Management Update: Lead by example!


Believe it or not, you and your dealership managers are leading by example every day. The question comes down to, are you and your managers leading by a good example? Maybe some of you are, and perhaps some of you aren’t. The purpose of this month’s blog is to teach you more about leading by example and to help you look at your own behavior in the scope of dealership management and leadership. 

Leading by example is both a mirror and a window into your sense of self when it comes to dealership management. According to Inc. magazine, there are six critical things to think about when trying to lead by example better. Below are the highlights of their findings that can be immediately applied to the dealership environment:

  1. Get your hands dirty: Recently, I had a general manager tell me that he doesn’t need to be active in the day-to-day activities of the dealership because he has “people that do that.” He was speaking to me about participating in a dealership physical inventory of parts and accessories. The GM was not involved in the planning, preparation, and he was not even in the building when the count was being conducted. The employees involved were not happy to be there on the weekend counting parts and the general attitude and morale of the employees towards the task were low. Leaders and managers have many responsibilities at the dealership every day, but it is important to work alongside your team. By doing so, you are building trust with your staff, and you continue to develop your own knowledge, skills, and abilities.
  •  Watch what you say!: Actions speak louder than words sometimes, but the actual words or vocabulary that you use can have a negative impact on dealership morale. Always show support for all of the employees, but if you have to speak to an employee about not achieving performance standards, make sure that you do it behind closed doors. Be aware of what you are saying and who is listening. Remember that negative comments in front of the wrong people can cause poor dealership morale.
  • Respect the dealership chain of command: Routinely, I see dealership staff run to the owner and sidestepping their manager. If you allow this type of behavior to exist, you are causing structural deterioration, fostering confusion, and damaging the morale of the managers you have in place. All dealership employees need to respect their managers and if you are providing. If owners do not recognize the chain of command in their dealerships, nobody else will.
  • Listen to your people!: Every day we are so consumed with just getting through the day we forget to stop and listen to our staff. You don’t have to know everything as an owner or manager, but you have an entire team of industry specialists under your roof that does! A good sign of effective leadership or management is understanding that you do not have to know everything. Just remember to stop and listen to your team every day because they probably have the answers that you seek.
  •  Take responsibility for failures: We have all heard the saying that crap rolls downhill, right? Well, in the management or leadership world—crap rolls uphill! Good managers know when to accept responsibility for a dealership failure, and they take it upon themselves to fix the problem. It doesn’t matter who messed up—it is you, the leader that must take responsibility for the issue. Assume the responsibility humbly and take the issue as a lesson learned instead of a failure.
  •  Let your team do what they were hired to do!: Nobody likes to be micromanaged every day. Being micromanaged is demoralizing. You are sending a message that employees can’t think for themselves or do a good job without being told what to do. Tell the dealership what you expect and what your vision is and then let them go do their thing! By setting this example, you will encourage your managers to do the same.

These are just six ways to lead by example, and there are many more. Just remember that you are on stage as an owner or manager, and everyone is watching you and how you lead others. We hired our staff because each one brought their unique knowledge, skills, and personality to the dealership. We need to respect each person as an individual professional that can help take the dealership to higher levels of performance. Just remember that your actions determine their performance!

Just food for thought!

After all, it is just good business.

Forrest Flinn, MBA, PHR, SHRM-CP, SMS has been in the motorcycle industry for more than 23 years and has been a true student and leader serving in various capacities. He previously worked as an implementation consultant for Lightspeed and as a general manager with P&L responsibility for a large metro multi-line dealership. Forrest is managing partner and chief visionary for a consulting firm that specializes in outsourced accounting, social media strategy, dealership operations consulting and Lightspeed/EVO training.