Managing Managers: Train, Empower, Delegate

Posted on April 1, 2003 by Rebecca Christiansen, LCT staff

Not enough good managers are choosing to work in the limousine industry and the industry is suffering for it, Tom Mazza, executive director the National Limousine Association, said at a LCT Show seminar on developing managers. Even the big limousine companies need and are looking for top managers, since, “Nobody is looking to manage in the limousine business,” he said.

In response, Mazza has developed what he calls the T.E.D. (Training, Empowerment and Delegation) approach, a philosophy to train managers from within a company.
Train: Fortune magazine voted the Edward Jones investment company the “best place to work” because all of the company’s employees are working at maximum efficiency, Mazza said. The lesson? “Training is not punishment,” Mazza said. “It’s a means of growing managers.”

Empower: Operators should insist that employees make their own decisions and empower them to find successful solutions.

At the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain, for example, every employee is empowered to compensate a wronged client up to $2,000, Mazza said. Would empowering employees like that bankrupt a small business? Not necessarily, Mazza said, but perhaps handing out wads of cash isn’t right for all.

Still, by giving employees the chance to make decisions, they will respect you and look at your business as their own. And they stand a better chance of making the right decisions.

Delegate: When Gordon Bethune was hired to save Continental Airlines after its two bankruptcies and being voted “worst airline” by Fortune magazine in the 1980s, he had a vision to make the airline go from worst to first, Mazza said. He accomplished it by delegating the job to his people.

Bethune left it up to the employees to find a system that would make the change happen and rewarded them by sharing part of the profit. Even though he ended up spending more on employees, the cost was less than what it would have cost the airline to stay “the worst.”

‘On Steroids’
The Continental example is a proper one to look at for limousine companies planning to add a manager to their staff, Mazza said, since, “An airline is a limo company on steroids.”

When planning to train a manager from within, it is important to look not only at other limousine companies that have been successful, but also at other industries, Mazza said. The hotel and travel industries are good models, as they, like the limousine industry, require hard work, long and irregular hours and offer limited pay. “It is not an easy job,” Mazza said.

Besides the T.E.D.s, operators should create a career plan for their managers and communicate daily with them about their goals, Mazza said. Tell them you would like them to move forward in their careers.

Manage the Manager
Once managers’ goals have been set, leave them alone and let them do their jobs. Don’t check everything a manager does. “Attention to detail is a double-edged sword,” Mazza said, “because you will want your nose in everything.”

Remember to have realistic expectations, as no manager will truly care as much about your business as you do. “Be prepared to get disappointed,” Mazza said. “You may have to kiss a few frogs before you get to the prince.” Focus on the successes, not the mistakes.

Superstar or Competitor?
Can you afford to hire a manager? The real question, Mazza said, should be “Can you afford not to hire a manager?”

If you have a great employee who wants to grow with your company, you’re better off promoting him to manager than to have him leave your company due to dissatisfaction and become your competitor. Mazza also said that it sometimes makes sense to overpay a good manager, to make him share your company mission and stay loyal.

However, be careful about promoting “a superstar employee; he who has all the right answers,” Mazza said. He might be trying to collect as much information about your company and client base as possible before leaving and starting his own company. That can easily be avoided through good communication, a non-compete clause and “a carrot to stay with you,” Mazza said.

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