Brother-In-Law Syndrome III

Want to get things done in your dealership? Making your great ideas a reality is an art form.

Have you ever wanted to turn your great ideas into a dealership reality? Whether it is a certified used bike program (okay, okay, previously owned, previously loved, gently ridden … call it whatever you like), a cool promotion or a great new employee policy, just having a good idea isn’t enough. You have to acknowledge two fundamental concepts: 1) Understand that it is okay to work the human system. 2) Being right isn’t enough.

To make your idea a reality you have to build a critical mass of support —This article is the third in a series of how you can apply Joel Deluca’s "Political Savvy" ideas to your dealership. Here are some keys to becoming a more politically savvy person in your dealership:

  • If you’re in it, get on it! TNMJ Syndrome (that’s not my job) is a plague. It won’t help your dealership, it won’t help grow the motorcycle business, and it won’t help your career. Want to get something out of your career. Put something into it.

Most owners want employees who pitch in to get the job done, creatively solve problems and basically make the dealership a more positive place when they are at the store. It’s not only okay for you to be an active and ethical contributor to your dealership … it’s imperative!

  • Elephants, snakes and motorcycles, oh my! An old fable from India talks about the blind men and the elephant. Three blind men were gathered around an elephant and describing what they felt. One described it as a wall, another described it as a tree, and another at the front of the beast felt the trunk and described it as a snake. All three individuals were describing their individual perceptions. Put them together, and they would have been much more accurate.

This is called "convergent validity." That is taking information from various sources and converging them together to identify what is valid.

How can you use the idea of convergent validity? If you want to make your ideas a reality, make sure you gather perceptions of people in every department in your dealership. This will help you get an accurate picture of what’s going on.

  • Understand how your store works: No, I’m not talking about understanding the outlaw motorcyclist’s subculture or the intricacies of the street racing psyche, I’m talking about how things really get done in your dealership.

In some dealerships humor is not only appreciated, it is encouraged. In others you’re not considered a serious contributor if you yuk it up too much. Can you speak about things openly or is it more restrained? Can you swing by your dealer principal’s office unannounced to talk about an issue or do you need to make an appointment?

I just spoke to a dealer owner who purchased a dealership from a previous owner. What was the previous dealer’s policy? Well, we don’t know exactly, but he did have an electronic palm reader to unlock the door and only three people had access, if that tells you anything. The key is to understand your dealership’s culture and adapt. As the adage goes, when in Rome act like a Roman.

  • Who do you love? Aikido is the Japanese martial art that uses non-resistance to get things done. This is a great idea. How can you use it? Well, you should work with others with whom you already have a positive relationship. Others with whom you already have credibility. This will help the natural progression of things in your store. Don’t go to someone just because they hold the position or the idea. If you don’t have a positive relationship (not that you shouldn’t work on those) don’t start with them.
  • Connecting the wires: Ever have a motorcycle in your shop with an intermittent electrical problem? They are a nightmare! Ever have a dealership that can’t work together? Just as bad!

Everyone has personal and professional agendas. Want to get things done in your dealership? Connect the wires. When you can link agendas, that’s when you start to create dealership synergy.

If you can help the parts department make their new inventory plan a reality, while you work with service on the new certified used motorcycle program and help the sales department with trade assessments, you’re firing up your entire dealership.

No Way To Know… You Know

What is really going on in your store? No, I mean really going on! Simply saying there is no way to know … you know? is a cop out! There is a way — just ask!

Now you have to be somewhat subtle about how you do things. You probably don’t want to approach others and say, "I’m working on becoming more politically savvy, and I’m interested in using convergent validity to make a new promotional idea an organizational reality." Why?

Because your coworkers will look at you like you’ve lost your mind! Instead, try more sophisticated and subtle ways of discovering what’s really going on. For example, say something like, "So when we are having a busy day, like an open house or a Saturday, from your perspective, what’s our biggest challenge?" Do this in all departments and pretty soon you’ll have all the information you need to help form a better idea.

Everyone wants to share their opinion, let them and you’ll find out what’s really going on in your store.

Here’s the rule: How do you get what you want? Help others get what they want, and ultimately you will get what you want. That’s the background. Here are some other savvy strategies to help:

1) The 51% guide: All too often we try to get the highest ranking person to buy in to our ideas. That’s a recipe for disaster. Rather you should get 51% of the influence (not necessarily the highest ranking person) to understand your idea and be willing to talk about it further.

The more people who understand your idea, the more ideas you will get, and the stronger you will make your idea.

2) Understanding group settings: Although we are social beings (well, most of us), we act differently when we are with others than we do when we are alone. This is one of the basic errors in human judgment. We often think that when we have a great idea, the best way to sell it to the dealership is to show up to the staff meeting, pitch it and ask people to buy in. This is a installation guide for disaster. Why? People will react to your idea differently when gathered together. They typically respond more conservatively and with more restraint. Rather, approach people individually prior to group settings. Not to buy in, just to understand your idea and be willing to talk about it more (see above).

Use group settings for brainstorming or final communication but not initial acceptance of ideas. You’ll be radically more successful.

3) Many-few-many-few: Another way to get things done is to incorporate this technique. In the old days, the boss gave the marching orders and everyone fell in line. It got things done, but with the disadvantage of considering only one person’s perspective.

Then in the 1970s and ’80s group consensus was the touchy-feely way to go. It made people feel good but it took forever to get things done.

Today you can use the many-few-many-few technique: Go to the entire dealership (many) and ask for input regarding your idea. Then get some key players together, typically managers (few) to solidify input. Then you can ask the group (many) to give a second round of input. Finally get key players (few) to put final ideas around it. Then using a group situation you can roll out the idea. "We had great input from everyone. It has certainly contributed to the quality of our new idea. As you know, we got more input that we could ever implement at once. So we’ve taken your input, combined it with what management understands about resources, abilities and direction, and here is the new program. Why is this effective? Because everyone wants the opportunity to contribute.

4) Handling machiavellian types: We all know someone who seems to be just in it for themselves. Research proves that there are many of these types out there. The challenge is how to handle these negative types.

One thing you never do when attempting to handle the Machiavellian type is to take them head on. Never challenge them during a meeting or try and confront them head on. The Machiavellian person is very tricky and will end up making you look bad.

So how do you handle a Machiavellian type? You do it as you would catch monkeys in Malaysia. Take a coconut, cut a hole in one end, just large enough for a monkey to squeeze his hand though but not large enough for the monkey’s balled fist to be pulled through. Then hollow out the coconut and put in some monkey treats like grapes or seeds. Then take some twine and anchor the coconut to a stake.

A monkey will come along, reach into the coconut to get the treats and then will not be able to pull its hand out because of its balled fist. So greedy is the monkey that it will refuse to let go of the goodies.

How do you catch a monkey in Malaysia? You don’t … you let the monkey catch itself. Do the same thing (metaphorically speaking) with the Machiavellian types in your dealership. Give them enough room to catch themselves, soon their greedy or self-serving ways will become apparent.

Sometimes people will ask isn’t this really dealership management’s job? No! Leaders don’t have to be managers. They come from all levels of the organization. As a matter of fact, some of the most innovative ideas come from frontline employees whose perspective is different.

Making your great ideas a reality is really an art form. Rarely are two situations exactly alike but these ideas can help. Go ahead. Actively. Ethically. Work to make your great ideas a dealership reality.

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