Tribute To Jim Shields, An RV Industry Giant

The world lost Jim Shields yesterday.  Jim was an RV Dealer in Northern California.  His stores operated under the Pan Pacific RV Centers brand.  Operating RV dealerships was a second career that he started in the 1980s.  He left his mark on the industry and the world.  I wrote the following to his wife earlier today.  He likely did a lot more than I can recall so please add comments.

I want you, your family, and your company team to know that I consider Jim a truly “great” man to me, to our association (RVDA, The National RV Dealers Association), and to our industry.

Jim was a dedicated student of the industry. Few dealers understand dealership processes as well as Jim.  Even fewer understand dealer-manufacturer relations like Jim.  He earned the respect and admiration of his fellow dealers and manufacturers and suppliers, as well.  Many dealers called upon Jim for advice in times of crisis as well as when they were in a planning mode.

Jim did an especially superb job as RVDA Chairman.  He came to the position with credibility.  He had been a Founder and President of CalRVDA.  He also had several tours on the RVDA Board of Directors as well as the CalRVDA Board. RVDA accomplished much under Jim’s wise leadership.  The association represented RV Dealers more visibly at the Federal Level than ever before.  It was Jim’s urging that put me, as RVDA President, before Congress to testify about FEMA’s auctioning practices.  Our testimony and follow-on dialogue caused FEMA to change its practices.

Jim encouraged the association to become more active in educating the Congress on the impact of CAFÉ standards on towing capacity.  He saw RVers as conservationists, truly “green.”  He advocated for sensible laws and regulations that saved energy and curbed pollution while preserving the capacity to tow trailers.  He also urged the engineers at Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler to ensure that towing capacity continued to be on their priority list as they developed more efficient pick-up trucks.  Jim was never shy about a cause that he believed in.

As he left the chair of RVDA, I reminded Jim that he had a right to be especially proud of the industry programs he helped put in motion. He was the driving force behind the efforts to improve the safety and functionality of forklifts for use in dealerships.  He proposed revisions to board composition to expand the range of voices and opinions in RVDA’s leadership, won approval for major revisions to the annual Dealer Satisfaction Index Survey, and increased the number of training opportunities that have since been available to dealership employees.  Jim was also a leader in the combined industry effort to improve product quality and after-the-sale service.  Jim did not want the credit.  He took satisfaction in just seeing the progress.

Jim was also a mentor.  He helped develop the strong RVDA leadership that followed him.  All of his officers rose to Chairman of RVDA. Jeff Pastore, the First Vice Chairman, succeeded Jim; Second Vice Chairman, Larry Trout, succeeded Jeff.  Treasurer Debbie Brunoforte succeeded Larry; and his Secretary, Tim O’Brien, followed Debbie.   Jim remained active and helped each of these successors, and me, navigate successfully through the toughest economic period that the association had ever faced.  Phil Ingrassia, the current RVDA President often tells me how much Jim helped him with industry issues as a very active past-chairman.

It is gratifying that RVDA awarded Jim its highest honor, the James B. Summers Award, in October 2012, and that his fellow dealers and industry colleagues were successful in getting Jim nominated to the RV/MH Hall of Fame.  I just wish he could have lived to see his formal induction.  I sensed his humility and gratefulness when we were able to congratulate him on the phone.

Jim deserved all these honors and more.  As a spiritual man who loved the Lord and was an active supporter of his church, Jim’s greatest honor may have come when, as you stated in your note, “He entered into Heaven early this morning after a long, brave battle.“

May the Lord bless you and you family.  Jim will be watching!

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Want to be a Guru? Here’s your chance!

The folks who study businesses and write or speak about the differences between successes and failures seem to have an endless set of reasons or factors that separate highly successful organizations from those that wither and disappear. The first of these gurus whose work came to my attention was Tom Peters.

Peters wrote In Search of Excellence in the early 1980s.  He, his co-author, and a team of graduate students looked for organizations that had long term performance records that stood out as truly superior when compared to similar type organizations. The book identified a set of characteristics that seemed to be common to successful organizations.  Can you name any of the characteristics?  OK, maybe a few of you can name one or two but that was more than a generation ago and, hopefully, many of our readers were too young to read business books or listen to Tom Peters’ speeches in the 1980s. We won’t test you on your recollection of Peters but I recall MBWA, Management By Walking Around, and Stick to Your Knitting.

In the late 80’s Peters wrote a sequel, A Passion for Excellence. Some of you may recall that Passion was a tweaking of the findings contained in In Search of Excellence.  It was ironic that some of the excellent organizations identified in the first book were actually floundering by the time the second book came out.

A few years later, Peters blew the lid off of the entire process in a book called Chaos.  In the space of about 12 years, he had identified what made organizations excellent and then revised his findings so dramatically that he almost totally refuted the initial list.

Jim Collins then emerged as the next great guru of organizational effectiveness.  His two major works, Built to Last and Good to Great, build upon each other. Actually, the second book, Good to Great, describes the preliminary work that led to the first book.  He calls the second book a “prequel” rather than a sequel.  If you haven’t read the two books yet, I recommend that you do. Collins contends that great organizations do not rely on charismatic leadership; instead they consist of teams of the right people in the right positions who understand and buy into the organization’s core purpose and shared set of common values.

There are many other authors and speakers who have tried to help us understand what one needs to do in order to have an organization that gives consistently superior results over a long period. To me it all boils down to a few great ideas and a lot of hard work.  To get it right, the thinking has to precede the work. No one has found that “one sure way” to build a great organization for the long term.  But, if you surround yourself with people who are willing to think openly, share and discuss their ideas, and work hard at getting the best ideas implemented, you have a head start on the competition.

Some of you are already part of a great organization. I am interested in learning from you. Let us know, what you think makes your organization great or not so great.

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Here’s How to Assess The Value of Your Team!

What’s the Value of A Team Member? 

My experience indicates that knowledge trumps most everything else.  My first step  is to evaluate what a person knows as the first element of assessment.  A simple A to F scale will work almost anywhere.

Levels of Job Knowledge

  • A. Master
  • B. Excellent understanding
  • C. Solid knowledge
  • D. Good working knowledge
  • E. Basic knowledge
  • F. Limited Knowledge

For me, the second element for supervisors and potential supervisors is an assessment of their abilities to manage and lead.  Six levels fit well here too.

Management and Leadership Skills

  • I. Superb management and leadership skills
  • II. Superior management and leadership skills
  • III. Above Average management and leadership skills
  • IV. Good management skills
  • V. Learning to manage
  • VI. Very limited management or leadership potential

The most important attribute for me is the level of authority and responsibility you are willing to entrust to the team member.  We can retain our six level scale.

Freedom/Responsibility/Trust Levels

  • 1. Take action, report routinely
  • 2. Take action, report immediately
  • 3. Recommend action, obtain approval, then take action
  • 4. Ask what action to take, then take action and report
  • 5. Wait for tasks, take action, report progress
  • 6. Act only as an assistant to another team member

The best value ratings, after doing a review, are from the “gut.” Having reviewed her/his performance and having met with her/him, just “gut-rate” each person’s performance on a scale of 1 to 10.  For a frame of reference use the “Levels” above as a shorthand description of value.

  • 1-2 – what are they doing here? (F, VI, 6)
  • 3-4 – do what they are told, even though they may have to ask several times – they need to be scripted. (E, VI, 5)
  • 5 – 6 ask what to do and do what they are told – seldom have to be told more than once – help create their own scripts. (D, V, 4)
  • 7 suggest/recommend what they should be doing  (C, IV, 3)
  • 8 provide solutions with plans (how to implement)  (C, III, 2)
  • 9 discover problems and provide solutions  and plans (B, II, 2)
  • 10 this person is so valuable, it would be hard to operate without her/him (A, I, 1)

The task then is to try to calculate the person’s value in dollars.

  • If a person is 8 or above, their market value (worth elsewhere) comes into play — what will it cost to keep her/him? (You may have gotten some clues in your discussion – it may not be only money.)  Prudence dictates generosity here.
  • If a person is a 7, the normal increase should prevail.
  • If a person is 4-6,  assess, how much return you are getting for the money.
  • Those below 4,  assess if they have the potential to grow into a contributor of value.

Following the adage: “hire slow – fire fast” will minimize the number of team members below the 5 rating at the time of annual or semi-annual review.  The longer you keep the lower performers, the more difficult it will be to increase the number of high performers.

Try using these principles and Keep It Simple! Contact me at

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Add Energy To Everything You Do!

Stay fresh and be energized?

How long have you been doing what you’re doing?  How long have you been in your current environment —  location, job, relationship?  Do you wake up with energy and look forward to each day?  Is your job, itself,  a source of energy for you?

Even the most exciting jobs can become boring to most of us.  Much of what we do as our work soon becomes routine. The more we experience the challenges of a job, the better we become at dealing with those challenges. After a while, even the challenges become part of the routine. Losing our edge and becoming bored are natural results of getting better at what we do.

To overcome this natural occurrence, leaders like us need to find ways to revitalize and energize ourselves.  As our level of responsiblity increases, the need for fresh approaches and high energy also increases.  Experienced senior leaders, especially CEOs, recognize that as responsibility increases, it also becomes more difficult to achieve the fresh-look and to sustain the required high energy level.  They often call it, “re-charging.”

What is your source of energy?  How do you charge your personal batteries?   Do you recharge internally — by reading or thinking quietly alone?  Do you recharge externally — by getting out and having conversations? What should you do to become more strategic?  Some of my friends use the “push away” method. They delegate and “push away” from the routine. They realize that those working for the CEO or top manager tend to push their work up to the next level.  Successful top leaders learn to thwart this tendency to “delegate up.”

Some top leaders choose to spend less time at the job and more time with other interests. For some, it’s a new subsidiary or a different business. For others, it’s fishing or golf. The common theme of the “push away” method is the fresh look they get when they return to the business. They see and hear things they would have missed had they not gotten away.  It is akin to becoming “more strategic.”  It lets you see the forest.

Other CEO types actually become more strategic by getting into the details — NOT the details of the entire organization, that’s a recipe for micro-managing into a totally non-strategic culture.  These CEOs get more involved in the details of a particular department or process. They derive new energy from this deep immersion into a part of the operation.  It makes them more strategic because it still allows them to take a fresh look at the total organization.

The most important lesson here is to recognize the potential for losing one’s edge. It’s real. Boredom can ruin the best leaders. Routines can blunt the keenest of minds. Find a way to revitalize yourself so that you can look at your organization with fresh eyes. It will make you better in the long run.

Need ideas on how to do this?  Contact me at

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Gen. Patton’s Ten Leadership Principles

Displayed on a wall in the men’s locker room at Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, VA is a graphic tribute to the career of General George S. Patton, Jr.  It was created by Richard J. Stillman, an officer, who served closely with, and was decorated by, the General in WWII. 

Of all the items in that display, one entitled “Patton’s Ten Leadership Principles (Personal Observations)” fascinated me most.  Not only are some not typical of what leadership theorists teach, some are not near being politically correct.  Here they are:

  1. Be Physically fit; spiritually strong.
  2. Acquire professional expertise
  3. Lead by example
  4. Cultivate influential friends
  5. Go for the jugular
  6. Communicate well
  7. Select capable, loyal subordinates
  8. Publicize your accomplishments
  9. Know your competition
  10. Be audacious

What are your thoughts?

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How To Make A Great Decision Every Time

Decision-making is only as good as the process you use. I guarantee this one works.
1. Identify the Problem – Einstein said, “If I had 16 days to solve a problem, I would spend the first 15 defining it.”
2. Gather Information – Facts, Assumptions, Opinions.
3. Develop criteria (Performance Measures/Considerations)
e.g., Suitability, Feasibility, Acceptability, Distinguishability, Completeness, and Measurements to differentiate among solutions.
4. Generate Possible Solutions (Courses of Action)
5. Analyze the Possible Solutions against the criteria
6. Compare Possible Solutions
7. Make the Decision
8. Align people and resources
9. Implement the Decision
10. Monitor, Assess, and Adjust – Perpetually
Military leaders have used a form of this process throughout history. Busness leaders have adapted it to their use. It works.
Contact me for more information. 703-395-6409;, Mike

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More Simple Steps to Great Leadership!

Listen! Become a good listener.
Study listening.
Learn and hone empathic listening skills.
Use reflective listening tools like questioning and paraphrasing.

Become a cheerleader for your people.
Make sure they understand and believe that your success is their success AND their success is your success.
Look for and find anybody who is doing something right.
Give public praise
Thank them publicly

Learn and understand public relations and media.
When something goes wrong, stay cool. (This takes training and practice.)
Praise and comfort those who bring bad news to your attention.
Never throw a team member “under the bus.” Never!
Look for indicators of why.
Search around your desk and your policies for causes.
Look for opportunities to tweak the process to minimize repeats.
Treat bad news like fish – the longer it’s around the greater the stink.
Deal with it. Let people know about it. Move on.
Treat good news like wine. It usually gets better the longer it’s around.
Help others discover it. Help them spread the news.
Be genuinely humble in your self-promotion.

Be a good planner. Use the planning process to motivate and communicate.
Have a vision for your future.
Seek input from all sources think SOAR and PEST.
Involve your people in creating the vision.
Adjust your vision with their input. Don’t “settle.”
Develop a consensus for the vision.
Help your people become a planning team.
Help them:
Describe different paths to the vision.
Analyze and compare each path, course of action, strategy.
Select the strategy with the highest chances of success.
Set goals, objectives, and milestones to measure progress.
Participating in the planning helps the team own the plan.
Communicating the plan is important and essential.
The team is more likely to communicate the plan they own.
The team will make it work when it’s THEIR plan.

Next time implementation and decision-making. Can’t wait? Call 703-395-6409 or write
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