If you were in the military you know what the "chain of command" means. Even if you weren’t in the military I’m thinking you have a pretty good idea of what it’s all about. The chain of command is critical to success in the military, sports or business.
In a radio appearance this past week on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the morning, former Orioles pitching coach Leo Mazzone had some interesting comments about his tenure with the club when asked about the current turmoil surrounding the Boston Red Sox.
If you’re not familiar with what’s been going on, the Red Sox new manager, Bobby Valentine, has had a very tenuous year in dealing with some of the players. He has been faulted for their extremely poor performance this year and in large part that may very well be true. Recently during a road trip to play the Yankees, a number of the players had a private meeting at the hotel with the top brass and owners of the team.
Mazzone compared his time with the Atlanta Braves (where he helped the team to 14 consecutive division titles and five World Series appearances including one championship) to his two years with the Orioles.
"It all starts at the top. It’s called the chain of command. With the chain of command, I have experience with both ends of it," Mazzone said in the interview. "When I was with the Atlanta Braves, there was a chain of command that was in place that was never broken. It was never broken by the players. It started with ownership, with Ted Turner. Then it started with the general manager, John Schuerholz, the manager, Bobby Cox, and the coaching staff and the players. So you had a chain of command that was never broken.
"Then I go to Baltimore and find out why they’re losing," Mazzone continued. "The chain of command was always broken, where players got to voice their displeasure to the front office, which took away the power from the manager and nobody really knew who was running what. Basically, what it was, was a bunch of players finding excuses for losing. This is what’s going on in Boston right now."
So, how often does the chain of command get broken in your dealership? It’s not unusual for the Dealer, GM or owner operator to have a special relationship with those who answer to others in the store. A breakdown of the chain of command and discipline occurs when they are allowed to do an end run on management.
How many times have you seen upper management allow the sales people to run off a good manager for no reason other than they don’t like the systems, processes and disciplines that manager is attempting to bring to the table? Upper management allows this to happen due to some special bond created over a long period of time with certain sales people or favorite employees.
That’s not to say that some of these managers shouldn’t have been shown the door in the first place, but to allow it to be done based on the tail wagging the dog is totally wrong. It is insanity to allow the inmates to run the asylum. A good friend of mine who referees in the NBA often uses that term to describe how the players run the league.
If you’re in upper management and aren’t going to support your management team, then why hire them in the first place? Everyone performs better when there is a solid chain of command. The management team needs to be allowed to succeed or fail on their own merit, not based on the likes and dislikes of those who answer to them.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have an open door policy. You can, but be smart enough to know when to say you need to go speak with your supervisor about that issue.
I learned this valuable lesson back in 1980 when I became a partner in my first dealership. All I really had was a little ownership on paper with the majority of the stock and ownership belonging to Ashton Lewis. All the employees more or less knew the deal. I will never forget the day when one of the managers approached Ashton to ask him a policy question. He pointed to me and said "That’s who you need to be talking to." End of story. End of people doing an end around. End of anyone circumventing the system.
You cannot run a successful business when people are allowed to break the chain of command. The reality is the chain of command is actually broken by those in command. And that’s the end of this story and all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs