In recent years, I’ve worked with hundreds of dealership managers; although we spend most of our time discussing KPIs, processes and growing sales, we invariably end up on the subject of people’s challenges and opportunities.

Formerly, the question was typically, “Where can I find good people?” But that has shifted recently. Now we discuss:

  • “How do I keep them?”
  • “How do I motivate them?”
  • “How do I get them to do what I need them to do without me watching over their shoulder all the time?”

As managers, we are taught that our job is to get work done through other people. But that doesn’t mean getting someone else to do your work – it means multiplying yourself so that your business can operate and thrive without micromanagement. It means that you’re able to spend your time completing tasks that no one else can do because you can trust your team to run the daily operations of your dealership.

How do you get there?

If you look up synonyms for “leadership,” you find “direction,” “authority,” “control” and “supervision.” These might have been good words for leadership 10 years ago, but they won’t work today. Today’s workforce wants to use their minds alongside their hands. They want to feel involved, and that their opinion matters. With a shortage of qualified people in the market today, they can and will change jobs if they don’t feel appreciated or, most importantly, respected.

So, when managers ask me these questions, I counter with, “Have you looked in a mirror lately? Would you want to work for you?”

This always elicits a chuckle or two, but leads to a very interesting dialogue. Baby Boomers in the group say, “Why can’t they just be like we were in my day? We came to work and did what we were told, no questions asked. Now everyone wants to know why?” The younger managers typically don’t worry so much about that, but they want to know how: “How do I get through to my people?” This is where leadership comes in.

Over my career, I have benefited by working with and for some excellent leaders. From them, I learned these three leadership lessons:

  1. Establish credibility,
  2. Have vision, and
  3. Show a genuine interest in the personal welfare for each individual on your team.

1. Establish credibility

Although it always helps to have strong technical or functional skills, today there is more focus on a leader’s emotional intelligence. Can you tune in to your people as individuals and see things from their point of view? Three steps for establishing this type of credibility are:

1. Be Fair – Use the same rules for everyone. While you outwardly recognize that everyone is an individual and has their own wants and needs, they will all work under the same rules. Don’t play favorites.

2. Be Consistent – Don’t change the rules. What was important yesterday should be important today. Part of this will be working with a common vision.

3. Communicate – It doesn’t matter if you’re fair and consistent if people don’t know what is expected of them. Communication is a two-way street. You need to ask their opinions on how and why things happened and what should be done in the future. The final decision is yours, but gather all the facts before making it.

2. Have vision

Work from a plan and toward the future: your desired future is your vision. Knowing where you want to be as a company in 5-10 years inspires people, especially millennials who want to know their career path. Your vision should include where your company fits into the betterment of your community and overall way of life. It should also inspire people. These are the differences that keep people from leaving and make them want to do more, even without you looking over their shoulder.

3. Show a genuine interest in the personal welfare for each person on your team

This may be the most important lesson I’ve learned. When people know that you truly care about their welfare, they will care about yours. But it must be genuine.

You have to take risks if your people are going to grow. Give them the vision and the tools and then trust them to get the job done. They’ll not only grow, they’ll respect you more for allowing them to do so.

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