Team Building Leadership Strategy+Planning

Become a Leader, Not a Manager

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A manager is concerned with the day-to-day responsibilities. A leader defines a mission, a vision and a value and inspires that by his or herself every day.

Tom McQueen, Ph.D., founder of It's Just Common Sense LLC, is sending an open invitation to all of those that want to grow their business, be profitable and create a legacy.

There’s just one catch.

In order to RSVP, you have to agree to take a serious look at your culture.

The first step is assessing whether or not you’re being an effective leader. Most people, says McQueen, co-author of Common Sense Leadership and Common Sense Engagement, don’t know the difference between a leader and a manager. A manager, he says, is concerned with the day-to-day responsibilities. A leader defines a mission, a vision and a value and inspires that by his or herself every day. A leader sets the tone for the culture of the business and when it comes to whether or not employees will thrive and be successful—culture is key.  

To get a better hold on what exactly it means to lead, McQueen recommends two books by Simon Sinek—Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last. These two books, he says, will outline how leaders can inspire change. Reading them, or any good book on leadership, will help those who are struggling with the leadership role define exactly what it means.  

If, after doing research, you find you’re guilty of being a manager rather than a leader, changing that behavior isn’t as difficult as it may sound. The first step is to recognize it and hold yourself accountable.

“You have to be honest with people. I would get my leadership team together and I would be honest and say, ‘I’ve been learning a lot about the difference between a leader and a manager, in the next couple of months I’m going to work to become a servant leader,” McQueen says.

On that day, create a leadership continuous improvement team. This team will be made up of leaders within your dealership, McQueen says. This team should meet weekly. On the first meeting, the leadership continuous improvement team should look at and make a decision to implement and follow through with these four steps:  

  1. Define the culture you want. This should come from the dealer principal.
  2. Teach the culture. This is where most dealerships fail, according to McQueen.
  3. Nourish and enrich the culture by reinforcement. Award those that are contributing.
  4. Measure and monitor the culture. McQueens says surveys aren’t enough. One way to monitor whether or not it’s working is by looking at turnover.

McQueen once went to work with a dealership that had 200 employees and a turnover rate of 45 percent. It should come as no surprise that the No. 1 priority was to improve that turnover rate. When McQueen encounters this situation, he has the person he is working with (most likely the dealer principal) lay out pictures of all of his employees on a board. Then, he has him or her separate those employees into three different tiers:

  1. The top tier is what McQueen refers to as your “disciples.” These are the people with whom you’re 100 percent confident. These people, McQueen says, should be rewarded in some way during the culture change process.  
  2. The second tier is the people that get the work done, but don’t have passion for it or go above and beyond because, for them, it’s just a paycheck. For these people, McQueen says that a leader needs to find a way to get them to the top tier. This can be done by showing that the top tier is rewarded.
  3. The third tier is what McQueen says is “the drop of vinegar in a quart of milk.” These are the people that will poison the culture. They’re the ones that are negative and clearly do not want to be there. Those people need to be weeded out of your new culture.

That third tier are the people you need to deal with immediately. And that part—replacing those lost employees—is tricky. Ideally, you should have been hiring the right people all along so you won’t have to lose anyone, but from what McQueen has seen, this is rarely the case. Having a good HR manager who knows what he or she is doing and using personality assessments to identify key traits of employees that you want is a good start. McQueen also stresses the importance of training new employees on the culture extensively, rather than just hiring them and having them fend for themselves.

Once you have your team in place, it’s up to you as the leader to uphold the culture, McQueen says. McQueen has his own take on the Golden Rule, which he encourages all leaders to follow: “To the extent that you give to others what they want, they will give to you what you want,”

As a leader, you should give people what they expect and, based off of McQueen’s experience, he says that 9 times out of 10, they will give you what you want.

Rather than rushing past your team each morning, take time to say “good morning” and touch base. McQueen calls this a “five-minute standing meeting.”

Don’t make your culture all about money. If you do, McQueen says that your best employees will leave and get scooped up by the dealerships that understand the importance of culture.

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