “do as I say, not as I do” approach? If so, you need to change, because no one will follow your direction for very long if your professional style doesn’t mirror what you preach.
And that’s especially true during the good times. You know what I’m talking about. The inventory is right, grosses are strong, customer satisfaction scores are up, everyone seems to be getting along and customers are just plain happy. Well, even in these rare occasions, don’t miss the opportunity to teach and guide. The most successful operations don’t. They understand the importance of effective leadership and that people need and want guidance.
Look, just accept that people aren’t self-starters, that they’ll need a gentle push from time to time, and that it’s up to management to continually develop them. This means constant monitoring of your people’s progress and one-on-one meetings to keep them on track. Even your superstar needs to be on the same program. He or she may need less supervision, but your superstar still needs coaching.
I know this is pretty basic stuff, but a little reminder that people need and desire structure never hurts. And yes, people do want structure. Remember when you were being developed by your coach and the patience he or she showed? Well, that’s the attitude you need to adopt. You’ll be surprised by how much more productive your people will be.
Hey, even managers need a little reminder and a little guidance sometimes. Good luck and keep closing.
Marv Eleazer is the F&I director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. E-mail him at [email protected]