Promote with Care
By now you are in the new normal. Your sales have stabilized and have recovered those second-quarter losses. Your customers are filling your shops with pockets full of cash and your team is back up to par.
Yeah, right! In reality, most of us are in the biggest reset of our lives. We went from stable work, teams, budgets to, “Let’s see what this month brings us.” One thing is almost for certain: You have some new talent mixing with seasoned talent. With the new, you are learning how to delegate to them. With the seasoned talent you are starting to appreciate their loyalty and looking at them as near future leaders. The “next man up” motto is in full force. You get the job because I haven’t fired you yet! Sound familiar?
Loyalty does not mean promotability. Just because someone has stuck around does not mean that they are ready to lead, or even want to lead. Someone who is newer should not be disqualified from leadership because the hire date on their file. When I think back to mistakes in development one of my saddest failures was Mike.
Mike started his first job as a new technician on my team. Since Mike did not have previous lube tech experience, there were no bad habits to break and he learned what needed to be down without resistance. He also had an incredible work ethic, showed up on time and did his absolute best at everything he did. Mike was the dream employee to have.
When we opened a new location, we needed to fill an assistant manager position in the shop he was at. Mike gratefully accepted the job, as the monetary reward and recognition suited him well. After all, he was a fantastic technician and a promotion is viewed as a natural development in his career. From here, Mike started to learn new things like inventory, shop floor control, advanced customer service and maintenance of the shop. While he still excelled in the routine and repetitive nature of a technician, he now faced more subjective duties that took critical thinking and situational awareness. The work ethic of Mike’s carried him through his development. He was learning all the necessary skills and, at the end, he became a good assistant manager.
As time went on another opportunity came up and Mike’s tenure had landed him staring at a set of shop keys. We needed someone to run a store and Mike had loyally accepted all tasks before, which made him the perfect fit for the job. As normal, Mike accepted the task with less enthusiasm than was expected.
As a manager, he found himself moving further away from the technician duties that he executed so well and more into the leadership duties and administrative duties that he had previously struggled with. Mike began to show the signs of most failing managers when he started hiring friends as a security, the shop was not as clean as it used to be. Mike also became elbow-deep in vehicles as a primal attempt to rekindle his comfort level.
As mother nature altered our operations structure, it pulled supervision away from Mike and his shop. Mike never let us down, so we focused on bigger issues. Mike was loyal and had become an OK manager. From here things quickly deescalated in his personal and professional life and he was not as focused, motivated or successful as he had been in other positions. Mike went from being a great tech to a good assistant and finally an OK manager. One day, Mike snapped over a very simple question about his shop. He decided then that this was not his path and he left. I lost an OK manager, a good assistant and a great technician. I failed Mike because I fed into “loyalty” and “next man up” and inserted it in my qualifications for development.
When we look for someone to lead, we need just that, someone to lead. This takes a totally different skill set and mindset than what technicians are initially trained to do. When we decide to set a culture where someone is moved up for being here longer, we diminish the importance of every role in our organizational chart. This is not to say that technicians cannot become great leaders, this is to say that not all great technicians become great leaders. Sometimes that is the absolute best at being a technician.
The obvious kick back is, If I didn’t promote someone because they have been here, they can feel they are passed up. It is solely up to you to keep communications up, expectations at the front of every conversation and failures as teaching lessons. If someone can see their path, they are more likely to understand where they are at.