Are you ready?
By Ron Slee
In French they say, “Plus ca change, plus la meme chose.” It means the more things change, the more they stay the same.
I am not sure this current phenomenon spanning the globe, though, will fit into that mold. We started with Brexit, which shocked many. We moved on to the election of Donald Trump and many are still trying to figure out what happened. Then we had some political sanity restored in Austria and a big political risk that went bad in Italy. Greece is not out of the economic woods and the oldest bank in Italy requires a large bailout. This year we have France, Germany, and the Netherlands going to the polls.
Many of you might wish you could ignore all of this, and some of you even think you can ignore it. However, this is the world we live in today. This is a part of the transition we are going through in moving to the next Industrial Revolution.
This has been labeled by a writer for the Financial Times as a struggle between PLU and PLT. That is “people like us” and “people like them.” Where you fit or your company fits is up to you, but you have to choose sides. That much has become clear.
So what do you suppose all of this has to do with you and your business? I believe it is quite simple. We have to be the calm in the storm and the adults in the room. In other words, we need to provide our employees and our customers the most outstanding workplace and the most consistent supplier they deal with in their marketplace.
Communications will be critical; we have to be extremely transparent. There are too many opinions being expressed which are being passed around as factual. Social media has almost become the source for news in the world today. Old-fashioned journalism is hard to find today. Patience will be another critical requirement. But through all of this, good humor and optimism will be a must.
And there is a lot to be optimistic about today.
First, we can unlock the potential of each of our employees. Ask questions like what do you need to make your job easier, better, more productive? How can we help you become a better person and reach your potential? Is there training you feel would help? Do the hours of service fit your life? What are the things that stand in the way from allowing you to do your job better? How can I help you?
Second, we can be more open to each of our customers. Again, ask questions such as is there anything that we do that you wish we could do better? Are there any aspects of your business we could provide you with more assistance than we do now? What in your business is standing in your way from being more successful in the market? Can we help you with that?
Third, we have to look more deeply into the mirror. We are not immune from the issues at hand. Just approaching employees and your customers will make a difference. They will open up to you, but—and it is a big but—you have to act on what you hear. This a is not just a feel-good exercise.
Today more than ever we should follow R.C. Sproul, a theologian who says, “The rigorous pursuit of our day is the search for dignity and personal significance.”
This is much more than being an employee or a customer. It is about the values we bring to what we do. This is a character issue as well. Can you be the one who makes a difference in the customer’s day? Can this customer be the one who makes a difference in your life? How meaningful is that “thank you” from a satisfied customer? I believe that’s what gets the blood moving.
I believe we have to make this personal.
How good are you going to be? How good do you want to be? How much are you prepared to sacrifice to be as good as you can be? It is not luck. It is not some type of destiny. It isn’t something we deserve. It is something you work at. And the effort required is not some short-term thing. It is a forever thing.
I used to teach education at a university, meaning I taught people how to teach. For the past 35 years I have continued with teaching in a classroom. Now though, it is not students who want to be teachers, it is adults who want to be better at their jobs.
Yet having someone in a classroom paying attention and participating in the discussions in the room does not mean they will obtain or retain the learning I am trying to transfer. This requires an effort on the part of the individual who is in the room with the other students and the teacher. And as you can imagine, many times it is met with resistance.
- Many times, the learning is different than the approach the student has taken over the years. In those cases, change becomes the difficulty.
- Other times, the learning requires additional tools and approvals from someone back at the office.
- Sometimes, the learning being provided is resisted as being too difficult—“That will never work where I work.”
This is where you as the leader come in. You are not the boss anymore. Those days have gone into the waste bin. You are a leader now. You need to lead people to places they wouldn’t go by themselves.
They need to trust you implicitly; otherwise it will never work. This is where it gets even more personal. You can be the difference you need to have happen in your business. Desmond Tutu, the South African bishop, said it best: “If it is to be, it is up to me.”
I can’t imagine a better time to be walking the planet. However, there is an old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” I can’t imagine a period of time more interesting than what we are experiencing today. Can you?
The time is now.
Ron Slee is the founder of R.J. Slee & Associates in Rancho Mirage, California, a consulting firm that specializes in dealership operations. He also operates Quest, Learning Centers, which provides training services specializing in product support, and Insight (M&R) Institute, which operates “Dealer Twenty” Groups. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.