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Being An Absent Leader Is Much Like Being An Absent Father


On January 15th 1928 my father, Edward Lockerd, was born. Sometime within the next year his father, my Grandfather, George Lockerd, left and was never to be seen or heard from again.

My father, one of four, two sisters and a brother, all suffered from what both Author John Eldridge and Father Richard Rohr call “The father wound.” That is, growing up without the father, the “leader,” in the home and in their lives. My grandmother, Isabell Lockerd, did the very best she could to raise her four children, she spent 50 years as a school teacher and was both loving and very strict.

Fast forward 32 years to 1950 when my parents met, they got married soon after and about a year later I was born. My dad got into the auto industry; he sold cars, had a couple used car lots, ran a few big dealerships as a General Manager and then bought a small single point Plymouth store in the late 60’s.

My mother made sure she was involved in my life, all the games, scouts, school, she was even the school librarian for awhile… which wasn’t all that cool for me at the time, but she was there. My dad, however, wasn’t around all that much, his time spent being in the car biz with lots of hours, lots of time spent out with the “Factory Guys” after work, etc. Point being, most days I didn’t see him at all, and when I did, the “leader” of the home was “absent” even when he was in the house.

In 1974 I got married and a little over a year later had the first of four children; two girls, two boys, now ranging in age between 27 and 36. I left the marriage about a year after my youngest son was born. I have always taken care of my financial responsibilities to their mother and my kids but the “leader” was not there for them, when they needed one the most. See a pattern?

Both Eldridge and Rohr say that our fathers are the first people in our lives that either choose us or don’t.

How does all this affect us? Perhaps it brings up questions like “Am I good enough?” “Can I come through?” “Do I have what it takes?” “What do I do next?” “Do you approve of me?” And on and on….

I write this not as a poor me and not from the perspective of blame or even guilt, although that has taken some time and forgiveness to deal with. It’s not my dad’s fault, he didn’t know what to do, he was never shown, and I needed to forgive myself because I was never shown and perhaps grandfather George was never shown either.

Can these life cycles be broken, repaired and lessons be learned? I say yes, but it’s going to take a state change and lots of hard work and perhaps some pain from the “leader.”

Mulligan Please

There are no do over’s, or mulligan’s, in personal life. I can’t go back and talk to my children before school and tell them to have an amazing day, or after school asking how the day went and suggesting how to take care of this situation or that. I can’t play catch with the boys or help my daughters make better choices or to warn them about how boys are.

I recently was at an Automotive Conference and heard most speakers talk about their families and I sat there wishing I had spent the time they said they had with theirs, perhaps things would have turned out different, easier, better, for my kids. I came away from that conference knowing that what I CAN do is help them break this cycle that has taken place.

As a “leader” at you dealership, as a Dealer Principle, GM or a person in any supervisory position, are you absent?

I suggest that the same “wound” takes place in far to many dealerships across the country where the “Father, leader” is absent in some way from raising his or her children, their employees. I also think that being absent fuels the very same questions, like “Am I good enough?” “Can I come through?” “Do I have what it takes?” “What do I do next?” “Do you approve of me?” And on and on…

Can you be there in the morning with your “kids” helping them to have an amazing day with encouragement, training, development and when needed, proper discipline? Can you be there when they need help and talk to them at the end of their days and recap what happened at “school” that day?

Put the remote down (get away from your computer), get off the couch (get up from your desk or from behind the tower), communicate, listen, engage and maybe, just maybe, that wound that takes place at your dealership or in your department, can begin to heal, and your family, at the dealership, will welcome their “leader” back and get both stronger and healthier in the process.

Three Ways to Increase Your Human Capital Investment Portfolio

1. Hiring: Like a relationship, the way an employee relationship starts typically has much to do with its long term success, or lack thereof.

First step is to understand the culture of your dealership and hire people that are best suited to thrive within that culture; if you don’t start there you have a “square peg in round hole” situation that will never correct itself.

Second step  is to write an effective help wanted ad that really speaks to the job seeker,  i.e. why do you work there, will the potential employee feel as though they are in on things, will they be appreciated for excellence and of course potential income, in that order. Take a success story of an employee that came from a different industry and highlight them in your ad.

Third step is the interview. I strongly suggest a scripted interview, one that is psychologically based and used during each interview. I can send you mine if interested, just ask.

Fourth step is screening. I don’t care what screening tool you use, but use one. Be aware that screening tools will indentify a persons sales aptitude and intelligence, but they typically can’t measure a person’s heart or willingness to succeed, so use it as PART of your hiring process. In other words don’t let a screening tool stand in for a proper interview.

2. Development: Top athletes are developed by starting with the basics; repetition, constant training, mentoring, monitoring, rewarding and discipline when needed.

I just stayed in a hotel in Vegas and was talking to one of the valet’s outside and remarked to her that she must get many job offers in her position, based on the awesome customer service I saw her giving.

She told that every week she got an offer but due to her training and the culture of the hotel and how they were “developing” her for advancement she was very happy with her current position and loyal to the hotel. She knew she could make more money elsewhere but due to their commitment to her she was committed to them.

3. Leadership: Think of yourself as the rudder of a ship; take the Titanic for example… Ha! Just think about how one very small adjustment a mile away could have changed the direction of that huge ship and the course of history. Imagine yourself as the small rudder running the big ship that is the dealership, one small move can change how your investment in your human capital appreciates in value.

Don’t be absent. Be present. Spend time being a leader; showing, doing, teaching.

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