During one of our Dealer Success Group meetings, we were discussing various ways to improve employee performance and the impact that high potential employees have on the customer experience and the dealership’s profitability. I asked the managers to think about their role and decide if they should focus more of their time on managing or coaching. One young manager asked, “What’s the difference?” I could see from the faces of the other managers that they didn’t know either. 

So, I asked him to explain the difference between being a manager of a baseball team and the coach of a football or basketball team. I said, “They both have players and both are there to win, but what does the coach of a football team do differently than the manager of a baseball team?”

The consensus among the group was that a baseball manager oversees the game. Prior to the game, they determined who would pitch, how long they would pitch and the batting order. For the most part, they put a plan in place and then let the game play out. They don’t call pitches in from the dugout or tell players when to steal or swing. They simply manage the process. 

In football or basketball, the manager sits in the owner’s box and the coach runs the game. They are actively involved moment by moment, making adjustments and changes to the offense and defense based upon what is happening in real time on the court or field. They move players in and out as needed to improve their chance of winning. They coach and give insight when players come to the sideline, motivating and encouraging them as they go on and off the field.

“Managing a department is easy once you have good processes in place …”

In today’s dealership, the manager must be both a good manager and a strong coach. On the management side, they are responsible for putting together a strong team and having a good game plan for hitting their goals for the day, week, month or year. Once they have that in place, the majority of their time should be invested in the actual hour-to-hour coaching of that team: Encouraging them, correcting them and motiving them to win the game for the dealership. Just as in sports, a great coach is available for anyone on the team to help them improve their skills and contribute to winning the game.

Setting Priorities

In my mind, managing a department is easy once you have good processes in place and you have a team that you can win with. If your processes are weak or you don’t have the right players on the field, you need to focus on that issue. The most important things for the success of your dealership are good processes and a strong team. If your processes are not defined or not written out, make that your first priority. If your team is weak, then make it your priority to improve your team. You can’t win a championship with “B” level players. 

If you already have your processes and a good team in place, but want to make them a great team, focus your energy every day on coaching. Unlike managing a department, which tends to be more of a group activity, coaching is designed for each individual team member.

Some will need more coaching than others. Your top techs probably don’t need a lot of advice from you on how to complete a repair, but they still need you to encourage, support and listen to them and help them understand how important they are to the team. I am not talking about spending an hour with them, but spend 5 minutes in the morning and another 5 minutes before they leave. Those 10 minutes will help keep them excited about what they’re doing.

I believe one of the easiest things to do is just listen to your employee’s ideas and then work with them to make changes. Employees like to feel that what they do and their insight has value to you.

In the world of a dealership, you are both a manager and a coach. If you make 2018 the year that you work on improving your coaching skills, I believe you will see your employees move from average to excellent and your dealership grow and profit from the experience.


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