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Making Your Leadership Development Stick

August 6, 2018

By: Carletta Clyatt

Every manager, regardless of his or her innate talents, benefits from a regular, customized dose of development.

Leadership is a dynamic activity. It’s never constant because everything around the leader – the dealership, the RV market, the customers and the employees – is always changing. In other words, a good manager is never “done.” As the RV world changes, so must we to stay at the top of our game.

The Vexing Truth About Management

Despite all the self-help written on the topic of management, most managers aren’t very good. That’s not just our opinion. Gallup has gone on record as stating that nearly 90 percent of managers don’t have the talent to manage. Yikes. There are several reasons for this:

  • People are often promoted into management because they have good technical skills or they have distinguished themselves as subject matter experts. Regardless of how many times it’s proven that technical skills and industry knowledge do not translate into management abilities, employers keep doing what they do and getting what they get.
  • Because most people managers have a robust “To Do” list in addition to their management duties, employers often fall into the temptation to not evaluate managers on how well they manage. Some companies operate under the philosophy that as long as the manager is getting his or her work done, he is doing a good job. This attitude leads to cultures of mediocrity, but it persists nonetheless.
  • When it comes to evaluating job performance, too many companies ignore the how and focus only on the what. Any manager who can goad, bully, or frighten staff into creating certain results gets credit for those results, when instead they should be getting a coach or the boot. As a result, ineffective managers stay put and aren’t challenged to improve their skills. Which bring us to …
  • Very few companies really take the time needed to develop their managers. Hit and run trainings, little to no useful feedback, and inconsistent or no accountability all contribute to immature managers who sadly don’t have the tools and skills to regularly and healthily (i.e., no bullying, no manipulation, and no guilt tripping) get work done through other people.

These organizational flaws unfortunately set a vicious cycle in place, whereby weak managers become the role models for other up-and-coming managers. How can your dealership break that cycle?

Developing Fabulous Leaders in Five Steps

Gallup’s data doesn’t have to be your dealership’s destiny. Here are five steps to developing fabulous leaders!

Step 1: Hire The Best Talent For The Job

Deciding who comes into your dealership is one of the most important decisions you can make, so effective hiring processes are key. Checks and balances within the employee selection process will assist in the goal of hiring the best fit for your culture. Lacking in this area can have the opposite effect. Sure, once in a while an organization will get lucky and hire someone great without even trying (and on the flip side, a poor fit will sneak in), but by and large, a good process yields good result.

Tips for effective hiring include:

  • Create a solid job description. Creating job descriptions isn’t terribly exciting, but you can’t expect to know when you’ve met a good match for the position when you haven’t really defined the job. Eventually all those people on the bus will be required to perform specific tasks toward specific results. A job description can help with that, because even the best person for the job needs guidelines and boundaries.
  • Know your culture. Time and again, employers hire for the culture they want rather than the culture they have. For instance, a company will hire based on raw talent and/or charisma, failing to fully acknowledge that the individual doesn’t have the experience needed to succeed. Plans to “raise this individual up” flop, because no one has the time, energy, or even desire to teach – despite all the claims made to the contrary when the powers that be were talking about hiring this person.
  • Know your managers. Assuming you want and expect your existing managers to stay, everyone else will have to work around their preferences, weaknesses, and strengths. It doesn’t benefit your new hires or the organization to pretend otherwise.
  • Ask the right interview questions. Don’t rely on chemistry or gut. Gut is important, but it’s also important to ask relevant questions about skills, abilities, attitudes, and past behaviors.
  • Incorporate skills tests and behavioral assessments. Hiring is always a risk, but employers who incorporate skills tests and behavioral assessments in their hiring process reduce that risk. There are untold numbers of hiring managers who can tell stories about that bad hire who swore up and down he or she could do something, only to prove later in the most painful way possible that he definitely could not.
  • Check references. Many employers view reference checking as something they know they should probably do, yet they don’t put much value in it. Some claim it’s impossible to get honest references, anyway. It’s true that Human Resources departments are good at stonewalling, but contacting past managers directly can be very beneficial… and worth a try.

Step 2: Get To Know Your Staff

Creating a developmental plan for your employees only comes with knowing your people, so get to know them! What are their strengths? What are their blind spots? What keeps them up at night? What motivates them? What are their career goals? How do they handle change and conflict? How do they like to be managed? When you know the answers to these questions, figuring out who needs what to succeed becomes much easier.

Step 3: Resolve To Invest Time In Your Team

Investing time in your staff is essential. Whether they initiate informal check-in times or whether you agree to meet at regular intervals each week or month, make sure you’re giving your staff the attention they need to feel supported and connected. Time is also needed to properly give – and receive – feedback.

Step 4: Just Do It!

Leadership development is a multi-pronged activity that includes formal education (i.e. training), coaching, mentoring, and regular feedback that’s honest, timely, and actionable. Schedule regular trainings, and make giving and receiving honest feedback a normal part of your dealership’s culture.

To get the most of your efforts, tailor developmental needs to the individual manager. For instance, there’s no reason to send a group email or call for a group meeting to discuss with everyone the transgressions of one employee, especially when everyone knows who that email or meeting was really about. Not only does this tactic annoy everyone else, it keeps the employee who needs this information the most from getting it.

By the way, any leader who demonstrates a clear resistance to being coached or otherwise instructed should be let go without hesitation. Your organization needs leaders who are willing to grow.

Step 5: Don't Be Afraid to Get Help

Developing fabulous leaders is a company-wide effort and the responsibility of more than just the leader’s leader. HR should be right there with you, as should the most-senior level of management. Get their input as well as their support as often as you need it.

Many organizations fail at developing leaders because it’s hard, and it takes time, energy, and effort some believe would be better spent elsewhere. Add to that the common but mistaken belief that good management is a “natural” byproduct of born characteristics and common sense, and it’s not hard to understand why 90 percent of leaders can’t optimally do the job. However, your dealership can beat those odds by taking steps to make your development efforts stick.

Carletta Clyatt

Carletta Clyatt, a popular seminar speaker, is the SVP at The Omnia Group. She offers clients advice on how to manage more effectively and gain insight into employee strengths, weaknesses and behaviors. For more information about employee behavioral assessments, call Carletta at 813-280-3026 or email: Carletta@omniagroup.com

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