TJ Narlock has worked his way up at Sewell Cadillac, a leading Cadillac dealership throughout Texas, since graduating from Texas Tech 11 years ago. Beginning as an intern in Dallas to currently holding a service manager role in Houston, where alongside his director he is responsible for 77 employees, leadership plays a key role for Narlock. Together, they’ve turned around the store from being one of the lowest performing to now consistently landing as one of the top three stores in the entire company. Narlock recently participated in Darden Executive Education & Lifelong Learning’s Leading Teams for Growth and Change, gaining fresh insights from coaching and daily rowing exercises to help develop and grow others on this team.

What prompted you to choose Darden and Leading Teams for Growth and Change?

I felt like Darden’s viewpoints on how to build teams and develop people aligned very well with our organization and in particular with the Leading Teams for Growth and Change program. Our organization values investing in and developing our people – we truly do promote from within – so continuing education is incredibly important to us.

I have a strong desire to take on more responsibility and want to prepare for that next step in my career. Although it’s a good bit of work, I would eventually like to tackle opening a new store. Despite all the time and energy it takes, I find it very rewarding. I want to start and build my own team and help them develop so that it creates new opportunities for them as well.

What skills or new perspectives did you gain from the program?

From a nuts and bolts standpoint, I know how to do my job. However, managing people is the most challenging part of what I do. Getting people on your side, getting people to work hard for you and not in spite of you, and motivating people to get the most out of my team members were all things I took away from the program that will help me work towards my career goals.

One of my favorite exercises that we did in the program was the insights exercise. I’ve done Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder and similar tests and never felt like I got much out of it. The insights exercise got more granular by focusing on what makes a person tick and how they respond to different personalities. The exercise allowed me to understand myself better, and I started to think about the members on my team and identified where they fell, too. The exercise empowered me to think about how I could better motivate those individuals because you can’t use the same approach for everyone.

TJ Narlock Leading Teams for Growth & Change


What was the coaching element and on-water rowing experience of the program like for you?

It was interesting because up until the final day of the on-water rowing, our boat had not rowed with all 8 people at the same time. We were struggling at the point when we had 6 people rowing together and we were seeing other teams rowing with all 8 of their team members before us. I could tell our coach, Tim, was not the kind of ‘rah-rah’ cheerleading coach. He would give constructive feedback in a positive way and you could see he had a competitive side to him. You could feel his confidence in us, and he pushed us throughout the process. On the last day, we rowed with all 8 people and our team ended up winning the final regatta. I think there was truly a method to the madness to help us operate successfully as a team.

What would you say to someone who is considering executive education, but they’re not sure they have time for it?

If you don’t allow yourself to make the time for continuing education, you’re inevitably going to get stuck or plateau. I think it’s really important to focus on continuing your education in addition to helping the people around you develop. At Sewell, we really push training hard and there’s no better feeling than when they come back from a class with renewed energy and excitement. Like most things, you have to make time for it.

Learn more about Leading Teams for Growth and Change and how it may help you reach your career or organizational goals.