The Principal’s Office – Matt Lasco

I spoke with Matt Lasco, Vice President of Lasco Auto Group, to talk about what’s most important to a successful Dealer Principal in 2014. One of the key areas he emphasized was the type of leadership that inspires people to take action. It can be very easy, he said, to find yourself behind the lines, telling people what to do from afar without being truly involved. However, people thrive on an involved leader.

Your people are your strength, but as a leader your actions can inspire them to experience either stagnation or growth. The sense of urgency in a Lasco Dealership, for instance, is present because Matt acts with a sense of urgency to get things done himself. His motto is “do it right, do it now, do it right now.” All the daily variables that exist for a Dealer Principal has led Matt to understand that every single task that can be done quickly cannot be procrastinated! Without urgency there are a litany of CSI problems. He sets that tone every day. Ultimately, all of the things that make Matt’s employees successful stem from values, ideas, or structures that were put into place because of his level of involvement with the entire business.

Now that does not mean that, as a Dealer Principal, you should be micro-managing everything that happens at your dealership. That sort of activity is counterproductive. Matt believes 100% in empowering your leadership to take full responsibility of themselves and their department. But in order to empower someone you must first inspire them to perform to their fullest. Here’s how:

1. Leaders Do Not Rule, They Lead

Don’t be a boss. Bosses are desk jockeys. They sit behind a desk in a cozy room isolated from their team, shouting about where everyone needs to be going, and where they need to be moving the business. A true leader will take the team forward, be there right along side his or her team as they advance. A leader not only shares their vision with their team, but they spearhead the charge that brings that vision to culmination. Notice the difference?

2. Leaders Speak and Listen

Contrary to what some might believe, a business leader’s job does not entail commanding people to do things. If you have to command people, that tends to imply that nothing would get done without your issued commands. If that’s truly the case, then perhaps you’ve failed to inspire your team to action. Desk jockeys fail to inspire. It reflects poorly on the leader if their team consistently fails to take action towards a goal. Your job is to speak, then listen, and not always in that order. You make the decisions, but why not include you team in the discussion, get their feedback, perhaps even find a new idea!

3. Leaders Motivate

Bosses like to intimidate people into taking action. Some of you might be thinking, “but it works!” Remember to consider the long term effects of such activity. Sure you might get something done because of some scare tactic, but you’ve now frustrated your employee with your refusal to acknowledge your initial lack of guidance in setting consistent goals. You’ve also made yourself unapproachable, which means you cannot be a leader. Consider motivating people by telling them how crucially important their task is to your dealership’s success. Urgency is necessary! Show your team that every day with your own activities. If you procrastinate, why would you not  expect your entire dealership to do the same?

4. Leaders Teach

One of the things that Matt stressed was training his team. “It’s very hard to get fired at a Lasco dealership,” he said. When given all the right tools and information (training) to succeed coupled with a substantial amount of daily motivation from the exemplary leadership, people are able to work much more efficiently. However, it’s not fair to expect what has not been set as a clearly defined goal for which training has been provided. If a lack of performance lingers, consider finding the root of the problem. Perhaps their skills are better suited for another position, for which training can be provided.

5. Leaders Promote Equal Relationships

Some bosses use the line “I’m not here to be your friend,” as an excuse for ridiculous treatment of their staff. Yes, you may be able to avoid being personal friends, however there is a vast difference between just establishing ground rules and purposefully disengaging with people. There’s no need to pit yourself against your staff as if you’re enemies. Leaders know how to promote a team effort and, not surprisingly, having a motivated team that can be trusted to do good work often requires a bit of good will that’s held for one another. Care about your staff. When one of Matt’s team members takes time off, he says, he asks them what they’ll be doing on their day off. If the answer is, “oh, nothing really,” then he encourages them to do something fun! He shares that his personal hobby is motocross, which he enjoys regularly. He genuinely cares about what his staff does, even on their time off, to be sure they fully recharge, take time with family, and learn to live life to its fullest.

Part of being a true leader is having the capability to acknowledge a need for constant growth. Everyone can (and needs to) learn, so take a few moments to consider if you’ve been a boss or a leader lately. Set goals for yourself to become a better presence in your dealership, and watch your staff respond.