Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Seven Indispensable Insights on Culture

Monday, February 24th, 2020

In several of my books and seminars I stress the importance of building and protecting a high performing culture. “Culture” is often an overused word that many managers have trouble defining in precise terms. Following are seven rules and insights into the importance of culture, building a high performing culture, and protecting it from cultural infections.

1. Culture influences behaviors, and behaviors determine results. This one sentence conveys a key principle to improving performance in your dealership. It’s easy to overlook this tenet and try to change or improve employee behaviors without changing or improving the culture in which those behaviors are found; to hack at the leaves rather than strike at the root. Culture is defined as a collection of beliefs, values, traditions and practices shared by a group of people. Naturally the strength of those beliefs, values, traditions, and practices – as reflected in performance expectations, accountability, teamwork, and quality leadership – go a long way in determining how people behave and perform within that culture day-in and day-out.

2. The leader is the chief architect and primary influencer of culture. While everyone contributes to shaping the culture, as well as to strengthening or weakening it, no one has the level of influence in this regard as the leader(s). In fact, the culture a leader builds, and the quality of people he or she is able to attract and develop make up a significant portion of that leader’s report card. And the culture he or she creates goes a long way in determining the quality of people one is able to attract, develop, and retain within the organization.

3. Culture is the foundation of your organization. Just as in erecting a building, without the right foundation supporting the structure you’ll be limited as to how high you can go. Thus, whenever one wants to go higher results-wise, he or she must first go back to the foundation and strengthen each of culture’s five primary pillars.

4. The five key pillars of culture are: core values, mission, performance expectations, core competencies, and people. Think of these five pillars as supporting the foundation mentioned in the prior point. Core values relate to your non-negotiable behavioral standards – regardless what type of numbers someone produces they must do it the right away, according to your values. Mission is the shared purpose uniting your entire team from all departments. A team becomes unstoppable when they passionately believe in and pursue the same purpose. Performance expectations relate to the “numbers:” how many calls per day, sales per month, getting receivables to a specific level monthly, producing the monthly statement by “x” date of the month, “x” hours per RO, and the like. Please note that the first three pillars of culture all relate to clarity. Without clarity you have chaos in the cubicles and there can be no accountability because the question becomes, “Accountable for what?” Thus, if you have core values or a mission statement that are never discussed or that no one knows, or cloudy performance expectations that are too vague, too low, or for which there is no accompanying accountability, your culture is weakened dramatically.

The core competency pillar of culture pertains to the corporate strengths that make your culture unique, different, and better than the competition. Too often, leaders ignore their strengths precisely because they are strong, and never fully edify their culture by putting more talent, dollars, and resources into the areas where they already excel, which could pull them further away from the competition. The people pillar of culture is the key. Nothing makes a culture stronger, weaker, or more memorable to a customer—for better or for worse—than the people that comprise that culture. The people must share your core values, believe in your mission, have the skills to reach your performance expectations and the talents to align with and leverage your core competencies.

5. Culture is never “finished.” In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the day you think culture is done, YOU are done, and it’ll eventually catch up with you. Think of culture as you would a garden that requires constant attention and can’t be left to fend for itself, lest it be devoured by the weeds, bugs, disease and elements. This is why isolated leaders who spend more time polishing their office chair with their rear end than out in the trenches helping to shape culture, eventually plateau or fail outright as they leave their culture up for grabs to be shaped, rather than actively shape it in the right image.

6. Culture must align with your vision. It does little good to have lofty goals or forecasts if you don’t have the core values, purpose, standards, strengths, and people to make it a reality. Again, if you’re missing the numbers you’ve got to stop engaging in quick-fixes or silver bullets and return to your cultural foundation and address the aspects of your five pillars that are making your vision turn into a frustrating nightmare.

7. Multiple cultures hurt an organization. Culture is palpable. You can feel the energy and positivity when it’s present, as well as the indifference and lethargy when it prevails. In most dealerships there are multiple cultures: one department where people are engaged, helping one another, growing, and setting records; and forty feet away you walk into a different department and feel like the kid in the movie The Sixth Sense who uttered the classic line, “I see dead people.” You’d like to think that the stronger departmental cultures would lift up the weaker cultures, but normally the opposite happens: the weaker culture within the same rooftop distracts, depletes, slows down, frustrates and drains the more robust unit. That’s why it’s essential that all departmental leaders are on the same page in matters like hiring practices, living the core values, demonstrating high standards, and continuing to grow and prove themselves daily.

There’s a ton more we could discuss concerning culture, but this piece should give you plenty to look at, evaluate, and work on for now. As a parting thought, at the end of the day there are really only two ways to change a struggling or underperforming culture: the leader either changes what he or she does daily, or the leader must be changed. You simply can’t work around a leader who won’t consistently do what’s right or productive and expect anything to change within a culture measurably or sustainably.

Three Tips to Tackle Turnover

Monday, February 24th, 2020

Dave Anderson

In over 20 years of speaking with organizations worldwide, one of the most common concerns I see among leaders wishing to measurably grow their organization is employee turnover. Without question, people are the most important component of an organization’s culture, and while some turnover is good (for example, the removal of cultural misfits like non-performers and toxic achievers), the costs incurred when your top talent voluntarily walks out the door are staggering. Many leaders are quick to look out the window and blame the competition’s better benefits, increased pay, and more. The hard truth is, you can’t control the competition or afford to get involved in wage wars with them – frankly I’ve never known a person that became more loyal through an increase in pay. When looking at the countless business studies and reports on retention, it’s clear that the place we should really be looking as leaders when it comes to retaining our human capital is within the mirror and on the things we can control. Let’s address three of the most cited causes of employee turnover, in no particular order.

1. No advancement opportunities or room to grow. Let’s face it, high performers want to grow, to be empowered, and to gain new responsibilities. In some organizations this becomes a challenge because there are limited slots to advance into. Let me stop you before you even start using this as an excuse. If this describes your organization, you can still show an employee how to grow in their current position and make an outstanding income by doing the following:

Setting stretch goals. If they don’t make the individual do something other than “business as usual” it won’t stretch or inspire them. This is all about helping them discover their potential, and they’ll never find out how far they can go when you enable them to play it safe.

Forming special rewards for top performers. Great rewards should be reserved for those that bring immense value to the team. Give your best to the best, and less to the rest. That being said, what rewards are you currently giving away that you need to tie performance and achievement into? Cultures of merit attract and retain A-players; cultures of entitlement attract moochers.

Training continually to show there is still room to grow. The best organizational cultures understand that talent doesn’t arrive fully developed, and that it must be resourced through continual coaching, mentoring, and training. If you have great people and you don’t consistently commit to growing them to their full potential, you don’t deserve them.

2. Hiring the wrong person. The sooner you stop winging it and get a real hiring process, the sooner you’ll stop onboarding people that leave (whether voluntarily or not) because you’ll do a better job of weeding out people that never belonged in the first place. One mis-hire alone is enough to damage your brand image, organizational culture, team member experience, momentum, and more – and that doesn’t even begin to include the financial costs that accompanies. Evaluate your process for the following:

Be proactive. The worst time to hire is out of desperation. Just as in sales we build a pipeline of prospects, the same applies in recruiting. Build your recruiting database of top talent before you need to rely on it.

Have a rigorous hiring process. The easier you make it for someone to get a job on your team, the less they’ll appreciate it. Top performers are looking for a challenge, not just a paycheck.

Build an environment that attracts candidates from competitors. Similar to the principles in the first point of this article, you’ll need to identify what specifically differentiates you: unmatched opportunities to grow, exciting or challenging work, special rewards for top performers, etc.

Use predictive testing to make certain you are hiring people wired for the work you need them to do. Some things like attitude, character, drive, etc. you simply cannot teach to someone. You need to determine whether that candidate has what it takes internally, and is bringing these “unteachables” to the table before you begin investing your limited time, energies, and resources.

3. Disengagement or lack of meaningful work. There’s no question about it, without meaningful work, life stinks. Do the following to lend meaning to your workplace:

Create a vision as outlined in the first point and show people where they fit into the big picture. Good people look for the opportunity to make a difference and be a part of something larger than themselves, and want more than just a job.

Motivate people as unique individuals and not like another head in a herd of cattle. If you don’t know your people on an individual level, and what makes them tick, you can’t move them or your team to greatness.

Give plenty of positive reinforcement when people hit it to let them know they are valued and not taken for granted. People like to know when they’re doing well, and where they need to improve. When you’re inconsistent, slow, or absent in feedback, it’s hard for your people to know where they stand.

There are many more things that can drive employee turnover, but this sampling alone demonstrates that one of the first places a leader should turn to when people leave his or her team, is within. Fortunately, all of this is in your power to fix and control, but knowing is only the first step in the journey – doing comes next. Close the gap between knowing and doing, and resolve to minimize your turnover today.

Shift into Attack Mode

Friday, January 31st, 2020

Einstein famously observed that insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result. Early in a new year is an ideal time to evaluate your dealership for “insane” behaviors and make needed adjustments.
One key reason dealership leadership fails in this regard is that their current success drains urgency and fosters complacency. They point to how well they’ve done and use it as a permission slip to pledge allegiance to the status quo, and thus precipitate their eventual decline by adopting a maintenance – rather than a stretching – mindset and approach.
Even if you’re at the top of your game, if you aspire to climb higher, it’s important to remember that whatever got you here won’t get you there. In fact, if what got you here were enough to get you there, you’d already be there; and the fact you’re not there indicates something must change. Following are three basic but essential first quarter resolutions to evaluate and consider, and to adjust as necessary, to shift your dealership into attack mode early in the first quarter – a quarter that goes a long way in setting the tempo and pace for 2020

  1. Define or redefine performance standards for each department, and for each team member within that department.

If you want great job performance you’ve got to define it, train people to execute it, and hold them accountable daily for doing so. Here are five guidelines for performance standards:

• They should be in writing and gone over with each team member. If you’re not serious enough to put them in writing and have people sign off to acknowledge you’ve explained them and they understand them, you’re just not serious enough about results, period.
• There should be consequences for performance failure. The difference between a performance standard and a performance suggestion is the consequence.
• They should be introduced in a positive manner, and not in a threatening, high-handed manner. Something like this may work well for you:

Team, it’s early in a new year and we have some lofty goals to hit in 2020. As I look in the mirror, I realize I haven’t been as clear as I should be in the past concerning what I expect from each of you and by when. I own that, and I’m changing it today. When this meeting is over, I want to get with each of you individually and get us on the same page with clearer targets that will help you become more successful and take better care of your families. If we all step up a little bit this year, we can make something very special happen in this dealership.
• You need a blend of activity and outcome performance standards. Most dealerships do far better with the latter: “x” number of units this month, “X” hours per RO, etc. However, since the activities create the outcomes, you can dramatically improve performance by doing a better job of outlining the key daily activities in each position most predictive of attaining the desired outcome and holding people accountable for executing those vital daily actions.

• When you redefine performance standards make sure they’re high enough. The sweet spot for performance standards is to ensure they’re neither too high nor too low, because people mentally check out in either case. The key is to believe in your heart that they can be attained, but that they can’t be attained with business-as-usual activities or efforts. Something must change. Low expectations presume incompetence. High expectations on the other hand create a healthy urgency to stretch, make better use of time, and more.

Concerning creating clear performance standards, keep in mind that you should never apologize for being clear, for expecting a lot, or for establishing consequences for performance failure. Rather, you should apologize for the opposite: being unclear, creating confusion and indifference, and allowing people to underperform on your watch and miss their potential as individuals and as teammates.

2. Establish growth objectives for yourself and each team member for 2020.

Where do you and your people need to improve this year: time management, accountability, a high structured daily routine, more discipline, better attitudes, improved skill development, stronger coaching skills, improving hiring techniques, etc.? Here’s some hard truth for you: life isn’t just going to come along and magically improve you or anyone else in your dealership in key areas like those mentioned. You don’t improve by showing up, but by stepping up. You and they must become more intentional in your growth development. Intentional means on purpose; it’s about getting specific and outlining a growth path for you and them in the areas most relevant to your position and needs.
A key leadership tenet is this: If you want your team to get better you’ve got to get better, and just showing up isn’t enough to pull that off. You’ve got to step up and specifically outline growth objectives for yourself, resource those growth objectives, and do the same for each team member. It’ll cost you time and money, but the cost of not getting better is staggering.

3. Drop your “go-to” excuse(s).

This is a mindset issue, and it’s become a devastating habit for managers and dealers alike. When things don’t go well these weak-sticks whip out their black belt in blame and belch out their “go-to” excuse for why they missed the mark: “the time of year,” “the competition is giving cars away,” “the weather is bad,” “the inventory isn’t right,” “another department is screwing up,” “the manufacturer is the problem,” “the advertisers aren’t doing their job,” and the like. This verbal vomit does a highly effective job of taking one’s focus off the aspects of the job he or she can control, and places it on things they can often do little or nothing about; which, in turn, renders the leader to a contagious victim-status that infects the team and should disqualify one from the privilege of leadership. While some or all the elements listed—external conditions—may impair results to a degree it is one’s daily decisions more than conditions that ultimately determines their success. Excuses are the DNA of underachievers. They make you common, unproductive, and undesirable. Make 2020 the year you give them up so you can go up! After all, at the end of the day, a leader’s lame, tame, shameful excuses for why he or she didn’t get the job done they’re being paid to do may be the most blatant example of insanity of all. Do better in 2020!

YOU Go First

Monday, November 25th, 2019

As a leader, you should never let a focus and commitment to improve yourself get old or become forgotten. In fact, little will improve measurably or sustainably in your organization until you do. While leaders who complain about their boss, team, culture and more abound, those who admit that, “I’m the problem,” “I need to improve,” or “I need to be more prepared” are sadly rare.

A key to building a better culture, growing people better, and bettering your organization is for you as a leader to get better first. Without question, organizational excellence begins with the personal growth, sacrifice, and integrity of the leaders. And while the potential strategies for building a better you cover a wide range of topics I could relate in this space, I’ll present four key areas that, once you work to improve them personally, will dramatically and positively impact culture, people, and results. If you’re struggling with these keep in mind that this perspective isn’t about beating yourself up but picking yourself up and seizing these opportunities to improve.

  1. Control your emotions. It’s embarrassing to see and hear people who’ve been entrusted with leadership positions spend their days reacting, stressed out, and losing it with people because they lack emotional control. Lack of emotional control disconnects you from followers, distracts people, lowers their morale, and breaks momentum. It also isolates you as people are afraid to tell you what’s really going on because they know you’ll handle it poorly. Certainly, there are instances when showing more emotion, rather than pretending all is well when it’s not, can be helpful. However, demonstrating the wisdom to know when to delay, suspend, or display variances in their emotion is a skill many leaders don’t bother to work on.

One tip for controlling your emotions is to practice the discipline to stop doing what comes naturally and behave more intentionally. “Intentionally” means on purpose, and by consciously working to increase the time between a provocation and your response—if even by a few seconds—you can elevate the quality and maturity of your verbal and email responses, tone on voicemails, and more. By paying more attention to timing, what you say, and how you say it (tone), you’ll go a long way in demonstrating emotional control that makes you more approachable, engaging, mature, trustworthy and in control.

2. Control your language. Words matter – a lot; and, coming from a leader their impact is multiplied exponentially. Profanity, insults, sarcasm, gossip, complaining, badmouthing co-workers, other departments, or the competition, and more are – just as lack of emotional control is – a distraction. It also makes you look ignorant, weak, classless, immature, and bereft of common respect, intelligence, and courtesies. If you can’t control your language in areas I’ve mentioned and others like them, you have no business preaching to your people to be more productive. Everything on the list of examples in this point is incredibly unproductive and your engaging in them is leading by example – a terrible one! And if realizing the impact your words have on others, not to mention your own focus and attitude, and resolving to clean it up is too much to ask, then you should get out of leadership and go find something you can do with integrity.

3. Swallow your pride. My guess is that some readers won’t address the first two issues I’ve listed to improve thus far, because they’re incapable of executing this third opportunity for leadership growth: swallowing one’s own pride. Frankly, pride comes naturally to us flawed human beings, which is why an intentional effort to cultivate humility is necessary as a lifelong journey. Often, management failures which are misattributed to other causes have pride at the core. For example, consider how the following four leadership actions all have pride as their root cause:

A. You don’t build a solid and growing team.

Because of your pride/ego/arrogance, you don’t see the need for a team as long as you’re there! You don’t delegate or let anyone else make decisions. You are reluctant to give up any type of power as you feel it will diminish your importance.

B. You don’t listen to others.

Arrogance causes us to overvalue ourselves and devalue others. It manifests in instances like rarely implementing anyone else’s ideas and treating any disagreement with you like mutiny, without even considering the validity of points raised. Failing to listen also causes you to routinely cut people off and finish their sentences for them. In addition, your pride causes you to barely tolerate feedback on your performance and most probably to resent it.

C. You are a know-it-all.

Similar to not listening to others, but egregious enough to have earned its own category, having a “been there and done that” attitude where you believe that you pretty much have it all figured out is pride of Biblical proportions. If this is you, you probably don’t read books in your field, attend seminars or peer group meetings, and treat training like it is punishment.

D. You fail to give away credit or to deflect praise for your performance to your team.

You may rarely ever tell anyone else they do a good job, and are far more prone to let them know how much better they could have done so their success doesn’t “go to their head.” At the same time, you never feel like your own efforts are appropriately appreciated. Thus, when things go well you hog the credit because you’re more committed to building your image than to building your team

4. Shift your focus from success to significance. The primary difference between success and significance is two feet. Here’s what I mean: Being successful is all about you (what you get, how far you go, and the like). To become significant, you must positively impact someone else. Thus, the two feet I refer to are a left and right foot that belong to someone else…someone whom you bring across the finish line with you by empowering, mentoring, stretching, and impacting in a way that changes the course of their career and life. Incidentally, failing to improve the three previous opportunities listed, makes it not only tougher, but highly unlikely, you’ll be able to positively impact others in a manner that will help you become significant as their leader.

Drop the Leadership Lunacy

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019


As I continue with the third in a series of articles on the topic of generational leadership it’s important to prioritize focusing less on what makes each generation different, or what makes different generations “difficult,” and instead get back to leadership basics that impact all generations for better and worse. Thus far I’ve outlined important workplace aspects ALL generations want, respond well to, and are more productive as a result of, and will now cover a handful of universal dislikes shared by all. Keep in mind that it doesn’t require a volume of these missteps to adversely affect morale, retention, growth, cultural strength, and results. They all matter and their persistence within your culture can easily offset the positive things you do. Now, look in the mirror and invest your energies into the areas you can control and change.

  • Oppressive work schedules. This is the old school tendency to measure and celebrate people more for the hours they put in than by the quality of work they put in the hours.

It’s both unproductive and misguided to mistake hours worked for effectiveness while working. There’s nothing wrong with people wanting their time off so they can enjoy their families, hobbies, and have a life away from work. Help people from all generations become productive enough so they can get more done in less time and leave the dealership, and they’ll be less-stressed, more fulfilled, and increasingly productive when they are there.

  • Rewarding or celebrating longevity over results.

Tenure is not defined as “loyal,” but instead refers to seniority and longevity. Loyalty is defined as “faithfulness to one’s duties and obligations.” In other words, loyalty is doing your job well. Tenured people can be, and often are, your most valuable and productive people if their leaders create a culture where they can thrive, and don’t take them for granted because they’ve been there so long.

The other side of the coin is that tenure can become a license for laziness, as when someone takes something in life for granted—a job included—they often become lazy there. If you have long-term people who when they officially retire it will be for the second time, you need to address that. Hard working, productive people with less seniority are distracted and disgusted by senior people who are held to a lower standard of values, work ethic, and results.

  • Too many or unproductive meetings.

In a faster-paced society and leaner workplace, people at all levels are spread thinner and more readily resent wasted or unproductive time in many regards, but especially in meetings – particularly high performers. Too many or unproductive meetings are one reason people must work longer to get done at work what they could have achieved in less time, with fewer meetings.

  • Public chastisement or humiliation.

This is a foolish practice perpetuated by leaders who: possess little or unstable emotional control; are plagued by immaturity; or are insecure and/or angry at themselves, and therefore prone to take it out on others. Public chastisement or humiliation beats people down and causes them to mentally check out on you. And it doesn’t matter whether someone is eighteen or eighty; people don’t like this lunacy.

Also note, that while this is an imprudent practice to inflict on anyone, it normally has an even greater detrimental impact on those younger or less experienced, who may feel more vulnerable and be particularly sensitive to being talked down to or disrespected.

  • Inconsistency in practices, processes, and leadership temperament.

Inconsistency in the areas outlined creates tentative and skeptical followers, and tentative and skeptical followers are more prone to play not to lose than to win. The Lombardi adage is true: “It’s hard to be aggressive when you’re confused.”

Inconsistency can result from a lack of commitment, trying to do too much at once, unclear higher-ups, confusion over objectives, the pursuit of instant gratification, and more. Inconsistency in the areas mentioned, and others like them, can result in team members being indifferent, unenthusiastic, and unconcerned about what is new since they don’t expect it to last long anyhow.

  • Leading by a lousy example.

Everyone leads by example. The question is, “What’s the example?” Leading by a poor example covers a lot of ground: being late to work, bad-mouthing other departments, making excuses, not keeping commitments, failing to live values, lack of consistency, and more. Demonstrating this lunacy breaks trust, destroys your credibility and pretty much makes you a running joke among team members of all generations.

  • The endless pursuit of silver bullets and “flavors of the month.”

Failure to commit to, and stick with, processes, programs, or other initiatives because it’s difficult or unpopular, or because an alternative looks easier—even if it doesn’t work as well—is a sure and common way to confuse, frustrate, and create skepticism from the team. At the end of the day, a lack of follow through from management is a momentum-breaker and creates a perception that managers are either clueless, indecisive, or apathetic; maybe even all three.

  • Valuing likability over performance.

Managers lose credibility and hurt morale when people are favored or retained because they “like” a person despite the fact they don’t meet performance and/or behavioral standards. When “who you know” or “who you are friends with” creates more job security than performance, you create a culture of compromise, double-talk, and hypocrisy that presents a persistent distraction for those doing their job well.

  • Valuing performance over integrity.

Tolerating team members who violate values, cut corners, and don’t take care of customers or care about teammates simply because they perform well numbers-wise can destroy your culture and credibility. These toxic achievers hold others down through distractions, drama, and egregious example. Leaders who fail to address the situation look like incompetent, gutless, sell-outs; not the kind of person anyone wants to follow for long, if at all.

There are no perfect leaders so let me take some pressure off you: you’re not the exception. But to lead effectively across all generations you’ve got to clean up lunacy like this in your own culture and within your leadership style or you and your team will continue to miss what could be and should be. Face it, fix it, and get better.

Build on Common Ground

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019


As I continue with a series of articles on the topic of generational leadership it’s important to shift our thinking away from what makes each generation different, or what makes different generations “difficult,” and instead get back to leadership basics and outline important aspects of a workplace that ALL generations want, respond well to, and are more productive as a result of. While there are, and will always be, specific tweaks in style, approach, verbiage, etc., that more successfully resonates and connects with a single generation over another, it’s foolish to exert disproportionate effort to get more from a single group when key leadership responsibilities that would elevate all generations are neglected. Thus, evaluate your dealership’s strength and health on this checklist and build on – and rally around – the desires of all workers regardless of their generation, ethnicity, gender, experience level, or socio-economic background.

  1. Working with high-quality people
    Frankly, no one wants to work with idiots, incompetents, or the corrupt. Having dependable, respectful, competent, and caring teammates improves one’s work life and quality of life overall. This all starts of course with how well you hire and develop your human capital.
    Here’s a check-up question: Who have you hired that you wouldn’t rehire if given a second chance? Second question: Why are they still there?
  2. Being part of a strong and exclusive culture.
    This includes understanding and seeing value in three primary things:
    • What a team member has a chance to become personally as part of that culture, through development and advancement.
    • Based on your values and purpose, the people you surround them with, and community involvement, will they feel a part of something special by belonging to that culture?
    • Are they trained, equipped, and empowered to make a difference as a member of that culture—both for teammates, and customers?
    Check-up question: If you were recruiting someone, list one specific and compelling benefit you would give for each of these three cultural aspects:
    • What you have a chance to become.
    • Why this place is exclusive (not everyone can be one of us) and what you will be a part of.
    • How they will have a chance to make a difference working here.
  3. Having managers who “get” them, recognize their unique abilities, and know what motivates them as individuals.
    No one from any generation will have much interest in, or be willing to, try to understand you as a leader and where you’re coming from, until they first feel understood by you.
    Check-up question: Who on your team, or that you work with often, do you not “get” (understand how to motivate)? What can you do to change that? Hint: perhaps spend more time with them asking questions than giving answers.
  4. Knowing what is expected and what success looks like.
    This refers especially to performance expectations and behavioral standards (core values).
    Check-up question: Which performance expectations or core values do you believe aren’t clear or emphasized enough? How will you change that?
  5. Receiving fast, clear, conversational, candid, honest, and respectful feedback on performance.
    This includes affirmation for good performances and coaching for correction and improvement.
    Check-up question: Which aspect of feedback listed above do you need the most work to improve? Circle it. What will you do to change that?
  6. Being part of something bigger than themselves.
    This relates to a meaningful vision for their department and/or the dealership overall, and includes understanding their role, and what’s in it for themselves and the team when they’re successful.
    Check-up question: How alive and compelling is your department/organization’s vision at this time, and how clearly do they see their own potential to contribute? How can you improve either aspect?
  7. Accountability conversations, not verbal “beat-downs.”
    Effective accountability discussions are: conversational in nature, respectful in tone and words, private, specific, fair, and firm.
    Check-up question: Which aspect about the nature of an effective accountability conversation, as listed above, do you need the most work on and what will you do to change that?
  8. A compelling career path.
    This includes not only where someone can “go,” but how you can help get them there, as well as clarifying their part, and yours, in the process. A compelling career path isn’t always about “moving up,” but about improving one’s abilities and broadening his or her responsibilities within the position they’re already in as well.
    Check-up question: Which of the listed aspects of laying out a compelling career path do you need to improve most? How can you improve that, and with whom does this need to be done?
  9. Empowerment to make decisions, make changes, and contribute to and implement ideas and strategies.
    Empowerment requires trust, and trust is reciprocal; so is distrust. Micromanagement communicates the latter. No generation appreciates distrust or covets being micromanaged.
    Check-up question: Are there trivial decisions you’re making now that you could train and empower your team members to make? If so, list them and determine how you can best hand this off to others and thereby empower them.
  10. Being let in on things.
    No news isn’t good news when people feel left on the outside looking-in, and they will begin to believe it’s “us against them so watch your own back because no one else will.”
    Check-up question: Is there an area where you can improve communication with your team concerning what is going on as far as: marketing; process/schedule changes; training schedules; results updates; their own performance; your various meetings/agendas; or other instances that would let them feel more tuned-in to what’s going on in their department and organization overall? Circle which of the aspects listed leaves you the most room for improvement, or add your own that isn’t listed.
  11. Effective and consistent training, and an efficient structure to help them work smarter and harder (more productive during the day) so they don’t have to always work longer to make a living.
    People from all generations want a quality of life that includes enough time to spend with family, pursue hobbies, friendships, exercise, community involvement, and the like — in other words, to have a life. However, until they get better at work, or are adequately staffed at work, they normally must spend more time there to get done what they could have achieved in less time if they were better at work and properly staffed. Being “better” at work not only includes being competent enough and having enough help, but working within structures and processes that are modern, effective, and efficient.
    Check-up question: Which aspects of your training or one-on-ones are inconsistent or ineffective? Are there any components of your process that make it more difficult for people to get the job done; or, that make it take longer to get it done than is necessary (red tape, too many steps, archaic technology, and the like)? What are they, and what will you do improve this?
  12. An authentic leader.
    An authentic leader: is real, sincere, and trustworthy; admits mistakes; is unwavering under pressure; is without pretense, duplicity, and hidden agendas; and is not two-faced or a people-pleaser. This is someone who, even when you don’t like where he or she stands on a matter, you at least know where they stand and what they stand for.
    Check-up question: Which of the traits of authenticity, if any, would your team rate you lowest in? What will you do to improve this?

There are many other cultural commonalities that all generations want and benefit from, but these twelve are a good place to start addressing. In my next column on generational leadership I’ll present a second list: foolish and unproductive things managers do that must be corrected because of their adverse effect on all generations.

Leading Across Generations

Friday, July 5th, 2019

Leading Across Generations

Much has been written and spoken over the decades on adjustments leaders must make to connect with and get the most out of a specific generation. And while mindsets and behaviors from each generation have specific nuances, traits, and tendencies – influenced by culture, current trends, upbringing, the arts, religion, politics, and social movements – there are needs and desires that run common through all people, and essential leadership tenets you can’t afford to ignore with any generation.
In fact, it can be foolish to put so much focus on a particular generation that you overlook leadership basics that would positively impact all people on your team. Getting back to basics in leadership is about reviewing, retooling, and recommitting to these commonsense aspects of relationships and development, to strengthen the foundation of one’s personal leadership and the organization overall. My next several columns will address aspects of generational leadership excerpted from a training program I’ve developed on the topic, starting with a series of foundational thoughts on the topic and extending to: positive workplace aspects you must have in place to affect all generations; foolish practices you must eliminate that are detrimental to all team members; and a series of keys to connecting with, influencing, and getting the most out of every person on your team: regardless their age or background.

Four Foundational Thoughts on Generational Leadership:

1. It is common to believe it’s always “them” that is peculiar or needs to change, when the fact is, it is all of us that is peculiar or needs to change from the eyes of someone different than ourselves. In leadership, influencing others for the better always starts with changing our own mindset and behaviors. It is incumbent on leaders to adapt to connect with their followers, and not wait for followers to connect with them.

Frankly, not much changes for any of us until something changes within us. And very often that means realizing the changes you must make personally in priorities, energy, and investment to better connect with, develop, inspire, and retain all team members.

2. The fact is that even within the same generation, a leader must adapt his or her approach to fit the person, and won’t find it effective to attempt to influence, motivate, or impact all in the same way. One of my favorite quotes of Coach Vince Lombardi says it well: “You’ve got to know them to move them. My job is to learn forty different ways to move forty different men.”

As a leader, you’ll more likely get to “know” people at a deeper level with meaningful conversations, than with memos, emails, or daily “drive-bys,” where you bustle through the workplace and have mostly incidental conversations with people about the weather or favorite ball team as you hurry off to review numbers in your office. While it’s not possible to effectively know everyone in an organization, as a leader your priority must be those in your direct charge or with whom you interact with most often.

3. When we spend too much time trying to understand or connect with a specific generation, we normally do it at the expense of ignoring or taking other generations for granted. This is why revisiting aspects and strategies that work with ALL generations is an essential place to reboot our leadership growth and impact. From that foundation, one can tweak verbiage, styles, and approaches accordingly.

Becoming brilliant in the basics of sound leadership and people principles, and never veering from those aspects too often or for too long, is essential to your continued growth and fulfillment as a leader.

By the very definition of human nature (the general psychological characteristics, feelings, and behavioral traits of humankind, regarded as shared by ALL humans) we’re reminded of the commonalities between all people, and that should prompt us to always focus there as these common aspects of influence, connection, and people development are foundational.

4. While you can’t change those from different generations, you can influence the way others think, which in turn will change behaviors and results for that person. This is because one’s mindset influences their behaviors, and behaviors create results. Too many managers want to change someone’s results without first influencing the person how to think differently about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and how they’re doing it. But without a meaningful relationship with that person (normally because you don’t spend enough quality time with them), your ability to influence them is impaired—and this applies to anyone from any generation.

Building productive workplace relationships takes time, work, and consistency; but, there’s little you can invest your time in that brings a greater return. It actually requires far more work in the long run to try to get more from someone with whom you have a poor relationship and never really connected with – or when you to have to replace that person because they either failed or left due to your leadership neglect.

In a follow up column, I’ll go into greater detail concerning The Relationship Factor, but I’ll introduce it here as it demonstrates how foundational it is to influencing and impacting all people on your team at a higher level.
Relationship Factor: The strength of workplace relationships one has with another determines the depth of influence one has with that person, and the depth of that influence determines the extent of positive impact one may have on a person.

Bearing the Relationship Factor in mind, how much time did you spend last week intentionally endeavoring to build a productive workplace relationship with your direct reports from all generations so you can more greatly influence and impact them in their job? What’s scheduled in that regard for this week? If you’re spending too much time with stuff and not enough time with people, nothing is going to change much for you relationally with your people, until you re-prioritize your people to their proper place.

Be the Coach Your People Deserve

Friday, May 17th, 2019


Ken Blanchard called feedback the “breakfast of champions,” and rightfully so, because we all need feedback in order to grow and develop to our fullest potential. When done properly, coaching those on your team and giving them quality feedback is one of the highest return uses of your time; however, when it comes to giving feedback, many leaders today are more of a critic than they are a coach. They point out what’s wrong without offering the individual any coaching that would allow them to adjust and bring better performance day in and day out.
Criticism without coaching doesn’t elevate people – it frustrates people. What follows are some key principles of coaching, and some steps to make sure you’re the coach your people deserve, and not just a critic of them. But first, let’s first define and recognize what it means to be a critic, and what it means to be a coach, so you can better assess your style of giving feedback.
A critic is defined as “one who expresses displeasure or an unfavorable opinion about someone or something.” Simply put, criticism without coaching is merely expressing displeasure and leaving it at that – not exactly the balanced feedback “breakfast” necessary to grow, develop, and invest in the people on our team.
A coach on the other hand is defined as “someone who gives private teaching, a trainer or coach.” Make no mistake, a coach will also express displeasure concerning poor behaviors or performance, but the difference is that he or she will also provide instruction on how to improve.
With a better understanding of what it means to be a critic, and a coach, let’s look further at the differences between them.

  1. To improve performance, a coach will provide feedback concerning poor performance, and immediately follow it up by redefining a performance expectation.

The coach will do this both conversationally and sincerely, without getting personal, profane, loud, or reminding the offender of their past flaws and faults as the critic does.

2. To improve performance a good coach will show the person what good performance looks like if necessary.

By redefining the performance expectation with the individual, you’re setting the standard. By modeling and demonstrating the good performance that you’re looking for, you’re setting the example.

3. To further reinforce his or her point, the coach will explain why it’s important to perform the task or duty in the manner prescribed.

A great demonstration of what you’re looking for, by itself, is not enough to help coach the individual to greater levels of performance. This is why the best leaders in any field explain the “why” behind it. They understand that people are more likely to apply the “how,” and live with the “what,” if they first understand the “why.”

4. To test the individual’s comprehension of the feedback and the example demonstrated, a coach will ask the person to perform the task again to demonstrate their understanding of the proper technique.
The only way you can know for sure that people get it is to test them, and let them show you that they’ve got it.

5. If the person requires further training to be able to perform the task or create the desired outcome, the coach will provide the resources necessary to support the person.

Strong cultures understand that talent doesn’t arrive fully developed, and that a ferocious dedication must be made to training, coaching, and mentoring employees. Identifying and resourcing a team member’s growth by providing tools, experience, mentors, training or additional practice are key ways the coach supports and helps build the skillset necessary for the person to perform well.

6. Once the performance improves a coach will reinforce the change or improved behavior.

This is because behaviors that are reinforced and rewarded are more likely to be repeated. But remember, the longer you wait to reinforce the behavior, the less impact it has. Reinforce often and quickly when you’re trying to influence behavioral and performance changes.

7. If necessary, the coach will establish consequences for the performer if the poor behavior or performance continues.

If you want to change a behavior, you must change the consequence for that behavior. As the saying goes, “If nothing changes, nothing changes.”

8. Even when establishing consequences, a good coach will affirm belief in the performer and his or her ability.

This is because the coach understands the consequence being established is something they’re doing FOR the person, not TO the person, as the sole objective of a consequence is to improve performance.

In summary, a critic is good at finding and pointing out faults or flaws; and, while a coach does likewise, his or her primary objective is to create the structure and tools necessary to eliminate the flaws. The coach is not just a “finder” but a “fixer.”


With these points in mind, are you more of a critic or a coach? If you were to randomly survey team members on your coaching and feedback abilities would they agree? If not, or if you’re unsure, the good news is that you can fix that by bringing more focus to applying the principles shared here, and adding value to your people, so they in turn can add more value to the organization.


As a parting thought, if you have good people who are being hamstrung by criticism without coaching, don’t expect them to endure or stay in your ranks for long. They won’t put up with the abuse, nor should they, making it all the more important that you step up and be the coach they deserve – and that you not wait until it’s too late to do so.


Leading with Level One Accountability

Friday, April 19th, 2019

There are four levels of accountability in any organization, and within the departments of that organization. And while each department, and the organization itself, is normally a blend of all four levels depending on the time of the month, the leader of that department, and other factors, there is one level that will dominate. As I share the four levels, evaluate which most dominates the area you spend most of your time, and what steps can be taken to improve accountability there. Whichever level dominates will tell a lot about the leader, culture, and team members in each department; and, if you want to improve performance, you’ll need to improve the level of accountability therein.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  1. In high-performing cultures, accountability is everyone’s job. This is because lack of accountability from one person may affect performance, the employee experience, and the customer experience throughout the organization.
  2. Accountability isn’t about punishment; although, it may eventually require consequences. The real and true objective of accountability is to improve performance. Because of this, holding others accountable means you care enough about people and the team overall to swiftly and firmly address issues that affect the team’s performance, and the individual’s future.

The Four Levels of Accountability

  1. Level Four: No accountability.

At this level there is no accountability — no meaningful consequence for poor behaviors or performance. The more often Level Four persists, the weaker the culture, morale, momentum, the brand, and results overall become.

Example: someone comes to work late, violates a core value, fails to follow a process, misses a deadline, fails to keep a commitment and the like, and nothing happens.

Without question, the more present Level Four accountability is within a department: the weaker the culture will be; the more morale will suffer; the greater results will be more erratic, and the more the leader’s credibility will be seriously impaired.

  1. Level Three: Top-Down accountability.

Top-down accountability is when a supervisor addresses poor performance or behavior. It is necessary, it’s a positive thing, and it is the leader’s job, but it is Level Three because there are two levels better than this. While it’s a significant step up from Level Four, it is not what you find dominating the highest performing cultures in business or athletics.

With Level Three accountability it is always the manager who addresses performance issues. For instance, a technician comes in late, and his or her manager will address it. Again, while this certainly is necessary, it’s not optimal as the boss can’t be everywhere and see everything. Thus, many poor performances may be un-checked as a result of reliance on Level Three accountability.

  1. Level Two: Peer-to-Peer accountability.

Peer-to-peer accountability is when equals within the same team hold one another accountable. It’s far more effective in improving performance and is a key indicator of high performing cultures. For instance, when a technician comes in late, the boss doesn’t have to address it because the other technicians will handle it in their own manner: “Come on man, you’ve got to get here on time. We’ve got a goal to hit and we all need to step up to do it.” A conversation like that from a peer, or peers, will have a far greater impact on influencing performance than Level Three accountability. While no one wants to let the boss down, there’s a lot more positive peer pressure not to let teammates down.

Note that in the example I gave, a peer confronting another can be done good-naturedly, respectfully, and conversationally. It doesn’t have to be done, and shouldn’t be done, with disrespect as that creates a distraction that actually hurts performance.

  1. Level One: Self-Accountability.

Self-accountability means no one has to hold an individual accountable because that person does their job, follows the process, lives the values, and does so consistently. And he or she doesn’t do these things because they’re bribed, begged, or threatened; rather, they do so because that is who they are as human beings, and they have a higher standard for themselves than anyone else could ever have for them. We all have had people on our teams over the years that required very little or no accountability at all. Level One is where the best teams live. While Level Two is really strong, Level One is the summit. Some team members are Level One simply because that is how they are wired, and it reflects the high standards they have for their own life. Other teammates are at Level One because the positive pressure created at Levels Three and Two incentivized them to “up” their performance.

As odd as it may seem, whichever level is currently dominating your department or organization, has a ton to do with how you’re hiring. It really does start there. If you’re hiring people without high personal standards who don’t care about others, and are content to just have a “job” and do just enough to get by, you’re going to spend a lot of time at the lower levels. But even after you do hire well it’s no guarantee that you’ll have the optimal levels of accountability. The leader of that department still must: create clear expectations; train others to hit those expectations; give others consistent feedback on their success or failure concerning said expectations; consistently hold people accountable for executing those expectations; and model the personal excellence that frees him or her to hold others accountable without being seen as a hypocrite. As always, the culture rests heavily on the leader, and the ensuing results become his or her report card.

Here are a couple parting thoughts to move forward with this information:

  1. Which level best describes where you stand in your organization from day to day, not just at the end of the month or when your back is against the wall? Which level dominates in times of prosperity?
  2. Do you have people on your team who care enough to confront peers concerning their performance? If not, why; and, how can you change that.

The “Wow” is Worth It!

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Author Joe Calloway described a “brand” well in his book Never by Chance: “A brand is defined as a trademark or distinctive name, reputation, or capability that identifies and differentiates a product or service from the competition, for better or for worse.”

Every company has a brand, that’s not the question. The questions are: Does your brand positively differentiate you or render you to commodity status; and, does it elevate or diminish the value people see in doing business with you?

To delve deeper, a brand isn’t primarily about your logo, jingle, or creative graphics; these things may explain or reinforce your brand, but they aren’t your brand. Nor is building a powerful brand for your dealership accomplished through big ad budgets and slick promotional campaigns. Building a powerful brand happens when you create a culture that supports consistently creating “wow” customer experiences, and by hiring and training the right people at all levels within your organization who are capable of consistently delivering said experiences.  In other words, by focusing more on the “reputation, or capability that identifies and differentiates you from the competition” aspect of the brand definition mentioned previously, than on a logo, trademark, or distinctive name to communicate it. And as a leader it’s your job to make sure this gets done daily, and that chasing greater excellence in this regard is a priority for every team member.

Following are supporting thoughts and strategies to help refine your focus on intentionally building and leveraging the power of your brand.

1.    The bottom line is that your brand is defined by customer experiences. You may declare what your brand is, but a customer defines it based on his or her experience with your company or product. In short, whatever a customer thinks about when they hear your dealership mentioned—and that something will be based on either a personal experience or one they’ve heard about from others—is your brand. You can say what you want about who you are, but your customers believe what they experience…and THAT is your brand.

2.    In case the prior point wasn’t clear enough, let me rephrase it slightly: Nothing is more important than customer experience when it comes to brand management. Thus, if you want to improve the strength of your brand, you must elevate the quality of the experiences you’re creating for both team members and customers. That starts with hiring the right people at the outset, setting clear expectations for the experiences you want created (experiential standards), and training team members to deliver that experience while holding them accountable for doing so.

3.    A key to customer experience is consistency of performance. The more consistently great the experience is between departments, the stronger the brand. The greater variation you have between departments concerning the customer experience, or between your various locations, the weaker the brand. One bad apple in this regard, will afflict the whole batch.

4.    The best answer to the question, “Who on our team would create the most outstanding customer experience? is “Any of them!” If you can’t give that answer, you have work to do. Lots of it.

5.    The best way to influence a great customer experience is to create a great employee experience! You can rest assured that if your team members aren’t having a “wow” experience working for you, they’re not as likely to create similar experiences for your customers. Incidentally, micromanagers, oppressive work schedules, lack of training, hiring recklessly, inconsistent management, hypocritical leaders, tenured non-performers and more all drain the “wow” out of the workplace for team members.

6.    Keep in mind that even team members who are far removed from direct customer contact have a “ripple effect” impact on the customer experience. This is because of the effect they have on other employees. Naturally, if a co-worker is negative, incompetent, corrupt, indifferent, and doesn’t keep commitments, he or she will diminish the experience of teammates, causing frustration and lower morale – all of which has the potential to trickle down and affect the experience a teammate is trying to create for a customer.

7.    There’s much more to say about building your brand but since the focus of this piece is on perfecting the customer experience, take some time with key team members to honestly evaluate these questions and address the answers you’re unhappy with.

•    Are the processes and protocols we have in place designed to just meet a customer’s expectations, or are they intentionally designed to get the “wow?” In either case, how can we do better?

•    Do we have variation in the customer experience between departments or locations? If so, why is that? How do we fix it?

•    How often do we talk about getting the “wow” in meetings, during one-on-one coaching sessions, beginning with the interview process, and during onboarding periods? Since you can help change a culture by changing the conversation, what more can we do to shine a brighter light on this key responsibility for each team member?

•    Do we realize that our frontline team members (porters, sales associates, service advisors, receptionists and the like) have more daily opportunities to create a customer experience than the management team? This is by virtue of the fact they come into contact with more customers than management. This being said, how much training have they had on creating “wow” experiences? What training could we implement to improve the customer experience, starting with the onboarding of new associates?

•    Do we have experiential standards for our organization that clearly define guidelines for the things we will always do, and never do, with a customer or when speaking with a customer? Are all departments and locations on the same page with these standards? If not, how and when do we fix it? (If you’ve attended my one-day How to Become a League of Your Own seminar you know the answer to that question).

•    Do you know how your experience is significantly different and better from those your competitor delivers: from meet and greet, to customer touch points, to your various processes, to the language you use, to follow up, to communication protocols for service, to what they do while waiting to get into F&I, and the like? If your answers aren’t many and compelling, you’ve got more work to do.

If this seems like a lot of work, that’s because it is a lot of work. Incidentally, I never said building a great brand through “wow” customer experiences is easy; but, I can assure you it is worth it. And if your people and dealership are continually in price battles to be the cheapest so you can get the deal, there’s a better way: create improved experiences and the price becomes less relevant. People pay more for better experiences, and they return for more, and tell others to do likewise. Believe me, whatever it costs you in time, training, or dollars to build a “wow” brand…when all is said and done, the “wow” is worth it.