Dealer Outlook

Trade Only Dealer Outlook Blog

Random thoughts on leadership and attitudes

Overheard at the Michigan City In-Water Boat Show last week: Two salesmen from different dealerships were talking across the dock to each other about how bad sales have been this summer . . . while visitors were walking by!

Good grief, I thought, with those attitudes each of those dealerships would probably be better off leaving those guys at home. But, what I was hearing may have really been reflecting a breakdown in leadership.

I confess that many times during my 34 years as president of the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association I had to be reminded, when things weren’t going well, the entire LEMTA staff was watching and reacting to everything I did as leader, whether they realized it or not. Simply, the attitude I displayed would be reflected by them.

I’ll never forget the time I was reminded of this by a board member who said: “Norm, remember the story of the two gas company employees who finished reading meters and challenged each other to a race back to their truck. Sprinting down the street, they noticed a woman running hard to catch them. “Is something wrong?” they shouted to her. She yelled back: “Hey, when I see two guys from the gas company running this fast, I figure I should be running, too!”  I suspect all of us who head up any business can always benefit from such an occasional reminder.

No matter how good we may be as leaders of a business or organization, it’s important to recognize that it’s really the staff – the sales, service and administrative teams – that do the work and rack up the successes. As for being the leader, check this out: When being congratulated by a reporter for managing the Yankees to another World Series title, the legendary Casey Stengel said it best when he responded: “Listen, managing is just getting paid for home runs someone else hits!”  How true.

Still, the leaders shoulder the critical responsibility of making certain a positive attitude is fostered in all the team members all the time. The leader must always exhibit a confident expectation of success ahead, regardless of past results. In the case of the two salesmen at the boat show last week, their attitudes should have been encouraged to reflect: “Yesterday was just a point in time – not a life sentence. Today is a brand new day; we’re at a new show; there are qualified prospects looking at our products; we are going to make sales.”

When it comes to always staying focused on the positives, the illustration I draw on most when speaking to groups comes from basketball’s Chicago Bulls. It was a game in which Stacey King scored only a single free throw while his teammate Michael Jordan totaled 69 points. Asked in a post game interview for his reaction, King said: “I’ll always remember this as the night Michael and I combined for 70 points!” 

Enough said?


2 comments on “Random thoughts on leadership and attitudes

  1. Arch

    We are in YEAR 3 of this recession and no end in site. That isn’t negative, it’s realistic.
    I’m all for being positive, and there is NEVER a good reason or justification for being negative around potential customers, but let’s not go overboard here. Most of us in this business are hurting, and like any other challenge in life, we will talk about it. YES, there is a time and a place, and it’s certainly not on the docs at a boat show, but there is nothing wrong with talking about the issues affecting our industry and wallets. Just don’t let it consume you.
    I”m considering a career change. Not sure I can do it after all these years, but I”m going to look into it.

  2. Matt Sellhorst

    I think you can be realistic about the current climate while being optimistic about the future…only if you are working on HOW you will make the future better. And, the wrong answer is…”wait for the economy to improve.”

    The numbers show, people are still buying new/pre-owned boats. But if you aren’t doing everything in your power to get a larger piece of your segments pie (and that means doing things drastically different than you ever have before) and increase the ‘Life Time Value’ of every client, then getting out of the industry is probably your best bet because that’s what its going to take to thrive in the short term and long term.

    Is anyone if your business truely working on the “HOW?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive. For more information, please see our Comments Policy.