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Building Leaders: When to Let Go, Part 2

“My job is to find the right leaders for the right job, make certain they are working from their position of strength and lay out the expectations. They need to know what we want, when we want it and what rules of our culture they must follow to get it done.”

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When teaching a child to ride a bicycle, there is a moment when the parent running alongside has to let go and allow the child to test his or her balance. Developing a new leader is no different. In this edition of our Dealer Panel, we’ve asked our panelists about their methods of training and how they know when to let go.

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AutoSuccess: How do you decide what you can delegate and what you need to personally oversee?

Andrew DiFeo, GM of Hyundai of St. Augustine: When it comes to delegation, two of our resources we have to keep an eye on are time and expertise. If it’s something that I’m not an expert in, I want to delegate that to someone who can do the job better than I can. If I can’t devote the appropriate amount of time for that particular activity or job responsibility, that’s another reason to delegate that to another staff member who’s equipped to handle it.


Chris Saraceno, VP and Partner of Kelly Automotive Group: It depends on the individual and their history of success with specific aspects of our business. When they have proven results in a specific area, we give more authority and leeway to that person. There are three areas where we never give full authority — we do what we call “shared authority” or responsibility. We never give someone full authority over new and used car inventory. That’s where most of our assets are, especially with the used vehicles inventory. We make sure that area is a partnership. We also do shared partnerships with our advertising and with our expenses. In all other areas of the business, though, it’s up to the individual based on their performance. Our goal is to give them as much authority as possible and then have a shared responsibility in those three other areas.


Mike Good, GM of Street Toyota: In many instances, the medical profession uses a “See One, Do One, Train One” protocol, and it’s an efficient delivery and training system. In my view, though, our industry is not that clean cut, pardon the pun. Automotive leaders must thoroughly examine the task at hand, then ask and answer some questions. First and foremost, does it fall into the category of “critical component” of my job? Is its level of importance critical enough to avoid a hand-off or training opportunity? Does it present the opportunity for an associate to grow in responsibility and execution with direct oversight?  Is there an efficiency factor that plays into the equation? If I choose to delegate this task, what is the end in mind? Which associate’s learning and growth curve does delegating this task serve best? Will I permanently delegate this task as it occurs? How can I use it as a teaching tool?


Kimberly Cardinal Piscatelli, Vice President and Partner of Cardinal Honda: My team often hears me say that my job is to find out what everyone else is best at and let them get right to work doing just that. The secret lies in not only knowing what to delegate but how to delegate effectively. Delegating can backfire and create more work when not done properly. First, make certain you are selecting the right person. Assigning the wrong person responsibility can result in a classic “do-over,” costing time and resources. Next, clearly communicate what needs to be done and when you expect it to be finished. Decide if progress reports will be necessary. Provide feedback throughout the process and when the job is complete. Delegation with accountability will help your team meet your expectations. What can’t be delegated? Long-range business planning, strategic decisions, hiring key managers and management performance reviews are all things I must personally oversee. In addition, you cannot delegate matters regarding your company’s financial health or any serious threats to your company or its reputation. Proper planning and thoughtful delegation will allow you to focus on those things which will continue propelling your business forward while keeping its foundation solid.


AS: What do you believe is the best way to support the leaders under you? What do they need from you?

AD: To develop the skills needed to become a leader, I have to make sure I empower them to make decisions, and I also have to trust in their decisions. Obviously, I monitor those decisions and, over time, if the decisions that leader makes aren’t the right ones, we can work through it. To allow them to grow, though, I must empower them and trust them.

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CS: They have to have the tools and resources needed to succeed, and we must give them the authority to do their job. To succeed, they need our support, and this includes training and coaching. We always have to let them know that “Hey, we’re in this together. This is a shared responsibility. We’re not going to point the finger at you alone if something goes wrong.” They have the daily authority and responsibility to grow their team, but we can’t tell them to do that without giving them the resources needed.

MG: Honesty: It’s foundational for any healthy working relationship.
Appreciation: Unappreciated associates are today’s second string and tomorrow’s saboteurs.
Trust: With it, they push forward; lacking it causes silent withdrawal.
Voice: Everyone’s opinion is valuable, and it’s important you hear it and they know you’re listening.
Encouragement: It’s the oil that lubricates the highest levels of performance.
Empowerment: It’s the fuel that creates the horsepower, making winning the race possible.
Mentoring: It’s the caring part of education and feedback that glues it all together.
Significance: It’s a benefit everyone needs, and it costs nothing to distribute.

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KCP: The best way to support your leaders may be to just let them do their job. My job is to find the right leaders for the right job, make certain they are working from their position of strength and lay out the expectations. They need to know what we want, when we want it and what rules of our culture they must follow to get it done. We must energize them and then empower them. Our leaders have the most influence over the team members’ level of morale, commitment, performance and production. We must trust them to do their job and then support their efforts. Our culture is very process driven. Maintaining a culture through processes is one way we support our staff leaders. The expectations are never ambiguous. If the leaders follow our processes, they will feel our support and it will be a cinch to back them up. Another thing my team needs from me is to be challenged. A “triple-dog dare” or a simple “I challenge you” is a reminder to reach. The best leaders really do enjoy a challenge.

Next month, we’ll finish our look at leadership in the modern dealership by asking our panel what they do to keep their own skills up to date and how they prepare for challenges that yesterday’s leaders never faced.

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