In this installment, I want to talk about some key management advice I have received throughout the years. Managing people is one of the most challenging things anyone can do, and doing it well is a task achieved by few. The truth is that, as I have said before, you don’t manage people — you manage their activities. That is how you drive results. Especially in our business, there are many strong people with strong personalities and some, if not most, can be difficult to manage, but that is what makes them special and achievers. See, those are the lions.

One of the fundamental challenges for less-experienced managers is that they either try to manage from the “friend” approach or from the “zoo” approach. The “friend” approach is common early in a career. New managers tend to come out of the same peer group and already have a natural friendship or common bond with their employees. They want people to like them and think that if they are friends, their subordinates will follow their lead based on this friendship. Initially, this may seem like the easier approach and the best way to get things done. The challenge is that a great manager is not always going to be delivering good news or have pleasant tasks to assign. This is where a new “friend” manger will lessen the blow by blaming senior management, explaining that it’s not his or her fault and “don’t worry, we’re still friends. ”

The problem? The “friend” manager has just communicated to the employees that management is not on the same team and does not have the same goals as one another. The employees will gladly accept this position of power, leading to a false sense of fellowship and trust from both sides. This is not a unified team and the “friend” manager will ultimately be pitted in the middle.

You can’t always take the middle ground, blame upper management or wait to see what happens before staking your claim. You have to stand for something and people will respect that. You will not always be liked. The things you need to drive people to do will not always be the most pleasant or the easiest. If they were, the manager wouldn’t be necessary. This is a hard lesson for many new managers.

The best way to overcome this is to always gripe up, never down. If there is something you disagree with, put your thoughts concisely together, provide a solution or an alternative and present to upper management. They may or may not agree. This is life. Ultimately, you may not have the full picture at the time to understand the full reasoning for the decisions being made. You can still be friendly with your team, just not friends. You can do things politely and with conviction without commanding or blaming. Your actions as a leader will determine how the team responds. The best thing to do is to jump in with both feet with confidence and lead from the front. Don’t ever ask someone to do something you are not willing to do. And further, prove that you would actually do it. There is a fine line here. Do not make the mistake of doing too much of your team’s job. That is not a good use of your time and, ultimately, is not productive, reducing the over all impact of your leadership. You cannot sell every car for the store throughout the month. You cannot close every deal. And trust me, they would love it if you did, and let you. You have to replicate yourself through your actions and good leadership — not being the friend or the middleman.

Finally, remember that it is not your zoo. That does not mean that you don’t take ownership of all that you and your organization do, or jump in where needed or asked. That’s a good thing. What I mean is that, ultimately, you have your group of animals to take care of. The entire zoo is not your responsibility. Concentrate on your team and your area. Be the best in that area and strive to have the best team with the best results. What the other lions or tigers are doing are not your concern and will only distract you and make you lose focus on your goals. If you achieve your goals — not just at your store or in your 20 group, but anywhere — everything else will take care of itself.

This advice was given to me years ago from one of the Moore Brothers. I was a moderately successful F&I director and wanted to be a GM. I kept going to him and telling him that I wanted a store and to be a General Manager. He asked me in one of these meetings, “Are you the best F&I director? Not just here at this store, not just in our group or the state, but in the country?” I said, “Well, no.” He told me to stop worrying about everything else and concentrate on that. Be the best — not just here, not just in our group, not just in the state or region, but the best in the country and everything will take care of itself.

Focus on your tasks; focus on being the best, every day without fail. Make that your single goal. Achieve that goal and all of your other concerns will go away.

Written by AutoSuccess on 25 June 2014.

Our guest blogger this week is Bill Wittenmyer, the partner at ELEAD1ONE.