One of my favorite flicks from the ‘70s was “Magnum Force,” starring Clint Eastwood. In the climactic scene, Harry Callahan, Eastwood’s character, is ambushed by a vigilante death squad because he wouldn’t join them in rooting out corruption in San Francisco. Callahan makes his way back to his car when he’s met by a bleeding Lt. Neil Briggs, the leader of the death squad. Rather than shooting Callahan, he threatens to prosecute him for killing three of his vigilante cops and tells him to move away from the car. Callahan complies while slyly activating the timer on the mail bomb originally intended for him. He then tosses it in the back seat. As Briggs slowly drives away, the car explodes. The flick ends with Callahan saying, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”
That quote came to mind when I looked back on the difference managers personalities I’ve encountered during my career. And I can tell you with certainty that life inside an automobile dealership can be very challenging when the guy or gal signing the checks has his or her thumb on everything going on inside the organization. We’ll call that guy, for the sake of this article, “Micromanager Matt.” His antithesis is another dealer type I’ll refer to as “Persuasive Paul.”
Paul learned that in order to be successful, it’s vital you have the right people in place. He also knows that he must let his people do the job they were hired to do. I personally favor Paul because he (or she) learned early on the importance of empowering managers and inspiring them to be champions of the philosophy he wants his organization to operate by.
And from my experience, people feel good about where they work and whom they work for when their quality of work and productivity soar, which is an environment Paul endorses.
Micromanager Matt, on the other hand, tends to force his (or her) agenda with little regard for the people who keep the wheels turning every day. To put it simply, this type of manager chooses brawn over brains. That doesn’t mean this type of dealer isn’t capable of running a profitable organization. But it does mean opportunities to improve his dealership are often left on the table because he fails to empower his people. Hey, we all have egos, but some individuals know how to manage them better than others.
See, great dealers know there’s only so much they can control and do, which is why they recruit people who share their vision of success. And through the people they hire, their influence extends throughout their organizations and into areas they could never effectively manage themselves. What happens is the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
Listen, people love structure in their daily lives and find satisfaction when their superiors demonstrate maturity, balance and care for the company and the people they are charged with. Persuasive Paul understands this and humbly seeks the advice and counsel of his senior staff, realizing these key people have their hand on the pulse of the company.
I’ve written about “MBWA,” an old business acronym that stands for manage by walking around. Managers who adhere to this philosophy casually observe what goes on without being overbearing. That’s the way my dealer manages his operation, and I love it when he stops by for a casual chat. It shows me he’s interested and that he’s watching.
There’s no question a dealer’s single greatest resource is his or her people. Investing in them is one of the smartest things you can do. Micromanagers just don’t understand that. In fact, you’ll often find them insulting their people rather than supporting and providing counsel. These types have absolutely no idea what leadership is all about, and it amazes me how people continue to work for these types. Their constant involvement in every decision defines their limitations.
I know it’s difficult for a business owner to not infuse himself or herself in every decision that’s made, especially with so much at stake. I also know that managing by simple observation defies logic and conventional wisdom. Or does it? Well, it depends on how you define success. If you want your people to be good at what they do, then you need to let them make decisions. When they’ve made the wrong one, counseling is definitely in order. But a manager simply cannot reach his or her full potential when the dealer is constantly overriding everything they do.
As a dealer, only your opinion matters when it comes to how you want your dealership to operate. But it’s the opinion your people have of you that will make your dealership go.