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April 4, 2005 – Effective managers have similar characteristics

What are the qualities that define an excellent manager? What traits and habits are evident in the daily performance of a manager’s duties? How can you tell in advance who is going to execute and who is just going to talk about it?
A good manager has to be a bit “aloof” or detached, but 120% focused. If the manager gets too involved in the execution, he can lose the perspective of the “big picture.” That’s why we teach that the sales manager, for example, shouldn’t be on the floor selling.
At the very moment he begins selling, he loses his ability to manage or “coach”. Does that mean he is not calling the plays and involved in every “shot”? NO! Every great coach is feeling each player’s emotion, measuring their performance and assisting those that are about to fail to ensure the best execution possible with ALL his players. He is not off half the time playing his “own game.”
I’m sure that many of you are concerned that your managers must be able to do each job in the department. That may be ideal. However, it is only important that they understand the task. One common trap is to take your best producer, whether a salesperson or a technician, and make them the manager.
There are two possible problems with this approach.
First, you may see a pronounced decline in productivity.
Second, just because you know how to do something doesn’t mean you can get others to do it.
A good manager is able to leverage what he or she knows by getting others to do those same tasks through motivation and by continually fine tuning the work environment for greater efficiency. It’s even better if the folks that are doing it on the manager’s behalf are better at it than the manager.
Some of the best examples in today’s world of top managers are major league coaches; rarely were they the best players. They understand “the play” and each “player.” Then they continually stretch and re-stretch those on the team as individuals.
The role of a manager
Remember: Executives execute.
You have a manager in an executive role because she can make a decision. Nothing beats a manager who gets things done. We have people in our industry who are well versed in all the theory. We call them “consultants.” The manager is the one who is on the hook for the daily execution that leads to a successful month’s operation.
Also, understand that a manager must be allowed to learn from his or her mistakes. If they aren’t making mistakes, they aren’t trying new things or trying hard enough. The point is that a manager makes a decision, and acts on it in a timely fashion and learns from the result.
Here’s another trait. A good manager will do the hard job first. A good manager will not put off an unpleasant task. If a manager has a call to make to an unhappy customer, he will pick up the phone and call right then. If the manager has an employee who needs a reprimand or correction, it should happen at the end of that workday.
It’s a good business principle that the first loss is the best loss. That means that the more quickly you take action to correct something, the better. Often, a quick and small policy adjustment saves a much higher write-off later. Nothing is served by a “woe be unto me” attitude that provides an excuse for procrastination.
The cousin to that attitude is paralysis by analysis. A good manager doesn’t have to have 100% of the information to make a decision. Most of the time “all” of the information simply doesn’t exist. It’s okay to put a little space between the event and the decision on the larger decisions. But if it’s only going to cost the company fifty bucks to make a customer happy, do it quickly.
A good manager understands and relies on processes to control daily activity. If things that should happen seem to be automatic, it’s probably because someone has put a process and a system into place so that that right things happen without anyone even thinking about it.
Many good managers have their own “systems.” It’s a natural outgrowth of their experience that they develop systems that work for them. A truly great manager keeps honing those systems by keeping watch for any idea or method that may improve the way business is done.
A good manager will always have a plan. They know where they are during the month. They know how they are being measured. They know how they stand at any given moment against those measurements. They know what they have to do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to be successful.
Successful execution in a consistent manner over a long time period within the bounds of planned or structured activity is something of the “holy grail” to a good manager. That’s when it seems to “click” for them.
My friends at the Omnia Group describe a good manager’s personality profile as: “The rarest of ‘Type-A’ personalities that combines the desire to win with a balanced use of people and things as tools to accomplish goals. That includes a balanced need for self-management with a healthy respect for protocol.”
In other words, it’s a take-charge personality that is driven to get the job done within the proper use of systems, people and resources.
Let’s also mention that there is a compulsion to closure. There is an attitude to see that things are completed. A good manager has a built in sense of urgency that serves well to call to action on even the routine or mundane tasks.
Is all that a tall order? You bet! Good managers are to be treasured. Note also that the dealer principle should be a good manager/leader and all those things we just discussed also apply to that position at an even higher level.
Spend a few minutes to take inventory about how you are doing as a manager. What are your expectations of those who report to you? Are you a good “inspector?” Do you measure and provide timely feedback? Do you understand and champion the use of the dealership’s systems and processes? Do you coach or preach? psb
Bill Shenk of PowerHouse Dealer Services may be reached at 866.896.3759 or email Bill@phdservices.com.

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