Implementing Changes That ‘Stick’ With Your Dealership Teams

Dealership Teams

What you can do to narrow the ‘knowing – doing’ gap when implementing change in your dealership.


“When you are through changing, you are through.” – Bruce Barton

March already! The NADA Show in San Francisco is history. The boss just got back from the first 20 Group meeting of 2015. Everyone knows what that means – there are going to be changes, new initiatives and programs that need to be implemented. It’s your job, as the manager, to make sure your dealership teams implement effectively and that the new initiatives stick.

Implementation – Execution – Adherence

So is the “Knowing – Doing” gap alive and well in dealerships today? Ernst and Young found that 66 percent of corporate strategies are never executed. Kaplan and Norton stated that 90 percent of well-formulated strategies fail due to poor execution. Jack Welch said, “In real life, strategy actually is very straightforward. You pick a general direction and implement like hell.” So, as a leader, what is your first reaction when you are given a new initiative to implement? Your initial reaction holds a clue as to how your team will react.

“Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.” – Sydney J. Harris

Change is inevitable. Implementing that change is tough in any organization. Change fosters growth. Growth fosters opportunity. Just think about how the Internet has changed the way your dealership advertises. Execution is simple in theory but difficult to put into practice.

Implementation is all about execution – in short executing the plan. Consistently executing the plan creates Adherence – Adherence to the plan. Good plans are important but if there is no execution (and thus no adherence), it’s just a plan. Lee Colan introduced a logical “Adherence Equation” in his book Stick With It.

In the equation, Adherence comes from a combination of focus, competence and passion. If any of the three are missing, adherence is nonexistent. No adherence means no growth.

So how do we develop adherence and foster needed growth from new initiatives? Or, how do we implement the plan for implementing the Initiative? The three critical factors in the equation above drive the execution of that new initiative on your dealership team. All management levels need to participate in the following three steps.

Step 1 – Be laser focused on the initiative itself

This may seem obvious but it is the main reason for the knowing – doing gap. We know the importance of the initiative, and how it will affect the dealership but we don’t follow through; we fail to follow through completely; or we give up too soon. So what can you do to get your team laser focused?

  • Set the vision.
  • Simplify it – put the vision in easy-to-understand terminology, then break it into steps.
  • Give them the “why” behind it.
  • Help your team visualize what it looks like when it is done right.
  • Keep it in front of them (make it visible) by using a “tote board,” emails and signage. Set expectations and hold them accountable.
  • Celebrate when it is executed correctly.

Coaching Tip on Focus: Managers need to break down new initiatives into a step-by-step process that team members can visualize and follow easily. For example: Your dealership is introducing a new initiative of enhancing how every customer – whether in person, online or over the phone – is greeted, responded to and followed up on. Team members need to know the role they will play and your expectations.

  • Pull the team together, lay out the new initiative and set expectations
  • Break their role down into 3 things that must happen during every customer interaction
  • Start each day reinforcing the ‘why’ behind the new initiative
  • Publically praise when initiative is executed effectively. Ask your Manager to participate
  • Privately coach when initiative is not executed thoroughly
  • Don’t let them “off the hook”

Step 2 – Training and equipping the staff with the skills needed

Don’t assume your team knows how to execute. With many new initiatives failing due to poor execution, you can assume team members may not know how. Use this as a training and leadership opportunity to build new skills and reinforce existing skill sets.

  • Train the vision by setting the example. You get good first. As the leader, you should be the strongest member of the team. Be very specific about what “good” looks like.
  • Train everybody consistently.
  • Tap into top performers and let them lead the training. Try teaming people up.
  • Train them again on the “why.”
  • Hold everyone accountable. Tell them when they get it right and coach them when they get it wrong. Be systematic.

Coaching Tip on Competence – Managers can’t assume everyone will know how to execute a new initiative, especially if it involves customer interaction. Keep your team’s skills sharp by:

  • Identifying and describing each team member’s strengths in customer interactions and how those strengths add value.
  • Conducting weekly training sessions so initiative stays top-of-mind. Keep training fresh by modeling and changing trainers. Involve your manager in the training.
  • Provide feedback to team members that is immediate and only focused on the initiative.
  • Tie positive behavior into results.

Step 3 – Be Passionate About It

Everyone has a role to play in the success of the new initiative.

“Every single soldier must know, before he goes into battle, how the little battle he is to fight fits into the larger picture, and how the success of his fighting will influence the battle as a whole.” – Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery

  • Own the vision. Be intentional.
  • Paint the picture by doing your part. The team will return to you what you give to them.
  • Make it fun.
  • Make it important.
  • Tell them the “why” once again!
  • Connect their efforts to the end goal.

Coaching Tip on Passion – Managers can’t assume everyone will own the vision without a little help. How you present the new customer interaction initiative, and make it live, makes all the difference. Get your team on board and consistently implementing by:

  • Painting the picture, weekly, of the deeper purpose behind the initiative. Follow it up in writing, showing progress of the team’s activities and consistently describing what’s in it for them.
  • Going beyond minimum expectations. Create new rituals that are tied to initiative.
  • Constantly looking for positive performance and praising often.

It’s up to you. When leading your team through change or a new initiative, communicate openly and honestly. State the facts but always explain the “why.” Express your belief that this new initiative is needed to grow and prosper. Change is hard so don’t just communicate what is changing but also communicate what is staying the same. Be available when team members have questions or get stuck. Remember, praise goes a long way to making sure the changes you are trying to see in your dealership stick.

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Tom Kukla
Tom is a highly experienced leadership coach, speaker and trainer. Prior to founding Credere Leadership, he spent 38 years in retail and medical sales, sales management, and management and leadership development. He developed a world-class management-training program from the ground up in the highly competitive pharmaceutical industry that served hundreds of sales and marketing colleagues. As a John Maxwell-certified coach, teacher and speaker, he offers organizations management and leadership workshops, seminars, training and coaching. You can reach Tom at and visit his website at