The dictionary defines catalyst as “a person or thing that makes something happen.” Rarely is it that such an economy of words so accurately describes the expected role of any dealership leader on a day-in, day-out basis. The bottom line is this: leaders get paid to make things happen both personally, and through each team member. No high-value leader goes to work each day to wait for something to happen, or to watch it happen, and then wonder at day’s end, “What happened?” Unfortunately, many low-value leaders do this often, waiting until the month’s final five days to find some heart, guts, urgency and demonstrate leadership. In fact, many dealerships are burdened with one or two “pretenders with titles”, who we can only assume jumped into the leadership gene pool while the lifeguard wasn’t looking. These cultural infections will eventually destroy your business if you let them.

There are three laws of physics that, when understood and applied, greatly aid leaders in their role to act as a daily catalyst. To avoid the potential boredom inherent in any discussion of physics, I’m presenting the paraphrased layman’s term versions of these three important laws:   

1.     Objects in motion tend to stay in motion; objects at rest tend to stay at rest.

2.     Things naturally wind down, rather than up, unless outside energy is applied.

3.      Entropy increases, or things get worse, over time in a closed system. But if you bring in a new source of energy, entropy can be reversed.

Considering law number one, you can easily substitute the words “salespeople” or “managers” for “objects” and see this law routinely lived out on an average dealership Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday in the early stages of a month.

Considering law number two, it is the leaders who must assume the role of “outside energy” necessary to cause activity, momentum and results to wind up on days when they’d normally slide back. This must be a daily discipline, and not a role they assume only when time is running out, or the numbers are down. Too many leaders wait for energy to come from the outside in order to stir up momentum within their team: a new ad, incentive program, or better inventory. This passive approach is a trait inherent in leadership amateurs and ensures an organization will never approach its fullest potential.

As for law number three, there are a number of daily leadership strategies that can serve as new, consistent sources of fresh energy to stave off or reverse entropy. Following are three simple, but highly effective examples:

 

1.      Early morning “war room” meetings. These should last no more than 15 minutes and do the following:

  • Review yesterday’s results versus objectives. Acclaim good performances, discuss shortfalls, confront problems and make adjustments.
  • Discuss today’s daily goal, and the plan to get there. Assign individual duties to team members to make it happen.
  • Remind the team of the vision, values and mission that unifies them. Encourage them to look out for one another, and to look for ways to make the customer say “wow” throughout the day. 

 

This meeting should be repeated when a new shift begins. At companies like the Ritz Carlton these gatherings are called pre-shift huddles and have been instrumental in building their unique, high performing culture over the decades.

 

2.      Daily management “wander-arounds” periodically during the day. Schedule time to put aside the paperwork and engage in people-work by regularly getting in the trenches to observe, coach, support, give feedback and engage team members and customers alike. You can’t expect to create energy and make positive things happen relying on memos, voicemails or email. I’m often astonished by leaders whose daily habits suggest they think it entirely possible to sit their way to the next level while polishing a chair with their rear end.  

 

3.      Schedule and consistently conduct one-on-one coaching sessions. These developmental disciplines give you the chance to listen to, coach, reinforce, focus and challenge each team member on an individual basis. One-on-ones should be scheduled on your calendar and conducted distraction-free.

In addition to deliberate infusions of energy fueled by war room meetings, consistent daily wander-arounds and scheduled one-on-one coaching sessions, your dealership should have set cultural assets that naturally create focus, motion, and energy on an ongoing basis. These assets should include, but are not limited to:

  • Clear, written, well-communicated performance standards; both for expected daily activities and monthly forecasts.
  • Clear, written, well-communicated core values and a unifying mission statement that create clarity for expected daily behaviors and serve as a decision-making filter for each team member.
  • Strong accountability for both performance standards and core values. This includes pre-established consequences for failing to perform up-to-standards; progressive discipline is effective in this regard. 
  • Highly structured daily routines with a heavy focus on daily activity expectations. It’s incumbent upon leaders to create a structured framework for their team members to keep them focused on productive actions and to ward off complacency. Executing this responsibility addresses all three of the leadership physics laws listed previously.

Let’s conclude with five quick questions to assess your effectiveness as a daily leadership catalyst:

  1. Are you more prone to think, “What can I make happen for my team today?”, or “I wonder what the team will do today?” on a daily basis?
  2. What percentage of your day do you spend with “stuff” versus people?
  3. How much energy, urgency and momentum exist in your department on an average Tuesday or Thursday; the 8th, 10th or 12th of a month?
  4. Are you leaving your people better than you found them, and how much of their growth can be attributed to market conditions, versus your personal involvement as their leader and coach?
  5. If I started to work in your department today, could you should me the following in writing: your departmental vision, mission, core values, as well as my performance expectations on a daily, weekly and monthly basis?

Any deficient answers to these questions comprise your blueprint for stepping up your role as a daily leadership catalyst, and aligning your leadership style with the laws of physics to elevate your dealership.

 

 

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Comment by David C Evans on February 14, 2014 at 7:46pm

This is an AWESOME reminder of "Our" role as leaders in the organizations we work for!  Great Job Dave!

 

Comment by Big Tom LaPointe on October 30, 2013 at 9:55am

great insight here. . . a 101 for managers who may never get it within the store

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