A couple of generations ago, a group called The Lovin’ Spoonful had a hit record called “Do you believe in magic?” If you are a fan of the “oldies,’ you may have heard it.
Magic is fascinating and I see quite a connection between magic and business. If you treat MAGIC as an acronym, you’ll see the connection too. MAGIC actually means “Must Always Get in Close.” And that, to me, is the secret characteristic of successful dealer/leaders and the organizations they lead – they must always get in close with their team, their vendors, their customers, and their communities.
So how do you make that happen? Consider the eight-step process below, which we have found consistently delivers all the magic you’ll ever need to be successful. Use it, and you’ll be a business wizard!
Step 1: Create a Strong Focus on Your Mission, Vision and Values
Share these early and often, even daily if you have the chance. Integrate your mission/purpose, guiding principles, and values into preliminary interviews, selection interviews, and the on-boarding process.
- Integrate questions within your interview process to ensure those you are considering contribute to your culture.
- Make sure that position descriptions are written in a way that draws attention to how the job contributes to accomplishing the mission/purpose – here’s why we hired you in the first place – and not just on how many times the person hired might have to bend, stoop, or lift heavy objects.
- Focus on performance expectations more than on risk management cautions intended to keep you out of legal problems.
As for the “often,” that’s where the “daily” comes into play. Take every advantage to repeat the purpose of the job.
- Integrating your guiding principles into daily and weekly management meetings, training session, as part of your performance feedback process and into the language your sales and service people speak to your customers.
- Use quarterly “state of the company” meetings to talk about how the company is doing with respect to the guiding principles.
Remember that engagement of your people is based on marketing, so the time-honored approach of repetition, relevance, intensity, and duration is critical to keeping people in close.
Step 2: Engage in Strategic Planning
When done properly, strategic planning confirms culture and acts like a road map for the future. Critical to the process is:
- Review and confirm the mission, vision and value of the organization
- Identify the internal and external factors that move you toward or keep you from achieving your mission/purpose
- Prioritize your business strategies which include: customer needs, market needs, method of sale, method of distribution, human resources, profit/return, size/growth, natural resources, and technology.
- Create a directional shift if necessary
- Set long-term objectives and lay out the action steps necessary to accomplish those objectives
To ensure your plan doesn’t collect dust, keep the plan in front of your management team and review it at least quarterly. Also, find ways to integrate the strategic action plans into performance expectations to keep everyone rowing in the same and right direction.
Step 3: Recruit Versus Hire
Some time ago, I realized that there’s a difference between hiring and recruiting. Hiring basically is sifting through applications and, on a bad day, results in hiring the best of the worst available. On a good day, you might get the worst of the best. In either case, you’re probably not really getting the kind of people who culturally fit in your organization.
So, switch to recruiting rather than hiring; and get the best of the best. Take the time to identify the behaviors, attitudes, skills, knowledge, experience, and talent that drive your organization towards your strategic objectives. And then, don’t settle for less, no matter the position being filled in your dealership.
On occasion, I used the “somebody is better than nobody” logic to fill a position; and I regretted having done so. By gaining a reputation as a company that only goes after excellent performers, you increase the likelihood that one of them will show up on your door step. Once you get them in the door, give them the autonomy and freedom they need to be productive.
Step 4: Check Your Culture
Use periodic (18 – 24 months) engagement surveys to see if the people are buying into your message and adjust accordingly. The survey results should give you information about how the staff views leadership, communications, growth opportunities, working conditions, and total compensation. The most important question you can ask in your survey is this one: Is there is a clear connection between our mission, vision, and values and the way we operate on a daily basis?
Once the survey is complete, use an internal focus group approach to gain some unfiltered feedback about what’s causing the disconnect between purpose and operations. The solutions to the challenges are in the room with you.
Step 5: Review Operational Processes and Procedures
Get granular based on the feedback from the engagement survey. Regardless of the results, look at your processes and procedures from this vantage point: Do we make it easy for people to be successful?
Since the marketplace – in this case your employees – doesn’t lie, pay attention to the feedback and review the policies and procedures that are getting in the way of operational excellence. Generally, this brings about significant improvement in efficiencies and profitability.
Step 6: Create Action Plans that Supports Teamwork
In organizations struggling to find their way, turf wars are prevalent, which we commonly see between Sales and Service. Generally, these come about because there is no clear sense of direction and each key manager is competing for the scarce resources of people, time, and money. When action plans support an aligned growth strategy, these wars go away.
When creating these plans, this format often works well: State the goal; identify the action steps needed to reach the goal; identify the person responsible; agree on a realistic due date; describe the resources available to reach the goal; and identify the feedback that allows you to say mission accomplished.
Step 7: Measure Performance:
The primary areas important to most businesses are these: Market penetration and retention; Productivity; Profitability; and Relationships. What you’re looking for here is the “box score” that tells you if you’re getting close to what you want to have happen. As part of your strategic planning process, take the time to identify a level of profitability that is more specific than “all we can make.” When you think about it, that doesn’t even sound as precise as “more than we made last year.”
Step 8: Provide Feedback to Inspire
This is vital if you want the magic to work. It’s another way of making sure that you get in close. Just as they want direction, people also want to know how they’re doing. And the closer to the event the feedback comes, the more powerful and – when delivered correctly – the more inspirational and instructional it will be going forward.
Motivation comes from the inside, so you cannot really motivate anyone. Inspiration, however, comes from the outside, so you have a decent chance of inspiring people to new heights. Don’t let it get away from you. Said a little differently, motivation is what others would rather do than not do at any given point in time. Inspiration is getting what you would like them to do all the time.
As a closing thought, remember that as a leader your job is to use power and influence to produce desirable results. If you rely exclusively on power, you can get compliance without necessarily getting commitment. If you use influence, you can get both. That’s when the MAGIC shows up!