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