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NCM wants to know how do you respond to: What’s your job?

A top 10 nationally-ranked auto dealer called me recently and asked me to do an assessment. I said no problem, I’ll send the list of schedules that I need from your controller and we can get started. The dealer responded no, not that assessment, the management assessment that we did two years ago. Based on the urgent tone in his voice, I asked, “Tell me what’s going on?” The dealer explained that in 2011, the store had a record year in volume, market share and net profit. Based on that year, he and his team expected to surpass those results in 2012. Surprisingly, after the first quarter, their volume and net profit were down and market share was about even. He felt the management team had lost the spark that was there in 2011 and he couldn’t figure it out.

I proceeded with the project and began to interview each manager one-on-one. I had a list of key questions that helped frame and definitively pinpoint what the issues were. After interviewing five or six of the 18 managers, it became clear what had changed. Two questions were most revealing. The first question was “What do you focus on when you come to work every day?”  And second, “What did you used to do that made the store successful that you don’t do today?”

After compiling all the input, we held an off-site management team meeting including the dealer principal. One by one I went around the room and asked each manager, “What do you focus on every day when you come into work?” Their answers generally centered around their activities. For example, "take care of customers, sell cars, sell parts,” and so on.

When everyone was asked, “What did you used to do that made the store successful but has faded away?” The responses were very revealing. “We communicated better, we were better connected, we’re on the same page, each manager knew what the other manager was trying to accomplish, we worked better together as a team.”

So I asked all of them, "What’s your job?" The responses were a repeat of what they told me when asked what they focus on every day. When the dealer answered that question, he touched on the “key”: The dealer and the managers had lost sight of what their real job is every day, which was to “build and lead the team.”

As they listened to each other answer the question about what they used to do but has since faded away, they solved their own problem. They became so focused on activities that they forgot to focus on building and leading their team.

So if we asked each manager in your store “What’s your job?” how would they respond? And lastly, Mr. Dealer, if you were asked the question “What’s your job”? How would you respond?

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Comment by Big Tom LaPointe on February 7, 2013 at 11:52pm

It's cliché, but the governing dynamic that we "LEAD PEOPLE" and "MANAGE PROCESSES" seems to get lost in today's world. TRAINING? What's that. I made the time-sucking error a few years back to help an extremely talented colleague pitch his sales training program to local dealers. To a man, each manager said their in-house training was just fine. As the economy slipped most of those managers went the way of the dodo.

Comment by Jason Graciano on February 6, 2013 at 7:34pm
The primary job of manager should be to continuously develop his people, to help them learn and grow. This will have a lasting impact on the stores culture and the "role" of a manager as people within the company move up the ranks, it will also prevent current management from hiring or promoting into management for the wrong reasons. Team building/leading is the key to success in any business-

Thank you for sharing.
Comment by Pat Kirley on February 6, 2013 at 6:51pm
Yes Gary,teamwork and not losing sight of the fact that the customers are the most important element, everything we do is for them.
Comment by Marty Raymond on February 6, 2013 at 5:47pm

Thanks Gary...A solid reminder for us all about the important difference between great management and great leadership!

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