One of the most potent responsibilities and opportunities we have when it comes to leadership is that the team looks to us to set the tempo — in action, attitude and vision. A team will rarely work harder than its leader. If the head of the group doesn’t believe in the mission, those who are following won’t, either. And, if the group’s leader thinks a situation is hopeless, he or she robs the hope from their team.
We’re being faced with challenges never before seen in the auto industry. We can’t control the pandemic or the impact it will ultimately have on the economy. We can control our reactions and make sure we set a pace for our team that will see our dealerships survive today so we can thrive tomorrow.
When it comes to building a winning team, exceptional leaders understand that human capital is their most precious commodity. No matter what new technology is developed or how customer behavior changes, a dealership is made up of people. As leaders, it’s our job to give them our all so they can achieve more than they ever thought possible.
In both good times and stressful situations, the leadership largely determines the team’s overall success. My Theory of 5 mentors and I have found that to build a winning team, leaders need to bring three things to the table:
Provide Proper Training — Putting a new team member out to interact with our guests without the proper training isn’t just counterproductive; it’s a disservice to both that team member and our customer. With the plethora of training opportunities available to dealerships today — from online classes to in-house coaching and more — there’s no reason why we should send our people out unprepared to do their job. Just as we wouldn’t let an untrained service technician work on customer cars and “hope everything works out,” we can’t let our sales team — or anyone at our dealership who faces the public — just “wing” it and see what happens.
Business may be slow right now for the vast majority of dealerships across the country, so it’s the perfect time to make sure our people have an in-depth understanding of their products and services. We can either waste this downtime or use it to build a team that will bring customer service and revenue to the next level when consumers are again ready to buy — and they will be.
Allow Our Team to See the Big Picture — It is crucial to know the “Why” of what we do. We’re only given so much time in this life, and it’s not enough to feel we’re just trading precious hours for a paycheck. To generate the best results from and for our team, they desire to be just that — a team and not a group of employees.
Share with them a vision of what our dealership can do not only for them, but for our customers and our community. What are our future plans? How are we going to grow in the future? What will giving their all to this common cause mean for them in the long run? When our team believes in a bright vision of the future — when they understand that there is a vision for our future — it becomes much easier for people to internalize and understand the daily activities needed to meet our short-term challenges due to their long-term mindset.
Give Them the Tools They Need — Sending people out with sub-par tools and expecting great results is a recipe for disaster. Our team might surprise us now and then with an unexpected win against all the odds, but for consistent success, they need to be well-equipped for what they’ll face. This doesn’t just mean providing them with the latest software tools and technology — although we certainly have to keep up with the times. It means giving them consistent feedback on their attitudes, actions, behaviors and results. It can be difficult for a team member to judge their own performance, and without feedback, they often won’t know if they’re moving in the right direction.
Another tool often held back from team members is the authority to do their assigned tasks or accomplish their goals. If they always have to seek permission for every step they need to take, they will become frustrated and lose the drive to excel at the task. If we trust our team to get the job done, give them the authority needed to excel at their job. As always, it’s imperative to hold our team members accountable for their results. This is what the best leaders do to support their team’s success.
To Lead is to Serve
Great leaders understand that to get the best out of their people, they have to be there for them. There’s been a lot said about the concept of “servant leadership.” Let’s stop for a moment and truly consider what that phrase means. What does our team need from us? My Theory of 5 mentors and I have found that, as leaders, our main job is to give our team their best chance for success. When they win, we win and the dealership wins. Let’s take a moment to consider what tools, training and vision our team needs to grow and dominate our market in the coming days and months.
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