A few years ago I was scuba diving in Bimini with a couple of buddies when we discovered a 45 foot long tunnel made of coral at 60 foot depth. The three of us gathered around the entrance, which was about four feet in diameter, pondering if we should go through. Feeling manly, (foolish) we decided to “conquer” the tunnel. I was second in. As we traversed the tunnel 20 feet in, silt started to kick up therefore diminishing our vision to zero as we all came to the same notion; this may not have been such a good idea.
After another five minutes or so I could make out a faint blurred light source up ahead and began praying it represented the exit point. It was the end. However, the four foot entrance we entered now shriveled down to around 15 inches. Trying to back out the twisting, turning tunnel was not an option. Resisting the very strong temptation to easily succumb to fear and panic (of dying) we all followed our training which stated, remaining calm and clear headed was our only option to get out of this mess alive. You can get into big trouble at 60 feet especially when you are stuck in a tunnel in Bimini.
My buddy ahead of me looked back with non-verbal expression of “well, what do you think”? Avoiding kicking up more slit, I motioned ever so slowly by grabbing my BC buckle and pretended to take it off over my shoulder. He acknowledged and began removing his BC while I pulled it back and off. He then exited pulling his gear out behind himself. This process was duplicated by myself and then my buddy behind me. It was a tight fit but we maintained a calm sense about ourselves and escaped. As we were on our knees re-mounting our gear outside the exit point we shared glances at each other which reflected “whew, that was a close one”. When our gear was re-mounted we came together for one big group hug then high fives.
The camaraderie and teamwork that experience created was indescribable. We later admitted to each other that resisting fear, claustrophobia and panic was the toughest part of the entire ordeal yet what a great feeling of accomplishment it left us with. In addition to our “antipanic” training, we summarily felt another component for our survival was having rock solid communications in a calm and controlled manner with each other toward developing our escape plan.
Communication Skills learned are only valuable to the extent they can be practically utilized when called upon.
Often dealership team members experience fear, anxiety and panic in their jobs. These feelings arise for many reasons: Have to get food on the family table, what if I fail to close the customer, what if I can’t do this job, I am going to lose my job if I don’t get some deals, what if people shun me, I need this deal to get my bonus and so on. Yet, every once in a while someone says something that shakes these folks out of their deeply held assumptions and encourages them on how to become better. A true leader takes time out of his or her busy day to sit down and reassure the team member that it is ok. Together we will get you where you want to be. Let’s develop a plan to get you successful. Next time you will do it differently. How comforting would those words be to you if you were the one struggling? Develop awareness for wavering signs in your team members and then take action to help pull them up.
Key Point: Don’t wait to teach people to swim when they are drowning.
I believe words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble. The word choices of a real leader are carefully constructed and molded into a positive growth moment for whom he/she is speaking with.
The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through. – Sydney J. Harris
Based on the latest workforce study from NADA, dealerships reported an average turnover rate of 66% among sales consultants in 2013. Key word is “average.” I have seen various dealerships experience upwards of 86% because no manager invested the important time to work closely with them and they, as a consequence, felt unimportant and sought out another job.
When you think “car salesman” what comes to mind? The type of sales approach and training (or lack thereof) over decades has led to how the industry is perceived today. As mentioned earlier, the automotive industry has a higher than usual annual turnover rate, and this reality and perception are very closely associated. The first step in changing this is for dealership owners to take charge and break the cycle. They must initiate commitment to valuing their team members by providing them with proper sales, customer service and business development tools. By changing the culture through education, customer satisfaction is increased, which leads to higher sales and service revenues. Employee satisfaction and retention rates are positively improved which also help reduce costs and increase profitability. For an average dealership, if just a few additional cars were sold and/or serviced each month, the gain would far exceed the cost of a good team member development program. This message will mean nothing to the dealer whose motto is “We strive to be mediocre” because being average has infected the store but it will mean something to those dealers who understand in order to grow the store, they first have to grow their team members. They also understand it requires “growing” managers to grow people and seek out leadership training for them to perform a more effective job.
Key Point: You rarely see a winning team with a lousy coach.
Apparently Chrysler is interested in further developing their employees because in May, they announced it will offer free online college tuition to employees at its Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, and Fiat dealerships. Chrysler said; The new benefit is geared toward attracting and retaining the right kind of talent. Attracting and retaining talent are two of the most prolific leadership skills required to grow any business. Hopefully, so they can retain talent they also have a plan to provide similar industry specific in-dealership, hands-on development classes for their team members and leadership workshops for management, in order to actually fulfill the mission. I feel it’s great to have a bunch of accomplished degreed employees working within the store but I have seen quite a few highly educated individuals who acted like dummies when it came to communications. While I don’t mean to belittle these things, as they’re important to learn, it’s the more subtle elements of communication rarely taught in the classroom (the elements that focus on others), which leaders desperately need to learn. It is impossible to become a great leader without being a great communicator. Not to be confused with being a great talker – big difference. The key to becoming a skillful communicator is rarely found in what has been taught in the lofty world of academia.
Key Point: Are you the problem or the solution?
Take a look at the world’s greatest leaders and you’ll find them all to be exceptional communicators. They might talk about their ideas, but they do so in a way which also speaks to your emotions and your aspirations. They realize if their message doesn’t take deep root with the audience then it likely won’t be understood, much less championed. You’ve all heard the saying “it’s not what you say, but how you say it that matters,” and while there is surely an element of truth in that statement, I’m here to tell you that it matters very much what you say. Good communicators address both the “what” and “how” aspects of messaging so they don’t fall prey to becoming the smooth talker who leaves people with the impression of looking good not being good.
I don’t believe it comes as any great surprise that most dealership managers spend the overwhelming majority of their time each day in some type of an interpersonal situation. You may agree with me when I say a large number of organizational problems occur as a result of poor communication. This highlights the need for managers to focus on becoming great communicators. Managers need to ask themselves “Am I creating value to others?” Effective communication is an essential component of professional success in any person and/or company unless you are studying the mating habits of gorillas in some faraway jungle alone. Although one could argue communicating proper ‘body language’ with gorillas in the wild is communicating, and, they would be correct.
Although developing an understanding of great communication skills is easier than one might think, being able to appropriately utilize these skills when a live, crazy situation arises is not always as easy as one might hope for. It then requires courage, calm and clear thinking to administer properly.
Key Point: Communication Skills learned are only valuable to the extent they can be practically utilized when called upon.
The best communicators are also great listeners and smart in their observations. Great communicators are skilled at watching and reading a person or team by sensing the moods, dynamics, attitudes, morale, values and concerns of those being communicated with. Not only do they read their environment well, but they clearly understand the uncanny ability to adapt their message to their current environment without missing a beat. The message is not about the manager. Instead it is 100% about meeting the needs and the expectations of those whom they are communicating with.
Send an email request if you would like me to send you what I consider the “top 10 communication skills of a leader.”