All successful companies need a leader who has a vision of the future, clearly defined long-term goals and a deep appreciation for people. Those leaders also need the ability to bring out the best in others. This includes a deep-rooted commitment to ethics and the ability to withstand and rise above the challenges, cutting a clear path to the opportunities they bring.
When it comes to small businesses, even the best leaders have difficulty finding people in their organization who are not only capable of being groomed to become a successor, but also can effectively lead others. I realize that there are countless books that have been written on leadership, so allow me to distill this subject down to a 5-step guide to developing others as leaders within your organization.
Step 1: Communicate Values, Mission and Culture Early and Often
Individuals in leadership positions must realize that others will most willingly follow when they feel the leader shares their values. By having a deep commitment to ethics – never putting money ahead of people and creating a culture that others want to be a part of – people will have a natural propensity to not only follow you, but also emulate you. These are the principles of leadership that cannot be faked or only applied when the time is right as people will inevitably be able to tell if you aren’t genuine.
One way to ensure early adoption and understanding of your organizational values is to have all new hires memorize your mission statement as soon as they come aboard. (We practice this with our new employees at Elite.) This will help your new hires achieve a deeper relationship with your organizational values. Then throughout their tenure with your company, be sure that you continually reinforce those values and the things that are most important to your brand. For example, we provide each new employee with a copy of the book Ethics 101 by John Maxwell, and then ask them to share what they feel are the most important takeaways. You might also hang artwork and posters as reminders of your mission. Reinforcing your shop’s culture early and often will help ensure that you have buy-in from everyone that works with you.
Step 2: Start with the Right People
Regardless of how good your leadership skills may be, in order to create leaders within your business, you need to start with people who have the right attitude and aptitude to grow within your organization. Bear in mind that regardless of whether or not you are looking to fill a specific leadership role within your management team, each and every one of your employees takes on a leadership role to some degree. This is why you need to consider two different leadership paths: one for the individuals who will be assuming greater management/business leadership roles, and the other for those who may serve as role models for others within your organization.
Step 3: Identify the Candidates
In identifying the right candidates for leadership roles for future management positions, you will need to make sure that you’re confident that they have the capacity to grow into the position you are looking to fill. At the same time, be sure to assess their natural talent for engaging and dealing with people (including the management of others), their overall temperament, their ability to operate under pressure, and their ability to inspire others. These are all characteristics of their personality versus skills, so you will need to carefully evaluate not only the candidate’s strengths, but equally as important, any noteworthy weaknesses – especially when it comes to their temperament, professionalism and overall conduct. In making your decisions, you may also want to consider having the candidates undergo professional aptitude and personality assessments available through organizations like the Berke Group.
Step 4: Create a Path to Leadership
Once someone has been identified as a good candidate for a leadership role in management, you need to map out expectations and opportunities to build their skills in essential areas for the role. Talk with them. If they’re interested in moving forward, outline a clear path to their advancement. That includes providing them with a list of the skills and for the role, areas of personal and professional development, a timeline for completion, and the method you will use to judge their ability to apply what they’ve learned. You will also need to have a clear understanding with the candidate regarding what will occur if (for whatever reason) either of you feel it is inappropriate to continue moving forward in the process.
When it comes to the skills they will need, first and foremost they will need to develop (or further develop) their people skills. I like to have people read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, reading it one section at a time and then report back to you with what they learned, how they might apply it to their personal life and how the information in each section would be used personally in their role with your company and why. This exercise will help you better understand how your employees process information, how well they follow through on personal development and will give you valuable insights into how they view their roles.
This learning path should help the candidate understand the value of having goals in place, the goal-setting process you use, your key performance indicators, your financials (when applicable), how to effectively manage their time, and how to delegate.
Lastly, they will need to learn how to effectively manage your single greatest asset – the people you employ. Although there are many books that have been published on managing people, one of my all-time favorites is the The One-Minute Manager series by Kenneth Blanchard. It’s quick and very effective as a training tool.
Step 5: Application of Leadership Skills
As you are developing the next generation of leadership within your business, provide them with opportunities along the way to practice what they have learned. Although there are many strategies available, here is a simple one that you can use: Start by having the leader-in-training create a simple 3-5 page mini-business plan for any part of your business. For example, it could be for increasing sales, controlling costs or bringing in more new customers. The plan needs to include the goals (ideally relative to your KPI’s), the strategy to be used, the opportunities available and any potential risks.
Additionally, they should be given the opportunity to take a lead in team meetings, on specific projects and initiatives – even handling employee issues related to the role they may be filling.
While creating leaders from within your own organization is by no means an easy task, I hope that you find these five steps helpful in building a business comprised of loyal employees that not only embrace your tire dealership’s mission and values, but that serve as role models for every life they touch. TR
Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite (www.EliteWorldwide.com), a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. You can reach him at [email protected] or at 800-204-3548.