Success Strategies - January/February - 2016

Who Are Your “Rocks”?

My friend Peter once told me that his motorcycle dealership had attained its leadership position because of his “Rocks.” He went on to explain that these were his key people, the ones he could rely on to do the right things for the right reasons every time. Even when they were wrong, they “failed forward”; in other words they’d attempt to get the outcomes he wanted them to achieve.

Who are your rocks? Do they know they’re important to you? If you’re an owner or manager, do you give them frequent opportunities to grow by taking on special responsibilities or gaining targeted knowledge? Are you intentionally growing your base of solid performers?

As you know, just one solid performer can transform an entire business. So what are you doing on a monthly basis to keep searching for rocks even outside of the transmission specialty? Rocks can be trained on your technology, but it isn’t nearly as easy to train underperforming technicians to become rocks.

If you aren’t a manager or owner, you still have rocks. These are the people you rely on to help you succeed. They’re the folks you turn to in a pinch. They’re people who tell you the truth even when it hurts and yet they don’t put you down or judge you when you’re wrong.

Become a rock collector.

Let others know that you’re always seeking good people to connect with — professional talent — even when you have no job openings. If you aren’t the owner, just make sure you’re the best “talent bird dog” in your world. Never let an impressive performer pass you by.

If you see talent elsewhere, make a point of staying in touch with them every few weeks. Collaborate, share stories, meet for a beer, exchange ideas by email, and occasionally invite them to visit your shop.

Many years ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I encountered a woman named Marilyn who was a shift manager at the McDonald’s restaurant at South Roads Mall. She so impressed me with her service and leadership of her team that I went there for breakfast every week for six years.

When I moved to California I lost touch with her and I’m sorry I did. People like her are rare and she deserved to get bigger opportunities. If I could do it over again I’d have hired her while I was in Tulsa and created a position for her. I sure could have used her talent since I’ve been in California. Even today I tell stories about her in some of my speeches on customer service and team leadership.

Who do you know like Marilyn? Who has impressed you with their optimistic attitude, commitment to get things done, or ability to solve problems smoothly? Tell them how they’ve impressed you and tell others about them so that opportunities can find them.

Grow your own: Around you right now are coworkers and colleagues who don’t get nearly enough good feedback on what they do. Test this idea yourself: Just make a point of noticing all the little good things your coworkers do today.

Make a mental or written note and see if you can notice 30 things today. It could be picking up trash, holding a door open, wiping down a counter or fender, calling someone with an update, listening to a person even when you don’t need to hear what they’re saying, keeping complete records, apologizing for something, or praising someone else. Just notice and keep a record of it for today.

Then mention it to the person who did it. Say, “You sure do a good job of (whatever they did).” Don’t make a big deal about it; just let them know that someone else noticed and cared.

Author Ken Blanchard, a friend of mine in Escondido, CA, calls this “catching people doing something right.” It’s a brilliant move and it’ll make more people do the things rocks do. The more often you do those things, the more rocks there’ll be when you need someone to rely on.

Jim Cathcart is a Hall of Fame professional speaker, a sales consultant, a strategic advisor to ATRA, and a regular contributor to GEARS. You may reach him at or send him a message through GEARS. See his 110 video lessons for free at