Leading People, Not Managing People

Is this a misperception in your business?

By Ron Sleee

How are you doing so far in 2016?

Are you a victim to circumstances? Or are you developing and driving your business to its full potential? Are you working in the business or on the business?

When I first became involved in supervision of other people early in my career, I became much more aware of the management task of leadership. As an employee it looks rather easy—or at least it did to me. But the first morning I came to work with a team of people to supervise, I wondered what I was supposed to do.

Of course that was the first problem, wasn’t it? I wasn’t given any direction or guidance on what to do.

In teaching there is an old adage: “Show–tell, show–try.” You show someone a job or job function, you talk about it, and then they try it. It would have been helpful if I’d had that direction.

How do you do with your parts and service departments? Do you review with them where things stand and what needs to be done? Do you ask for their input on the job and the business? How much do you share with them on a regular basis?

Those of you who have read this column over the years know I believe in engaging each and every employee in everything we do. I believe the person who does the job is the person who knows the job best. So I want to reach out and engage them in how we are doing and how we could be better. You see, that’s the crux of the matter. We need to constantly strive to be better at what we do.

We need to be better at satisfying our customers. They are confronted with change in their businesses just as much as we are in ours. We need to be better at helping our vendors and suppliers. They depend on us for their success.

And we need to be better for ourselves. We cannot allow ourselves to fall into the trap of routines and continuing to do what we’ve always done.

All that said, there are a couple of standard methods or options for you to follow.

The Daily Huddle

One of my clients has an informal get-together of all employees every morning before opening for the day. They discuss anything going on in the business. Specials, process improvements, and visits by guests or customers or suppliers are mentioned. They talk about how they’re doing compared to their goals. They mention any personal issues like birthdays or anniversaries or new births.

It is a wonderful, gentle discussion that takes five to 10 minutes. They then take a few minutes with one of the team leading the group in some stretching exercises. Nothing strenuous, just a nice interlude of doing some exercises together as a group. Then their day begins.

How does that sound to you? Do you do anything like this? You might try it. It’s fun, productive, and helps create a culture for your department or company. It makes everyone better.

Group Involvement

During the course of a day, or maybe a week or month, you come to a decision. Something isn’t right or something doesn’t satisfy the needs. That is when it truly helps to engage everyone in the process.

There is a structure for process improvement and goal setting that is helpful. That process involves three basic elements: understanding, acceptance, and commitment.

Personnel: In the pursuit of performance, every manager and supervisor must make sure they have the right people on the team. Some people call this “having the right people on the bus.”

Involving everyone in the process of decision making allows every individual to develop according to their potential and also the needs of the group. People will rise to the occasion. If they don’t, that’s another discussion.

Revenue: Sales growth is difficult at the best of times, and in these turbulent times is even more a concern. Again, engaging everyone in this discussion improves the outcomes dramatically.

If your sales are struggling, it’s time to reevaluate your market and your approach to it. Are you selling the right things to the right people? Are you in a growing market share, a declining market share, or a stagnant market share? This is another critical step in your success as a leader.

Implementation: The true result of good leadership is the ability to implement, to put some action into effect. Following our three-step approach, we improve the probability of success by allowing—in fact, demanding—we have vigorous debate on our goals and objectives.

Everyone should be able to get involved and challenge whatever we are trying to accomplish. Only by allowing these debates to happen will we truly get a commitment on the part of every employee. To me, this is an extremely critical element of leadership.

Budgets and Working Capital: The need of every individual, department, and business is to have a keen understanding of money. Too often the “working front line” individuals I call your heroes are left in the dark regarding money. Sure, you might share the financial statements on a monthly basis, but it is much more than that.

It is important everyone in their jobs have some fun, be effective in what they do, and make money. Each employee needs to know how their actions affect the budget, sales revenues, and expenses. I believe each employee needs to know everything possible about the business. After all, they have more invested in the success of the company than anyone else. They have invested their livelihood.

So we have a series of activities that lead to successful results: daily huddles and process improvement and goal setting. Each of these will help you work on the business more than you do today. Each of these will lead to a stronger morale and higher levels of employee satisfaction. Isn’t that all good?

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 ron@rjslee.com.