A Potent Combination
Leadership development seems to be a recurring theme of many of the conversations I’ve recently. I am not necessarily talking succession planning here, but rather developing managers across your organizations who will lead it in the future.
Northwood University has recognized the critical need of the independent aftermarket to begin taking steps in this direction. It is launching Heavy Duty Leadership, an intensive, week-long educational experience, designed to foster the development of the next generation of heavy-duty parts distributors and repair garage managers.
The American Truck Dealers already has its Dealer Academy and Next Gen program to develop future leaders of truck dealerships.
These programs are great places to start, and I encourage you to consider sending people from your organizations to get this formal training. After all, very few people are born managers. Most folks need a little help to develop the skills that will allow them to be successful as managers and leaders.
However, leadership also needs to be developed on the job, and it seems to me it is easier to develop leaders if they are on board with the goals and mission of your organization. Of course, this means you have to take time to define and articulate what you stand for. You need a value proposition.
Having a well-defined and articulated value proposition can help in your leadership development. Both Mike Betts, president of Betts Spring, and Eric Jorgensen, president and CEO of JX Enterprises, shared with me the benefits they reap from having defined their value proposition.
Among them is the empowerment of their people. People at both those organizations feel comfortable making decisions — a key leadership component — because they understand the culture of the organization and can determine if their decision fits in with the company’s values.
Training and a value proposition are needed for developing future leaders.
Additionally, having a value proposition has the potential to turn all employees into teachers. “If a parts counterperson sees somebody doing something that is out of alignment with our goals, that counterperson has the authority and the responsibility to tell the person, ‘This is not the way we do that here,’” Jorgensen explains.
Think about the benefits of that. You can help current employees become comfortable with mentoring, which is another important characteristic of a leader. This sets an example for new employees that it is okay to step up and take responsibility when they see something that needs to be corrected.
Both Betts and Jorgensen seem to take pride in the fact that they are not the lone standard bearers of their company’s visions and values. Since they have done a great job entrenching their value propositions into their businesses, they don’t need to preach it any more. Their employees do it for them.
The combination of some formal training in leadership and management, coupled with a strong and well-articulated value proposition is a pretty potent combination for any business that wants to be around for years to come.
Future leaders need formal training. And they also need to be able to make decisions without fear of losing their jobs.
Programs like Heavy Duty Leadership, Dealer Academy and Next Gen can give them the fundamentals of leadership. If they can put those skills into action in a place that has clearly outlined what it stands for, it will be hard to stop from them from being successful.
So send them to school but then make sure you do your homework too. Define and implement your business’ value proposition, then sit back and watch your business grow.