Whenever I meet a management team at a dealership I always like to ask them this simple question. “To achieve success, who are you working for, who is it you are focused on at work?” The overwhelming majority of the time I hear “the dealer principle”. Wrong answer I will say. Typically the answer I receive after that is “oh well obviously it is the customer then”. Wrong again. Earlier this month I had someone give me what I think is the best answer, and let me tell you this dealership is running incredibly well. Frankly it was refreshing to see.
I ask this question to simply gauge why this manager or team came to work that day. What drives them? Are they driven by money? Affirmation? Pride? Promotion? The question always seems to lead into a good discussion. With the exception of money I don’t see a terrible answer there. But there is a much better answer to the question.
Your employees. This to me seems like it is pretty common sense but it is amazing how many people don’t focus on their employees. Not just in the auto industry but everywhere. There are many ways to lead. I believe the most impact full way is to serve. Servant Leadership. You manage processes, you lead people.
“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” – Ken Blanchard
When you break it down you go to work to hit and surpass goals – your goals are to increase profits for your department and thus dealer principle. You have goals to maximize efficiency and finish repairs in a timely matter. You have goals to reach top customer satisfaction levels. As a manager is it possible to do that on your own? Obviously not, so we try to hire the right people, with good culture. We try to train the best we can, but who has time? Honestly most of the time we throw them out there with a clipboard and a pen and then we get upset when they fail.
So how does servant leadership change that? So if you can’t surpass goals on your own then who will? Your employees will. If you can’t talk to the customer who will? The employee will. So doesn’t it make sense to go absolutely out of your way to make sure your employees have everything they need to make the customer happy? Doesn’t it make sense to take the time to train your employees so they can perform their job at full confidence, with their interest at heart? Instead of sitting behind your computer and checking numbers for that day get out on the drive or in the shop and see what is going on. Pull up cars, wash cars, check out customers, answer phones. All the little stuff management oh so often avoids doing. Communicate with your employees that you are there for them and then when they need you, i.e. time off at an inconvenient time, be there for them. It is amazing what people will do if you simply show them you believe in them and you are there working for them.
Times have changed. People don’t want to be bossed around and forced into processes. People want to be influenced and inspired. People long to be appreciated. When you serve your employees, undoubtedly they will serve your customers and you will reap the rewards. Your employees with follow the process you set not because they fear losing their job, its because they want to, for you.