3 Ways to be a Transparent Leader at Your Dealership

Businessman giving presentation, rear view

Being transparent may be one of the easiest and most affordable ways to boost your bottom line.

If you need someone to convince you of that, read this post by Jayson Demers.

The question I want to answer here is: How do you practice transparency as a leader at your dealership?

You’ll find three ideas (and a bonus) below. First, however, let’s be clear (intentional pun) on what it means to be transparent.

Maybe you’re one of those business leaders who gets nervous when people suggest more transparency. You may feel like being transparent means putting a confessional next to your office so your employees can listen to you air all of your dirty laundry.

If this is you, let the dictionary put your mind at ease: “Free from pretense or deceit; readily understood; characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices.”

Do your employees say you’re “down to earth” and a “straight shooter?” Do they say the don’t have to wonder what you’re thinking or where you’re leading them? Do they say you are easy to approach and happy to answer their questions?

If your answer to any of these three question is “I don’t know” or “No, I don’t think so,” then take heart. Here are three ideas (and a bonus) you can put into practice to start leading your team with transparency.

  1. Communicate.

    This one is easy and obvious. What may not be as obvious to you is that your employees really do want to know what is on your mind. Think about it. You are likely to be one of the top three most influential people in their lives. The decisions you make don’t just affect them on the job; they affect their family and personal lives, too. Nothing gives people more emotional space to stop worrying and start working than knowing what is on their leader’s mind. So start sharing it with them. Set aside one hour every week to share what you are thinking. Choose a medium that your employees like to use most (blog, social media, team meeting, YouTube, etc.). Don’t preach or teach; simply share with your team what is filling your thoughts that week. This simple act over time will build enormous empathy and trust with your team.  

  2. Publish your personal KPIs.

    Everyone at your dealership likely has key performance indicators, right? As a leader, you likely know what KPIs your employees are trying to meet. But do your employees know your KPIs? Do they know what you’re doing to meet them? Here’s a challenge: Start posting your KPIs every week so your entire team can see them. Take it step further and ask your team if they think you’re working on the right KPIs. Sharing your KPIs with your team changes things for all of you. Now you’re “all in this together.” It makes it easier for your team empathize with you. When your team understands you, they are more likely to support you.

  3. Be highly visible.

    The late Andy Grove, the legendary CEO of Intel, put his desk in a cubicle in the middle of an open “cube farm.” He didn’t have an “open door” policy because he didn’t have a door or walls! Grove could see his people in action because the action was happening all around him. Do you know what was even more important? Grove’s employees got to see him in action. Nothing inspires confidence and hard work like seeing the leader hard at work himself. How often do your people see you in action?

BONUS. Start an “exchange program” at your dealership. I saved the best (and craziest) idea for last. It’s not my original idea, but seeing it put into action anywhere is very rare. If you try this one and see it through, I guarantee you will win some kind of award.

This is a twist on the “employee of the month” idea. Simply put, exchange jobs with one of your front line employees every month. She gets to do your job with you for one day and you get to do her job with her for one day. Imagine how it would change the way a mechanic feels about working for you if he spends one day “doing CEO things” with the CEO. How would that boost his engagement, loyalty, and trust?

It would boost it a lot, but not as much as the CEO spending one day assisting that mechanic! Transparency is not always about what you share as a leader; it can be about what you are willing to ask and learn from your employees. Trading places with your employees may be the most powerful thing you can do to grow empathy and understanding that leads to greater drive, focus, and productivity.

Transparency creates the conditions for sustained business growth. The best part is that it doesn’t cost much, but the returns are so great as to be impossible to measure.

Pick one thing from this list and give it a try.