The New Breed Of Managers

Skills needed by those called to lead your company to 2010 and beyond

GAWDA members have survived by combining innate management savvy, local market knowledge and steadfast determination to succeed. The good news right now is that the industry is improving and gases and welding distributors need to add quality mid- to senior-level managers in 2004 and 2005.

multitool01Key industry leaders were recently asked what managerial traits and skills they rank as most critical as they hire, develop and promote future managers. It was agreed that integrity is an absolute must, so it was not listed among the choices. Listed below are their rankings.

#1: Financial Savvy
We’ve just survived several tough years, and even as business improves, there will be plenty of pressure on profitability factors. Today’s managers must grasp financial concepts, read and use financial reports, and act swiftly based on real-time results and realistic projections. They must have a solid grasp of how daily decisions and actions really impact the bottom line.

#2: Good Communication Skills
Without the talent and ability to communicate goals, it really doesn’t matter how much knowledge a manager possesses. A good manager does not have to know everything, just where to go to get necessary information. Progressive managers must also want to share information for the good of the company. Communication skills can be developed, internally or via outside training. However, if this skill is lacking, CEOs should be encouraged to look for opportunities to enhance this key element, because communication truly is “the vital link.”

#3: The Ability to Hire, Train and Retain Good People
Several respondents actually rated this tops, and there seems to be agreement that without a good team of trained employees, a company’s future is in jeopardy. However, managers are not born with this human resources gene. This must be modeled by executive leadership and honed with mentoring and people management training. It simply cannot be neglected if sustained success is the goal.

#4: Strong Sales Leadership
Selling and influencing skills are important for almost every type of managerial role, from supervisors to chief executives. Customers truly seek out professionals (and professional companies) who understand the “full package” of solution selling, from knowing what equipment to apply to solve problems, to offering the most creative financial merchandising solutions to fit into the customer’s long range business plans. Strong sales leadership requires the ability to identify new market opportunities and then to capitalize rapidly and efficiently on these strategic openings.

#5: Positive Attitude Coupled with a Good Old-Fashioned Work Ethic
It may be hard to specifically train people to act and react in a positive fashion and to display a consistent work ethic. However, you can sure spot the presence or absence of these key traits. Excellence shines on good days and bad and seems to be ingrained in the culture of top-performing companies.

#6: The Ability to Make Sound Sales, Lease and Rental Decisions
Executives can set basic guidelines for prices, lease and rental rates, and profitability guidelines, but front-line managers often have to make the call on what deals make sense and what ones are best left to the competition. These are learned skills and require mentoring coupled with the opportunity to fail, but to fail on a scale that won’t seriously hurt the dealership. Mentors need to openly celebrate success and privately view failure as a teachable moment.

Several other important skills and traits were noted, including Fleet Management; Practical Knowledge of Equipment Applications, Features and Benefits; Product Support Marketing; Knowledge of Used Equipment Values and Markets; and the Possession of a Two or Four-Year College Degree. While many employers like to hire college-educated managers, they will not use that academic credential as a replacement for most of the higher rated management skills and traits noted above.

How to Hire the Perfect Team
There is no Mr. or Ms. Perfect. Therefore, our industry’s goal should be to find the best, the brightest and most talented potential managers available – from outside and from inside a dealership. Then, plug these future leaders into a fast track development program, a career path that will challenge, mentor and provide risk-taking elements, a program geared to a win-win outcome.

Fortunately, GAWDA is an excellent source of management training courses and educational seminars. Getting future leaders involved in conventions, seminars, trade shows and association networking allows them the opportunity to learn from others and build their own contacts and sources of information. This exposure can bring fresh ideas to your organization, while helping developing managers hone skills in the process.

Ultimately, top management is being challenged to assess their present and future management teams, and to aggressively develop formal and informal training plans to build on a manager’s strengths and to overcome any areas of weakness. This is not a task for Human Resources alone. Your managerial development efforts will prove to be well worth your investment of time and money.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association

William Sitter Meet the Author
William Sitter owns Jordan-Sitter Associates, located in San Antonio, Texas.