Last week I was talking to Eric, the owner of several tire stores here in the Northwest. What a masterful, empowering leader he is! He is creating a highly motivated team by placing young managers in significant roles of authority and responsibility. He is creating an energized culture where his crew members think, "Man, there's an opportunity around here for me too." Eric, like Thomas Edison before him, has deliberately chosen associates who don't have college degrees. Dave, who is 24 years old, was running the Tire Factory store in McMinnville. Eric put Sean, age 28, in charge of that store, and brought Dave into his new store in St. John's, a move up for both of them.
Eric told me about being in their McMinnville store the other day. One of his young technicians, a key guy, said, "Can I see you before you leave?" Eric thought to himself, "Oh boy, what now?" Before leaving, he went back to the technician and said, "You wanted to see me?" The young man said, "Yeah. I don't know if you know it or not, but I do a lot with 4-wheelers on the side for my buddies and their friends and friends of their friends. You can't buy parts for a 4 -wheeler here in McMinnville. All the 4- wheelers have to go into Tualatin, Tigard, Beaverton, or Salem to get their equipment and service work done on their rigs. I think we could do a lot of business if we had a 4-wheeler shop setup here."
When I told this story to an associate, he interrupted me here
and said, "Eric said no, didn't he?" What would you say?
Eric said, "Yes. Let me know what the budget and business plan would be. You know, we've got some extra space over here, and if we need to build another building, we can do that too." That is empowerment!
This young technician was feeling empowered. I'm sure his heart was beating when he brought up the idea of diversifying their business. I'll bet he had talked to his buddies already. He probably talked to the guys on the crew, but still his heart was beating fast when he went to the owner with his idea of entering, though related, a whole new business niche. In many businesses he wouldn't have brought the idea up because he would have thought there was no chance anyway, and sad to say in too many businesses, if he had brought it up, it would have been shot down.
One of the 36 questions on our Cultural Benchmark Survey (CBS) that most companies score low on is "My ideas make a difference in how things are done around here". This is usually one of the lowest scoring questions. The real question for you is; will people bring you ideas; small ideas, big ideas, any ideas? Have you created a climate of receptivity, a welcoming attitude toward ideas that your associates have which are designed to attract more business, create more profit, and serve your customers at even higher levels?