Here’s your dilemma: One of your top performers--maybe a vehicle sales consultant, maybe a service advisor, maybe a technician, maybe an F&I producer--just advised you that he really wants to become a manager. Although you don’t really want to lose his production, you know that if you don’t appropriately address his request and desire, he might quit and leave, or maybe worse, he might quit and stay.
Here is what else probably bothers you about this situation; you’ve been here before…several times. And most always, the results weren’t pretty. I expect that your experiences mirror my own. In my 20 years as a general manager and dealer principal, one of the following things usually happened:
I promoted the guy, and he ended up being a “rock star” manager. This was a wonderful result. However, that result happened rarely.
I decided not to promote him, and he was able to find another dealer willing to take a chance on his untested management abilities. Maybe he succeeded, or maybe he failed. This was not a good result for me, but fortunately this was also a rare outcome.
I promoted the guy and he failed in the management position. Although I offered him his former role as a producer, his ego wouldn’t let him accept the demotion. Then he became a “rock star” producer with one of my competitors. This was the most frequent result, and my decision was totally driven by the hope that #1 would happen and the fear that #2 would happen.
Sound familiar? So what should you do in this situation to end up with the best possible outcome? When we first field a request like this, we need to commend the producer for his desire to further his automotive retail career. Then we need to diligently investigate his motive(s). Is it money? Is it ego? Is it the desire for challenge…experience…responsibility? Is it external pressure (spouse or other family members)? Next, and maybe most importantly, we need to assure the producer that we regard him as a valuable member of our team, and we’ll do everything we can to position him within our organization in the best possible spot for both him and us.
I don’t know about you, but my experience proves that I don’t personally have sufficient skills to effectively identify management and leadership potential. I’ve made too many mistakes. The only way I could be certain that someone would be a good manager and leader is if they were currently demonstrating that performance level for me or for someone else. In most cases, this certainty was not available to me. I learned to depend on a combination of psychological testing and the “gut” instincts of me and my senior management team.
There are a number of good psychological testing services that specialize in the retail automotive industry. Most are capable of determining the strengths and weaknesses within a person that will predict his potential success as a manager and leader. These evaluations should be the primary determinant in deciding whether a top producer should be promoted to dealership management. If the evaluation recommended my producer for promotion, that’s when I needed to bring gut instinct into the decision making process. If the evaluation was negative, even if our collective guts said we should promote, my experience has proven that, when we let our gut override the psychological test, our decision would be wrong 80% of the time, and we all should know better than to bet against those odds.
The documented results of these psychological tests can also be very helpful once you’ve made your decision about the promotion. I have clients who have used these results to effectively defend their decision not to promote and also to counsel the employee about why he should remain a producer at the client’s dealership, rather than seeking a management position elsewhere. These test findings are also often useful in coaching the newly promoted manager, helping him to build on his strengths and overcome any weaknesses that the test identifies.
If you have any additional tips on how to best handle the top producer who wants to transition into management, we welcome your comments.
Prickly issues like this are frequently addressed within the leadership segments of the management training courses conducted by the NCM Institute Center for Automotive Retail Excellence.