The Keys to Creating a Healthy and Vibrant Culture in Your Dealership From the Top Down – Jeff Havens, Author of “Unleash Your Inner Tyrant”

Jeff Havens

On today’s show, we’re pleased to welcome back Jeff Havens, business development trainer and author of the best selling book, “Unleash Your Inner Tyrant!” In the segment, Jim and Jeff discuss the keys to creating a healthy and vibrant dealership culture, how to build the trust and loyalty of your employees, and how managers deliver can successfully deliver criticism.


Jim Fitzpatrick: Welcome back to the show, Jeff.

Jeff Havens: Thanks very much, Jim. Excited to be here.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. You are a business development trainer and author of ‘Unleash Your Inner Tyrant!,’ which is a great name for a book. I love it.

Jeff Havens: I like it too. It makes people happy. It’s fun to see on people’s desks. They’re always like, “What is that about?”

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. You know a little bit about building the right culture in dealerships, which is what we want to talk to you about today. What are the keys to creating a healthy and vibrant culture in a dealership?

Jeff Havens: So culture creation is probably one of the most challenging parts of running a business because it’s a big job, it’s a multi-pronged job, it’s a long job. It’s not something that you do in one day but, fundamentally, there are two things that need to happen in order for a healthy culture. One is people need to know that you like and respect them. That’s an easy one, the typical camaraderie that, “I come to work and I feel like the people value me and want to spend time with me.” The other one though it deals with vision and mission. It deals with, “Why do I bother coming to work in the first place,” because for most people money is important but is not sufficient by itself in order to make you happy, make you engaged, make you excited about your job. So it’s as important to explain to people why they do what they do, what value they bring to your company, to the world beyond just getting a paycheck and hitting sales numbers as it is to make sure they know that you like who they are.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. For sure. So we all know that you need the trust and loyalty of your employees to be successful, but how do you build that trust?

Jeff Havens: Well, you build trust over time in the same way that you build it in your personal relationships. That’s one of the things I talk about in my keynote presentations is that the things that we do in our personal life are identical to the things we need to be doing in our professional life. You’re going to have different relationships, obviously, with the people you work with than with your spouse, or with your kids, or with your friends but the rules that build, strengthen, and sustain relationships are identical whether you’re talking about dealing with your spouse, your kids, your friends, or your employees and bosses.

Jeff Havens: So think about what you do in your personal life that has helped you develop trust with somebody, which there’s a million different things that you do there. Some of them are paying attention to your tone of voice, making sure you compliment people when they do something well. Making sure you take responsibility for your mistakes, and try to use them as learning opportunities. Look for mutually satisfactory outcomes to issues that are compromises where not everybody gets everything, but everybody gets something. The same things that you have to do in order to deal with being married to somebody for 10 years, which is not necessarily super easy, it takes work, it’s the exact same stuff that we need to do at work as well.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. So how should managers deliver criticism to employees, but not break down their spirit?

Jeff Havens: So criticism is interesting. There’s a lot of research that has suggested that our brains are much more attuned to negative information than positive information. You’ll see that in political ads, in the way that newspapers run their headlines. We notice bad things more than good things. And the research is suggesting that it’s about a five to one ratio. So we notice and pay attention and weight negative information about five times as much as we weigh positive information. What that means is that over the course of a relationship with somebody, not in every single interaction but over the course of a relationship, you need to be approximately five times more positive than negative in order to balance it all out.

Jeff Havens: So when you are criticizing somebody occasionally there’s nothing good to say like a bad mistake has happened and you have to lay it down. But in order for that to be received well, you need to have developed a culture where people routinely hear and appreciate positive things in order to kind of cushion the blow when the negative ones come.

Jeff Havens: If it is possible, during a constructively critical conversation one of the best things to do is to build in two or three positive elements at the same time that you’re talking about the this is what I want you to improve on. So, for example, if you’re doing a year end review with somebody or quarterly review say two or three things at least that are positive. “You’ve done this well, you did this well, you did this really well. This is what I want you to work on. Next year, this is where your growth opportunity is.” It doesn’t even sound negative at that point. It honestly sounds like you’re trying to help somebody improve some element of their business. And that way you’ll get a much better response than if you just come in and say, “This is what you need to improve.”

Jim Fitzpatrick: Totally get it. It makes perfect sense. Change is inevitable whether it’s in processes or strategies. What can dealership leaders do to make those transitions seamless?

Jeff Havens: I think the easiest way to help people deal with change is to, if you can, remind them that they do it all the time. None of us are the same person we were, let’s say, five years ago and none of us are going to be the same person in five years. And for the most part, we don’t even notice that we change. It happens very naturally. The only time we notice it is when we’re told it’s going to happen and then we freak out about it. So the best way to help people deal with that is to point out changes that they have already gone through and that they’re happy that they went through.

Jeff Havens: So, let’s say, you’re doing something new in your dealership in the next couple of years, you’re going to double down on electric cars or you’re going to sell a new type of automobile, new type of pricing, new type of whatever. Look back at what you’ve done in the last couple of years, the changes that you’ve done in the last couple of years that maybe had some initial resistance but, at this point, everybody’s happy with them, they’re standard operating procedure right now. And remind people that you’ve already done this. “You went through it two years ago. It was a different issue, but the exact same process and we were happy that we did that one. So there’s a good chance we’ll be happy that we’re doing this one.”

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. That’s a very good point. Very good point. It kind of minimizes that anxiety that the team might have to say, “Hey, we’ve already been through this,” right?

Jeff Havens: Oh yeah. And most changes look a lot like other ones. There’s very few changes that are, “We’ve never done anything ever like this before.” A lot of them there’s a corollary, or a parallel to something you’ve already experienced.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. So discuss your technique for moving employees from just satisfaction to motivated engagement.

Jeff Havens: So we’ve talked about this just a little bit. If you look at what leadership education generally is, it’s generally boiled down into a two-part system. So you got this blob right here, that’s the good stuff that you’re supposed to do. And this part’s the bad stuff. And if you really just knock it all down into one sentence, most leadership education says, “Do this stuff. Don’t do this stuff. You’re okay.” And what that leads to is survey after survey, after survey shows that employees are predominantly satisfied at their jobs, but they’re disengaged, which seems like a weird paradox. How can you be satisfied and disengage? And I think it’s because of how we think of what leadership is. And as I mentioned before, there are two equally important parts of leadership. The human connection side where people feel like you value who they are as individuals. And then the vision and mission side where you explain to them why what they do matters and is important.

Jeff Havens: And most managers and most leadership really heavily focuses on the people side of things. And so probably if you have a satisfied workforce or not as engaged a workforce as you want, probably you’re spending too much time thinking about people as individuals, and you’re not talking enough about why you do what you do. Why do we come into work every day? What is the value of being here? What good are we providing to our community, to the world? And if you spend more time talking about that, not one or the other, you have to do them both, if you spend time talking about both of them equally, you start to see more engagement.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, for sure. So what are the qualities of a leader that make other people excited to follow them?

Jeff Havens: Well, living what they say, that’s certainly the case. Making sure that you are acting out your ideals, making sure that people know what you stand for, which is an easy thing to overlook. I mean pretty much every company, every dealership, I’m sure, has some kind of a mission statement, but it’s like a thing that’s printed once and then it’s kind of thrown away.

Jeff Havens: And the ones that I think do a better job of getting enthusiasm out of their employees are the ones who, whether they do it publicly or not, they … well you have to do it publicly, actually. You revisit that mission statement. You let people know, “And this is why we’re doing this thing. This is why we’re donating to this charity this month. This is why we’re having a holiday party because it is a part of who we are.” It’s the, again to come back to everything is similar to everything else, it’s the same kind of stuff that we do in our personal relationships as well. “I’m married to you because I love you and I show you that I love you through, A, B and C actions,” those kinds of things. And the more that you do that with your employees the more they want to be your employees, the more they want to stay with you.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. And that’s what it’s all about today, especially with millennials in the workforce it’s not about the money as much it is about the workforce, the culture, the environment that they’re in, right?

Jeff Havens: There is a lot of research that’ll show that people will take less money in order to feel more connected. And along those lines, we spend a lot of time thinking about social media and connections. Everybody’s got a thousand million Facebook friends, Instagram followers, all that kind of stuff, but our brains actually aren’t designed to care about more than a couple hundred people. That’s just our neurological capacity. And so as the world gets bigger and bigger, as there become more and more connections it actually becomes more and more important to figure out how to drill down and focus in, and find the fairly small number of people that make you feel like you connect to something that’s real, and that’s important. And the people who spend a lot of energy doing that, I think, tend to have better cultures, happier workforces, and enjoy their life better.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right, which is what it’s all about today. I mean at the end of the day.

Jeff Havens: I agree. And yesterday, and tomorrow.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right, because those people are going to be the ones that take good care of your customers. If you’ve got a customer satisfaction index problem, or what we call CSI in the industry, then you can usually track it back to your employees, those that are handling those customers, right?

Jeff Havens: I have read that approximately 20% of employees are actively disengaged, which means they hate their jobs, and so that’s one in five and that one in five is supposed to cost about a half trillion dollars a year in the US in lost productivity. Coming in late, leaving early, not trying very hard, telling their friends who work there that they should also hate this job. A lot of bad stuff that comes-

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. And then you could imagine if that one out of five person that works for you is greeting your customer every day, or maybe not greeting them the right way, the effect that it would have on 20% of your business.

Jeff Havens: Oh yeah. And another piece of advice I often give, it’s not a fun piece of advice, but fire quick if … I mean, obviously, not immediately, but if you cannot figure out how to get somebody on board with what your mission is, and what your culture is get rid of them as fast as you can. And I know hiring is awful. It’s a terrible process. It’s long and time consuming, but it’s unfortunate there’s no shortcut for that. You find the right people and they are going to take your business to the next level, and you settle for the wrong ones and it’s a lot more headache than it’s worth.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. And you owe it to the good ones that work for you to get rid of the ones that bring the cancer, right?

Jeff Havens: Yeah, I agree. And it’s funny, millennials especially get accused of being disloyal or whatever, but they actually are exactly as loyal as baby boomers were when baby boomers were in their twenties so if you think the issue is young people, unfortunately, the problem is people in their twenties that’s just what they do. Some of them-

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right, regardless of the generation.

Jeff Havens: Yeah. And you need to kind of weed them out until you find the ones that understand how everything works, and are willing to dedicate a little bit of themselves to your business in order to get the pay off that’s going to come a few years later.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. Well Jeff Havens, business development trainer, and author of ‘Unleash Your Inner Tyrant!,’ thank you so much for joining us on CBT news. We very much appreciate it.

Jeff Havens: Thank you Jim.