During these challenging times, most people in the marine industry have seen their professional roles and job descriptions change, sometimes significantly. What impact have these changes had on the duties of upper management and the dealer principal at your dealership? What new responsibilities have you taken on to help get through tough times, and what important roles may have fallen through the cracks in the meantime?


    One of the greatest and hardest things about being in upper management is that everything you do is amplified through the perceptions of your staff. For example, a small act, like adjusting the thermostat in the office, can lead to more speculation than you may think. If a non-management employee were to turn it up a notch, they would likely be seen as prudent. However, if the dealer principal is seen ratcheting up the A.C., employees may have the following reaction:" Oh my gosh, did you see the boss getting crazed about the air conditioning? I bet he's worried about paying the utility bill this month! Do you think funds are that tight? Is he going to make payroll?" As you see, the domino effect of a simple action like this can happen almost instantaneously, and as a result, the atmosphere in the workplace can change quickly.


    It is important to understand that this kind of amplification can work for or against you and, in times like these, it can prove to be a very useful tool to help get your team to band together and work harder and more efficiently than ever before. However, it can also cause problems if it goes unchecked. Let's take a quick look at a few of common behaviors that can have an amplified effect on employees:


1. The Apathetic Manager: 

     In the beginning of the economic downturn, you likely rallied the troops into action to unload inventory or to crank up sales in the service department. But let's face it- how long can you really keep up that level of intensity? How many months of reviewing poor financial reports in an all-too-quiet showroom and watching "gloom and doom" evening news bradcasts can you really take? How many times can you read reports from financial analysts that predict many more months of hardship before things start to turn around? The current economic conditions can easily force us into a 'get through the day' rhythm, and before we know it, that is how we approach our businesses as well. Unfortunately, this kind of reactive approach tends to hinder progress.

  

    How can you recognize an apathetic attitude? Think about what your job used to entail. What healthy best practices were once a part of your day-to-day activities and have now disappeared from the radar? For example, I've recently heard business owners say things like, "We used to do daily sales meetings to find out what deals were being worked on and what leads we needed to follow-up on. Now that just seems silly with next to nothing going on in the sales department." I know that more than a few dealer principals have had thoughts like this lately, but now is certainly not the time to become complacent and apathetic to our surroundings.


2. The Victim:

    An even more dangerous role to amplify is that of "victim." Let's take a look at two statements/ scenarios:

  

"It's just so unfair. We made investments in this dealership before the crash, and now we are upside down in debt. Most of our customers are suffering too, because they have lost jobs or fear they might lose their jobs. Plus a lot of them have lost value in their homes and investment portfolios. It's just plain awful, and there's really not much we can do but ride it out and hope we can keep our doors open."


    After seeing it in print, the first statement really looks dismal doesn't it? What effect will that kind of statement have on a business when it is amplified by employees? This statement stems from a classic victim mentality. Even if the statement happens to be true, choosing to allow 'victim speak' will always put you in a position of weakness. Do you want weakness amplified throughout your business?


  "But, hey, I need to vent!" Indeed you do, and by venting you may see the facts more clearly and may be able to make a stronger game plan. The question is, to whom can you vent? Ideally, you should have a strong 'inner circle' that you can rely on, bounce ideas off of, or just share. It may be a spouse or someone in a 20 group. Some dealership owners prefer to keep it closer to the vest and just write it down - a very helpful way of getting to the bottom of the problem and coming up with solutions.


   What do you think about this statement?

" Well, I am not going to lie or sugarcoat. These have been the most challenging times our dealership has ever seen. We were caught off guard by the recession and the credit crunch, but we changed our tactics and pulled through somehow."


   The second statement might not sound so bad. The speaker is just being truthful and reasonable. Be aware, however, that a statement like this can be somewhat of a wolf in sheep's clothing. This statement represents the victim who overcame. One big problem: The victim mentality is still there! And once again, if that victim attitude is amplified through your staff, your organization is weakened.


   So how can you tell if you are projecting as a victim? Ask yourself: do you blame, justify, or complain? These three actions are characteristic of a victim. They can also be described as the pills used to dull the pain of a difficult market. Don't get addicted to the pain pills of blame, justification, or complaining. They are quick-forming, hard habits to break, and above all they make you and your dealership weak.


3. The Inspired Survivor:

     I heard an interesting story from a man who survived terrible burns over a majority of his body. During his excruciating rehab in the burn unit, he received some sobering news. All burn victims are changed for life. Most of them adopt either a victim mentality and use it as a crutch, or the survivor mentality of someone who made it but who still allows the experience to have power over him and define who he is and what level of success he can achieve. However, there is a very small number of burn victims who decide to accept this life changing event as a gift that constantly reminds them to kick life into high gear and thrive. ( I also found it interesting that the ones who chose to thrive always go on to be wildly successful.)


   Here is one last statement to consider: 

"We've learned a lot in the past two years. I know we are so much smarter than we were before, and we have changed both our short-term and long-term strategies to help us move forward as a stronger dealership. We are excited for the future." Imagine this statement amplified throughout your business. Does it promote strength and a sense of hope in your employees? I believe so. It provides empowerment and energy that can be contagious. The bottom line is that your projections as a dealer principal can play a critical role, not only in the survival of your business through these difficult times, but also in the success of your dealership in the years to come. You have a choice, and the beauty of that choice is that you can 're-choose' if the position you originally took is not serving your business well. Creating this strength and amplifying it is the most important role that you play within your organization. Choose to be that wildly successful minority that uses this gift of crisis to decide to thrive.




Stay Positive: Management Sets the Tone Through Tumultuous Times

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