Fostering an Ownership Mentality

Roles-based management is a training tool that serves not only to provide skills, but also to motivate the employee.

By Michael Rosenbaum

It’s difficult to think of clipboards as an innovative training tool, but a visit to a local tire store reminded me that even the most basic tools can deliver strong impact.

In this case, the training system employed a roles-based management (RBM) style, a deceptively simple management training process employed by Discount Tire Company. I encountered RBM while researching the company for my book “Six Tires, No Plan,” a biography of company founder Bruce Halle.

Halle founded the company in an old plumbing supply store in Ann Arbor, MI, in 1960. Today, the $3 billion company has more than 800 stores, and Halle is ranked 96th on the Forbeslist of richest Americans. Discount Tire has never reported a decline in annual revenue, has never implemented a layoff—during five decades of growth—and continued store expansion over the last four years of economic challenge. Clearly, the company is doing something right.

One thing the company is doing right is training at the store level. Management of a tire store can appear simple on the surface, but staffing, scheduling, inventory management, and other details can take time to master. Discount Tire applies its roles-based management system to ensure that each assistant manager gains important expertise on the way to earning the keys to a new store.

The roles-based management system gives each assistant manager enhanced training opportunities by focusing each, in turn, on specific aspects of store operations. One assistant manager, for example, might be responsible for all scheduling, while another focuses on marketing. As each assistant rotates through the different management roles, each becomes more expert at his job and is, thus, a more effective manager.

At first, RBM appears to be very basic as a form of management training. Breaking tasks into individual segments can help employees focus on each aspect more intently, leading to long-term mastery of the total process. Giving people responsibility for managing and tracking a process will enhance organizational and planning skills. Reflecting the overall simplicity of the management training system, assistant managers at one store I visited kept track of progress on clipboards that anyone could view.

Looks can be deceiving, however, and the surface simplicity of this management training tool can mask a much more significant value for the employee and the company. I found that impact when I talked to some of the assistant managers about the process.

Each person I met spoke with pride about his part of the business, the part he controlled. Each spoke as if he were the owner of scheduling or of marketing—affirming the ownership mentality that is the Holy Grail for many motivational gurus.

Here, the training tool serves not only to provide skills, but also to motivate the employee. In a very real sense, each segment of the training can be seen as career advancement, even if the person’s title does not change. As each person cycles through the various RBM roles at Discount Tire, specific skill sets are enhanced and overall store operations will benefit.

The most impactful training programs go far beyond the fundamentals of skills enhancement. For truly farsighted companies, the direct goals of training are stronger staff commitment, enhanced operating performance, and lower turnover…even if those goals require investment in a handful of clipboards.

Michael Rosenbaum is founder of Quadrant Five (, a consultancy that focuses on the core strengths that drive sustainable profitability and customer loyalty for his clients. He has consulted with C-suite officers at more than 150 companies and is the author of four books. His fifth book, “Six Tires, No Plan,” available in bookstores and online, is the biography of Discount Tire founder Bruce Halle. For more information about the book, visit

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