Leadership seems to be a popular buzzword these days. However, in order to create a true culture where leadership is modeled, expected and lived out on a daily basis, it is going to require being far more than simply another “course” that was taught once in a list of variable offerings.

Leadership is not just another part of the process. It is the foundation that everything else is built upon. Think of it as a part. If the part is a set of ceiling tiles in the showroom of your dealership, leaving a few out may cause some issues that require dealing with, but it isn’t going to halt your entire operation. However, build your dealership on the dirt without having a solid concrete foundation beneath your feet and the building is not going to stand at all.

One of the 21 Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell, the Law of Solid Ground, addresses this point. John says, “When it comes to leadership, you just can’t take shortcuts, no matter how long you’ve been leading your people.”

There are five skills that every leader needs to continually develop in order to maintain a solid foundation that will allow their organization to continue to grow and expand.

Understand People

This area is huge for leaders who want to reduce turnover, improve employee relations, customer satisfaction ratings and revenues. In fact, it has the potential to positively impact just about every area within your dealership, to both your internal and external customers in the front and back end of the business.

Effective leading is not as much about convincing people to see things your way, whether that is leading employees or leading your customers through the sales process. One of the biggest issues cited in survey after survey is not that people are looking to always come to agreement, but simply that they want to feel understood.

I have heard it said that when leaders seek first to understand, then to be understood, they establish the solid foundation needed for a strong relationship to be formed. That process works the same when dealing with employees and customers alike.

Enlarge Peopleleader

Unless you are capable of running every aspect of your dealership alone, which effectively eliminates all of us, you need people. As a leader, you need them to excel in order for the entire organization to reach its true capability.

John Maxwell stated, “When you enlarge others, you seize an opportunity to help them reach their potential.” Leaders understand that when each individual part of the organizational structure reaches its full potential, the unit as a whole is enabled to begin to stretch and grow toward levels of growth not achieved before.

An important point leaders must acknowledge is that time is a finite resource. It is paramount that leaders provide support and resources across the board to enable every employee to have the opportunity to reach new heights. However, they should commit the majority of their time pouring themselves into those people who have demonstrated the personal commitment to grow and develop. This keeps a leader from wasting the most precious resource available – time.

Navigate For Other People

Think of a leader as the GPS system for the dealership or area of responsibility. Once the desired destination has been established, the leader clarifies the route that is going to be taken, and the team begins the process of moving toward that direction.

Many leaders mistakenly think they need to keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times. While steering is essential, anyone can be taught how to steer the vehicle. As the leader, your job is to navigate the course. When unexpected construction zones or other obstacles block or impede the progress desired, the leader is the one providing the course correction – “Recalculating”, as the GPS would say – to help shift the direction while ensuring the team is still moving toward the same desired destination.

A big mistake I see far too often is that leaders often try to have the entire path perfected before taking action. That is a critical error. Try having a leader sit behind the wheel of a vehicle on the lot while in park. Turn the wheel in every direction possible. What changed? Nothing. However, once you shift gears and begin moving forward, turn the wheel and the vehicle navigates the turns around the lot according to the command given by the driver. Leaders need to realize that true navigation does not take place until motion is introduced into the equation.

Connect With People

Why do so many people fail to truly connect with employees and customers in a way that creates a solid business relationship – one resulting in better employee relations and higher sales conversions? Understanding was the first key discussed. Connecting happens when understanding is taken to the next level.

Every employee and customer has his or her own unique personality style. While understanding the model of human behavior certainly helps a leader recognize the differences, respecting those differences so that you communicate with them based upon their needs – and not your own – is how you truly connect.

For those who have been properly trained on the model of human behavior, adjusting communication methods to adapt to other’s recognizable styles is an essential component of leaders who want to consistently produce high performance teams. And it’s equally important for sales leaders who want to convert more visitors into customers for the dealership and achieve top tier sales results on a consistent basis.

Leaders who learn this crucial skill set find themselves able to relate and achieve results with employees and customers at a level far above those who just communicate in their own style and expect others to adjust to them.

Empower People

For leaders to multiply other leaders, they must empower others. The old “command and control” structure of management may produce short-term results. However, that model does not create an environment conducive to employee or customer satisfaction. The millennial generation in particular, which is an ever-growing part of the employee and customer base, will take their talents and spending dollars somewhere else when they recognize this culture in effect. They want to be inspired, not controlled.

Empowered employees are easy to recognize. There are organizations today where the employee has the ability to resolve a customer issue on the spot in the way they see best because they have been empowered to do the right thing. An empowered culture is obvious to the customer when they notice that there is no need to “go ask permission” for every little thing.

There are obvious controls that need to be established, but empowered employees realize they are being given the freedom to succeed. When they do fail, they will receive the appropriate feedback and corrective action, but that is the best way to learn and develop. When they can do so without the massive fear of repercussion, they begin to feel like they have their own small piece of ownership in the outcome.

Focus on each of these areas as a leader and you will see impossibilities vanish and renewed energy from your team that is ready to crush the goals placed before them.

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