Oct 09 2019
It was a bright and sunny day in June. I drove into the parking lot of the dealership with my music blaring, looking forward to standing after my two-hour drive. The first thing I do when I arrive at a client’s office is a walk around.
The only way I can ensure that the teams I’m working with and myself are driving in the same direction is to make these rounds, ask my questions and hear the responses. This exercise is something I do during every visit and with every person!
We had been on our customer experience journey together for just a little over three months, and so far, we had already had some small victories along the way with much work.
I will never forget this particular moment. When I started with the dealership, the team was dysfunctional, the leadership had no accountability, and the customers were suffering from it.
On this day, I started conducting my usual walkabout to greet every employee of the dealership.
In our short time together, I could see and feel the transformation; there was one conversation that day that solidified the gut feeling I had. I walked into the Business Development Office with a smile on my face and a skip in my step. The ladies in the office swung around and met my smile with theirs. We spent a few minutes catching up and like I always did, I asked the question,
“tell me the good, bad, and the ugly. What is working, and what are our opportunities?”
These conversations always reveal the good, bad, and ugly, usually followed by a rant about who is not pulling their weight. (PS, this is normal until the team starts driving in the same direction) This beautiful afternoon was different. I was knocked back by the response I received.
One of the ladies looked at me with her bright smiling eyes and said, “Katie, I am starting to see change and progress. We’ve never had this happen in our history. Our team is starting to work together, and the customers are sharing the same feeling. It’s like you have a magic wand that you have waved over the dealership.”
As I mentioned, I was knocked back with this response. I was overjoyed and thrilled to see the progress take shape. Inside I was bursting with excitement (if it were professional to do so, I would have done a happy dance!). I was quiet for a moment then responded, ” I don’t hold a magic wand, you and the team have always had the magic within each of you. We just needed to uncover it and free it. YOU are the magic you feel.”
That’s the thing; Customer Service is not magic; it is a decision to make magic happen for your team and your customers.
I was doing my regular CX article reading this morning and happen to stumble upon the fact that it is Customer Service Week 2019 this week; the theme is “The Magic of Service.” I am ashamed to admit that I don’t pay attention to CX week and when it is each year. I believe that there should be a heightened awareness of customer service in organizations EVERY DAY.
However, the theme this year piqued my interest. “The Magic of Service” reminded me of this story, and I thought it was worth sharing with you.
While experiences can feel magical to customers when done right, magic is not something that happens sometimes. The magic of service is within everyone, every organization, and every employee if you’re willing to see it and cultivate it.
If you are going to focus on anything during ‘Customer Service Week 2019’; choose to focus on uncovering the magic that already exists and nurture it.
Walk into your organization today with a skip in your step and a smile on your face. Show your team what magic looks like and foster it within them.
Jan 10 2019
In life you are almost always faced with a choice. A choice to do this…or that. Here’s the thing, the choice is always yours and yours alone.
The same goes for businesses and leaders alike. As leaders and businesses grow, you will be, and probably are, faced with adversity as you make the treacherous climb toward significance, and ultimately toward leaving a legacy for your successors.
I have been faced with so many choices where I have had to decide to go one way or another. Some choices haven’t always been in my favour, and haven’t always been the right choices to make; however, I have always come out ahead. I have let the forks in the road serve as moments of transformation to the next ledge on the uphill climb called life.
As I write this, I feel very humbled. I want to share with you the choices I have made, all in which have molded me into the person I am today as a wife, mom, and business owner who is eternally grateful for all of the times I should’ve turned left and decided to turn right.
I am an ordinary person living an extraordinary life. I have always dreamed big, bigger than most have said I should. I have always believed that something is a reality before it is, and then worked extremely hard at making the crazy dreams of mine real. As all of us do, I have many stories of roadblock after roadblock put in front of me, and have faced the choice to remain still or move that obstacle in front of me. Many times, I have felt like giving up, and almost have. So many instants have had me surrendering to my limiting beliefs about myself; I can’t do this, I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough, and the worst, I’m not as good as (insert multiple names here). Luckily, I continued to make the choice to evolve and not let life’s circumstances cripple me or disarm my growth.
We can’t control the family we are born into; we don’t get to deal that hand in life. We don’t always have control over the circumstances we face, but what we do have control over are the choices we make to either sink or swim; we choose how we react to the cards we are dealt. We may not always be able to choose what fork in the road is placed in front of us, but we sure as hell get to choose the outcome.
As a little girl, I lived in a home riddled with alcohol abuse (a form of addiction that affects one in five children in North America, and many suffer in silence as I did). At a very young age, I was forced with a choice to let the cards I was dealt swallow me whole or to forge through them and take control of my outcome. I chose to stay up every night to make sure my dad didn’t fall asleep with a Colt in his hand, making sure the house didn’t go up in flames. I chose to get up every morning while everyone was sleeping to make sure he was still in bed where I left him, but most importantly I chose to view the world in a positive light. I developed a belief over the years that people do what they know best at the time, and that forgiveness is the key to your own freedom, while choice is the key to theirs.
It has been a choice to love unconditionally, and to give without expectation. What I didn’t realize was how grateful I would be for having to have made these choices. As a young girl, I didn’t realize how much this would help me to help others in the future. I didn’t realize the positive impact these dark moments would have on my ability to lead both in life, and business.
In life and business, you will always have to choose. I have discovered that one of the hardest choices you will make will be whether you will lead in life and business, or stay stuck and repeat old familiar habits. Will you choose to evolve and grow, making choices that aren’t always easy, but may be the right direction for you, your family, team members, or customers?
As a leader in life and business, you will have to choose to trust until given reason not to. You will have to choose whether or not you will be vulnerable enough to earn the trust of the people who surround you. You will have to choose between being patient or demanding results, but most importantly you will have a choice to meet your people where they are, believing that they are in fact doing the best that they know how in that moment. Choose to ask yourself: what can you do differently to help them know more, so they can do more.
I wasn’t always looked at as an inspirational leader, or a person to look to for leadership advice. It took a lot of honest feedback, tears, self-reflection, and personal growth to be able to type the words on this page, or work with organizations to develop their leaders. It is such an honor to be able to inspire positive actionable change in organizations, and the lives of the people that keep those organizations growing.
I know this post is not giving you the ‘how to’ you are probably expecting. I will, however, share with you one of the most powerful lessons I have learnt through the choices I have made, with the cards I have been dealt. I have learnt that in order to lead an organization and its people to success, you must start first with how you choose to show up in life.
What will you choose?
In order to lead in business, you must lead in your life, and be willing to help your people do the same.
As we have all heard, people work for people, not organizations. I believe a leader without followers is just someone taking a walk.
Do you choose to repeat or evolve?
Jan 03 2019
Dear ladies of all ages, races, occupations, and stages in life:
I am writing you to give you a gift for 2019. This is one of the most powerful gifts anyone can ever give you. I was once given this gift and it changed my life; I hope it does the same for you. I am giving you PERMISSION to take flight and to have your cake and eat it too. I am giving you PERMISSION to live your best life. I am giving you PERMISSION to be you!
What Does it Mean to Have your Cake and Eat it Too?
This is going to mean something different for everyone. But what I am giving you permission to do is live the best life for you, without having to sacrifice or give up something in order to do this.
I am a mom of three (eight-year-old twins and a five-year-old), a business owner, a daughter, sister, wife; oh, I almost forgot to mention I am a person too!
I have spent most of my life constantly giving to everyone else. I didn’t have much of a childhood as I lived in a family that suffered with alcohol abuse. At a really young age, I had to take care of my sister, my brother, my mom, and my dad. When I say that I gave all of myself to everyone else, I truly mean it. Fast forward to my 25th year of life; I got married and had twins at 26. That’s a story all on its own; I almost died on August 2nd 2010 when I brought my twins into the world. My liver was failing, my blood platelets diminished, and I was bleeding out internally. Eleven months after my husband and I said ‘I do’ he had to sign papers stating that his wife would not make it out of the emergency C-section delivering two premature babies. The twins were born weighing approximately 3lbs, two months early, and their mom didn’t wake up for four days. I woke up and with no time to recover, I had to move into being a mom for two little beings that I visited in the Nicu while, I, myself was in the hospital. As you can imagine, being a young mom wasn’t easy (jeze, being a mom isn’t easy) and having twins was hard. I moved from taking care of my parents and siblings in one chapter of my life into the second chapter of life; motherhood with no break in-between. Happily, our babies are no longer babies and are thriving. We were crazy enough to have another little girl, and I am glad to report that she went full term with no complications (other than being 10lbs at birth!). Our little family of four was now a family of five, and that meant more tender love and care for everyone except, me. As I type this, I can see many of the moms out there understanding what I mean by that last statement.
Fast forward two years; my father got very ill, and being the person that I am, I talked my husband into letting him stay with us until he was well enough to be on his own. For those of you who know me, you would know how difficult this was as my father and I did not have a relationship for a multitude of reasons of which I may blog about at a later date.
A year and a half later my dad moved out; this time in my life tested me and my family to the limits. It was right around the time my dad moved out that I started to go through a shift, and that shift started with a tattoo.
I was driving out to a routine doctor’s appointment, and on my way, I saw a tattoo parlor. I pulled over, went in, got my tattoo, and proceeded to my doctor’s appointment. My tattoo (shown in the image of this blog) is of three little black birds taking flight. This symbolizes my three children, and the point in my life where I was done being everything to everyone except myself.
Three years ago, on that afternoon, I decided it was time for a new chapter in my story; Katie takes flight!
So many wonderful things have happened since that day. I started to take care of myself, started a speaking and training career, opened my own business, and became a more present mom. Changing who I am and what people were used to was (and is) a hard, turbulent path. It was time though, time for me to figure out how to have my cake and eat it too.
Here is what I have learned along this bumpy path:
The Cards You’ve Been Dealt Don’t Dictate Your Future
The cards you’ve been dealt do not have to be an excuse for why your life is the way it is; they can be a catalyst for the life you want to live. You can decide to let your current circumstance swallow you whole or use it, learn from it, and propel yourself forward because of it.
Being Selfish is Necessary
It’s not easy being ‘selfish’ as a mom (or person in general) but it is very necessary in order to be able to give to others. As the safety demonstration on an airplane dictates to put your oxygen mask on before you help others, it is necessary to breathe life into your being before you can truly give to others.
Your Change Isn’t Easy for Others
Not everyone is going to love the change you make, and that is ok. If you have decided to put yourself first, or take on a new challenge, new career, or lease on life, you will have resistance from those who surround you; you are not only changing your world, you are also changing theirs. It is ok to put distance between you and the people in your life that don’t serve as a positive influence through your growth. Those who whole heartedly love you will support you; those who don’t are people you don’t want to be around. Do, however, try to be patient with those who do stick it out and remember this change is happening to them as well.
Change at the Core Starts with you and you Alone
Only you can make change happen; you have to want to make a difference in your life in order for a difference to be made.
Forgive yourself Often
YOU are only HUMAN and you will mess up, you will stumble and fall. The key to success in any transformation is to get back up. Love yourself enough to embrace each stumble because it is in those moments that transformation happens. Get up, learn, forgive yourself, and keep moving forward.
I feel like my journey has only just begun. I feel like this new chapter in my life is the start of my life. There have been and will continue to be many stumbles; I will rise stronger with each and every fall.
Where Does the Phrase ‘Have your Cake and Eat it Too’ Come From?
Someone once asked me if I had ‘mummy guilt’ with all the travelling I do and this was my response:
“ I hope my daughters look at me and see that they can be a mom, wife, business woman, or stay home, that they don’t have to choose one or the other. My wish is that my daughters know they can ‘have their cake and eat it too’. And my son, I hope he supports his partner so she can do the same.”
Here’s to you! I wish you the same. I hope you live the life that is best for you, and that you can also ‘have your cake and eat it too.’
Dec 25 2018
It is Christmas eve, I am sitting in my office tying off a few loose ends so I can truly enjoy the moments to come over the next few (hectic) days, and as I was reviewing a post for LinkedIn, I came across a post that I put out a few months ago. I asked the LinkedIn community to share advice they had for the community in four words or less. This morning when I came across this post, I scrolled through to look at how many wonderful people shared their advice for others to see. I was overwhelmed with a humbling feeling, and decided as we all slow down in 2018 and gear up for 2019, that I would pull all these magical words of wisdom together for you to read and decide how you will be your best self in the year to come.
Words of Wisdom From your Fellow LinkedIn Community
Just keep on going.
Be more present!
Just don’t quit.
Be true to you.
Never jeopardize your integrity.
Be the change.
There is no spoon.
Collect great people.
Paint vision with passion.
Roll with the punches.
Keep moving forward.
Stay true to you.
Focus on what matters
Get off your arse.
Live more! Die less!
(Clarification: die is every time you say no to yourself and those around you that you love).
Praise publicly – Reprimand privately.
Work hard. Be nice.
Love always wins respect.
Know what you want.
Give thanks each day.
Be focused, but adaptable.
Focus on the intention.
Trust your gut.
Live your life well.
Enjoy every little moment.
Firm foundations create heroes!
Find beauty in everyday.
Be yourself & never surrender.
Live & let live.
Keep your eye on the ball.
Do not give up.
And as I gear up for 2019, I will be focusing on self-love, strengthening who I am at the core, and helping organizations and women around the world be the best version of themselves by transforming the experiences people have with each other, and the businesses they interact with. In order to do that, my advice for myself (and those who are reading) is to forgive often and be open. We need to forgive ourselves more often, forgive those around us as they stumble, and realize that we are only human. It is not what you do or what happens to you, it is how you react that determines the outcome. Being vulnerable to forgiveness opens up your world to countless opportunities. Be open to the challenges, opportunities, and changes that 2019 brings. Be your best self by believing in you, and everything you uniquely bring to the world.
Cheers to you and your growth in 2019!
Dec 19 2018
The best way I can describe ‘customer service’ is by using the word transaction. ‘Service’ is what we do, it is a product or the transaction to receive the product. According to dictionary.com an experience is:
“a particular instance of personally encountering or undergoing something: or the observing, encountering, or undergoing of things generally as they occur in the course of time.”
In other words, an experience is an interaction between a business and a customer that happens while the customer journeys through your business.
So, What is a Five-Star Experience?
A five-star experience is often noted as ‘luxurious’ or ‘expensive,’ maybe even unattainable to most organizations. In actuality, a five-star experience has nothing to do with cost or luxury at all. A five-star experience can be achieved in any organization regardless of the industry, but requires your people to be…well, nice people! It requires the use of emotional intelligence and very little investment, essentially turning the transactional service currently being provided into an interactional experience that customers will enjoy and remember.
Here are five tips to create a five-star experience!
1. Use a Friendly Tone of Voice
We’ve all heard the adage ‘It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it,’ right? This couldn’t be more important or true when it comes to the customer’s experience. How we verbally send a message will dictate how the customer receives the message. When interacting with customers, it is very important to watch the tone of your voice. This is especially important when conversing with a customer on the phone. They can’t see your expressions, but they can hear if you are smiling or not. Practice roleplaying with your team, give them a scenario, and focus on the tone of their voice.
2. Use Their Name
“A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” – Dale Carnage.
Using a customer’s name not only shows respect, but is the most important word you can use to create a connection with your customer. You’ll read a lot about using the customer’s name in articles written about how to provide a personalized experience. Often it is the hardest for employees to execute. Here’s the thing, the customer doesn’t expect you to somehow magically know their name. They do, however, expect you to use it as soon as you get it, and once you know it, use it often.
3. Show Genuine Interest
We make decisions out of the ‘feelings we have’ not the facts and figures that are presented to us. Humans crave connection and will stop doing business with you if 1. No one attempts to make a connection and 2. If a person is disingenuous when trying to make a connection. Customers want you to authentically engage and show interest in them. The 80/20 rule applies here. Let the customer talk 80% of the time because you have spent 20% of the time with them asking questions and showing genuine interest. Doing this will only set you up for success, as you will now be able to anticipate their needs.
4. Be Anticipatory
A customer doesn’t want to have to work hard to get their needs met when undergoing an experience. It is your job to anticipate the needs of your customers and know what they want or need before they tell you. Paying attention to what they say and remembering their preferences will help your team anticipate your customer’s needs.
5. Be Knowledgeable
Last, but not least, you must be the expert in what you do and the product you provide your customers. I’m not talking about knowing the bare minimum about your product or service, but to know more than what the customer knows about your product or service. When providing a five-star experience, you must know more than what is printed on marketing material, your website, or social channels. The customer has already looked at all those avenues and has decided to do business with you! When they walk through your doors and ask a question, they want to hear what they haven’t already read or heard about already. Becoming an expert and matching your knowledge to the needs of your customer will go a long way in establishing creditability and trust.
A five-star experience can be achieved in any organization regardless of the industry, but requires your people to be genuine, anticipatory, knowledgable, and friendly. Transforming your mind set (and that of your team) from customer ‘service’ to customer ‘experience’ will also aide in the execution of these insights, and take your customer experience to the next level.
Dec 12 2018
I had the honour of attending the Celebrity Edge Naming Ceremony and Global Conference this past week. It was an overwhelming wave of emotions spread out over an eight-day period. There was one common theme that was weaved throughout the entire experience, and that was the sheer purpose, passion, and pride that each individual had for this company. As I sat in the audience on the last day of the conference while the President and CEO gave her closing remarks, tears of pride flowed down my cheeks. Pride toward being part of an organization that stands for so much more than great results. Pride toward the gratitude she had for every single person that contributes to their success, and pride toward her belief that extraordinary people can achieve extraordinary things; making the impossible possible.
Purpose, Passion, and Pride
I have read many great business books that try to describe the difference between good companies and extraordinary companies; all of which describe how organizations like Amazon, Apple, and Zappos deliver exceptional experiences and results for their employees, customers, and shareholders. This past week gave me a first-hand experience of an organization that not only yields great results, but one that has depth, inspiration and a culture unlike any other.
In the moments I got to watch, listen, and speak on stage, it dawned on me that it is the purpose of an organization that creates one common goal. It is the Passion of its people that unites each individual employee into one team, and it is the pride of this team that propels them to do what needs to be done to garner success.
A Purpose Driven Culture
If you have set out to achieve extraordinary results, then you will want to reflect on the culture of your organization. Ask yourself; Do you have a clearly defined purpose? Are your people passionate about your purpose? And does your team live your purpose with pride? Below is why each one of these areas are so important in developing a culture that is unified around one goal, and a team that works as one to achieve these goals.
Why a company does what it does is far more important than the results it yields. It is the purpose that drives these results and the people’s belief in the organization. A strong purpose allows an organization to go beyond typical success; it is the path of significance. If you want your organization to leave a mark on this world, then drive your decisions through your purpose. Having an unwavering purpose not only takes a company down a path to significance, it’s a single focus for all employees to rally around and be passionate about. It is your purpose that will draw in the right employees that will work harder for you, that will promote you and be brand evangelists. A company’s purpose creates a common goal that all team members will work to achieve.
An unnerving passion to drive the purpose of the company creates a unified team. I have always said, a leader without followers is just someone taking a walk; a company without purpose and passion will struggle to create followers and achieve significance or even success. Hire those that are passionate about why you do what you do. Influence and inspire them to drive your purpose and create one team that is focused on one goal. Passion is the fire that ignites your company’s purpose. Do you have passionate people willing to walk behind you?
Being part of something bigger than yourself is an exhilarating feeling. Being part of a team that is working together to achieve a purpose causes an individual to be proud of what they are contributing to. Pride for what they do and who they do it for is the start of creating brand evangelists. When a team is proud of the results they achieve for a company that embodies a common purpose, they tend to work harder, longer, and more purposefully. It is the pride someone has for their work that turns a team into a family, and a culture like that is unstoppable. Are your team members proud to work for you or your organization? Do you have brand evangelists?
One Goal, One Team
If you want to achieve extraordinary results, then you must build a culture driven by purpose, passion, and pride.
As those tears streamed down my face, I realized just how lucky I was to be part of an organization that is driven by purpose first, cultivates passion within the hearts of its people, and nurtures a sense of pride in everything they do. If you want to set out to make the impossible possible, start with a Purpose Driven Culture.
Apr 25 2018
Retail Automotive suffers from an insanely high turnover rate. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association’s (NADA) most recent Dealership Workforce Study (2016), the annual turnover rate for all dealership employees is 43%, that is a three percent increase from the previous year, and for women; the automotive industry loses 96% off their female employees each year. Turnover is a big problem that costs dealerships a ton of money. A recent articled called Employee Turnover Costs Dealers Billions states that a 10-percentage-point increase in turnover would cost the average dealership $7,500 in gross profit per employee per year.
There are a few things retailers can do to reduce this number and keep their people happy.
- Attract and hire the right candidate
Attracting and selecting the right candidate is very important and requires a recruiting and hiring strategy. Getting the right person on the right seat on the bus is a significant first step to ensure the success of the employee and the dealership.
- Now that you’ve got them; retain them!
Having an employee engagement strategy should be top priority! Give your team members a reason to come to work every day. Curate a people first culture and be the best part of their day; after all, they spend more time with you than their own families. Check out last week’s blog post The Investment You Must Make to Survive for some great information in creating an employee engagement strategy.
- Get good at leading and seeing the warning signs
Develop your leaders, and ensure they are paying attention to the warning signs their team members are giving them! I am going to expand on this point.
As important as attracting the right candidate is, and curating a world-class internal culture will aid in retention of your team members; it is the leader that impacts employee engagement. The leaders in your dealership should be able to tell if an employee is falling out of engagement with you.
Lack of Time is No Excuse
As leaders, we are always ‘busy’, to busy sometimes to see the warning signs that our team members give us- telling us they are falling out of engagement with us. We often don’t notice this until it’s too late and our team members are disgruntled, unmotivated, and their work is slipping in quality and accountability.
If you are reading this and you are a leader (pssst…we all lead in some way, form, or fashion) remember it is your job to PAY ATTENTION to your team and the warning signs they give you. “People work for people, not companies”, we MUST lead with a servant’s heart and take notice of the little things our people are telling us.
Be Present- a best practice.
As I mentioned earlier, we all get busy! It is easy to miss those warning signs. As you climb the ‘corporate’ ladder, it is important to remember what you needed from your leader and learn from the mistakes of past leaders; these can be the best lessons! In my experiences, a common mistake made by most leaders is not being present in the moments they spend with their people. Because we are so busy, there are always meetings to run to and ‘to dos’ to check off that list, we forget to make time for the people making everything tick.
As I have stumbled along the path towards becoming a leader those want to follow, I have learned that you can’t do it all, but we must make time to be there for our people to be successful. In the many leadership positions, I held I always did this; I arrived at the office at least two hours before my team arrived. Why do you ask? I got all my nitty gritty ‘to dos’ done, organize my day, and set my daily priorities. The beauty of this is that once my team arrived, I was present for them, my day had been planned, and now my door was open; I was available to support my team in any way they needed.
Coming in early did two things for my team’s engagement:
- My team felt supported and guided leaving me open time to coach on the fly and,
- I was free to see the warning signs of slipping engagement, so I could ask probing questions to uncover ‘why’ before it’s too late; I was Present.
Did You Know?
A study conducted by Gallup showed that although organizations with a high level of engagement do report 22% higher productivity, it yields so many more rewards. In the article, Employee Engagement Does More than Boost Productivity written by John Baldoni for the Harvard Business Review shows that “Strong employee engagement promotes a variety of outcomes that are good for employees and customers. For instance, highly engaged organizations have double the rate of success of lower engaged organizations.”
What to Pay Attention to
I can hear the little voice in your head as you read this… “What are the warning signs I should be looking for..” Great Question! If you are present and are paying attention, you will have a pulse on your team engagement at all times. However, there are a few telltale signs that a team member is falling out of engagement with you.
Warning signs to keep an eye on:
- Team members disengage
Is a team member unusually quiet in meetings? When people are excited they want to talk about it; if you notice that a team member is less talkative or open to getting involved in a project or initiative, there is a good chance that something is going on. Team member disengagement can also show up as lateness or calling in sick more than usual. If you catch this early on you can pull the team member aside and ask him/her if there is anything you can help them with, probe and find out what is bothering them and then readjust their scope to reinvigorate them!
- They start missing deadlines
Often if a team member starts missing deadlines, he or she is usually having trouble finding the purpose of being at work every day. They are not motivated to push through tasks or initiatives, and they lose interest which is often a sign that they are not excited about what they are working on. If we can pick up on this as leaders, we can usually redirect team members focus towards something that excites them.
- There is a lack of initiative
Those team members that stop taking the initiative on new assignments or stop sharing ideas and opinions are often burnt out or disinterested. Communication is essential here, find out how they are feeling, and ask questions. The solution could be as simple as ensuring they have some downtime or reallocation of tasks to lessen the workload.
- They stop smiling
This is by far the most visible sign of a disgruntled employee. We are only human- if we are not happy we stop smiling. If you see this, act on it. Be present and lead with a servant’s heart, ask your team how they are and care enough to do something about it.
Internal Culture is a Direct Reflection of its Leaders.
If the engagement or moral is on a downward spiral on your team or in your dealership (which it is in the majority of dealerships across North America), the first place you should look is at yourself and the way you are leading your team. A mentor of mine once told me “You are a direct reflection of yourself, what you put out is what you get back”. That lesson struck me at the core. It is the leader’s fault if moral drops. As leaders, it is our responsibility to pay attention to the warning signs; take the time to listen and be present actively. You’ll be thankful in the long run when your team works with you towards success, and your turnover rate reduces, and there is more money in the bank to invest back into your team.
Apr 18 2018
“An organization can only become the best version of its self to the extent that the people who drive that organization are striving to become better versions of themselves ” Matthew Kelly.
I sat in the audience of a panel discussion Digital Dealer 24 Conference last week. The panel was full of brilliant gentlemen who have not only survived the ups and downs of Retail Automotive but hold a thought process that will keep them standing. This panel was titled The Future of Automotive Retail: Changing & Evolving Roles. The overarching message that each panelist conveyed was this: if we don’t evolve we will become extinct. Retail Automotive needs to get on board with a new way to lead, a new way to develop culture and ultimately a new way to treat their people and customers.
It is refreshing to hear these point of views. However, when I look at many of the retailers I work with I see teams full of bright ideas, waiting for someone to permit them. They (especially the few female team members) are afraid to make decisions or offer new and innovative solutions due to the lack of leadership that fosters an environment around employee engagement and empowerment.
I have started to ask myself why anyone would want to squash such innovation and further to that, who would want to work in an environment that doesn’t empower and engage their people? The scary reality, most retailers have no idea they are cultivating a powerless climate. Research shows that only about 25% of business leaders have an employee engagement strategy. (Source: Dale Carnegie) And my educated guess says it is even lower in the automotive industry.
As leaders we must pay attention to the culture we are fostering and start investing in our people, after all, they are the reason your business functions on a daily basis, and they are the reason customers buy from us.
Dare To Be Different And Watch The Top Line GROW
The good news, this can change with you! More and more organizations and their leaders are starting to think differently, becoming increasingly more progressive and starting to ‘chase the people’ before the dollar. They are beginning to realize that without engaged front-line team members, top-line revenue will not sustain. The culture you design reflects the comfort and satisfaction of not only your team but your customers as well.
A study conducted by Workplace Research Foundation shows that increasing employee engagement investments by only 10% can increase your profits by $2,400 per employee, per year and that highly engaged employees are 38% more likely to have above-average productivity.
The saying “take care of your people and the money will come” is a new way of thinking and often disregarded because it is a significant investment that doesn’t produce a dollar off the top- right away that is. Deciding to invest in your people is the first step and the easiest. We have to start somewhere. However, the hard work that follows is where most organizations fall off and go right back to the old way of thinking, $$$.
Is Automotive Ready For This Change?
Walking the talk requires time, processes, and patience. If you plan to take a stance and be forward thinking, be prepared to live up to it and own the hard work that lies ahead. Don’t give up when the going gets tough, keep at it. Your people will thank you for it and will return the favour through hard work and increasingly growing results.
Imagine a culture where you empower your people to strive for greatness, where your people are free to think outside of the box and share their innovative ideas. The possibilities of future growth and success become endless.
In an industry that focuses (almost solely) on volume, sales, and profit this transition won’t be natural. However, if you don’t prepare yourself for change, talented employees will make a change, and your customers will follow.
What Are You Waiting For?
Transforming a culture that has been around since the beginning of time will take time! Following these six steps is an excellent start to improving Internal Culture, employee engagement, and top-line revenue.
1. Decide to take on the challenge to make your people top priority- YOU have to believe
2. Gain 100% Executive sponsorship- without this, you won’t get far.
3. Develop the ‘how’- plan it, make an actionable step by step plan on how to make your vision come to life.
4. Make internal culture part of your yearly strategic initiatives- make it a focus, not a fad.
5. Measure success through critical metrics like deceased attrition, increased employee retention, employee engagement survey scores, achievement of yearly strategic plans, and top-line revenue. Remember, what gets measured gets managed.
6. Share the successes! The most successful organizations are fantastic storytellers, positive behaviour breeds positive behaviour- share the positive transformations at every level of your organization and watch how it multiplies before your eyes.
Instant Gratification or Sustained Success?
Most of us are familiar with the adage “one cookie now or 2 cookies later?” Ask yourself, do you want short-term, unsustainable success, if so chase the dollar. If you’re going to create a legacy, then invest in your people, nurture and empower them. The return will not only come in a monetary form, but in loyalty, hard work, and brand evangelists who will promote your business like it is their own.
If Retail Automotive wants to survive, change must happen. Invest in your people and Internal Culture; you won’t be sorry you did.
Apr 11 2018
A few weeks ago I wrote an article called Inspiration Just isn’t Enough! That outlined the vast gender gap in the automotive industry and how inspirational words just isn’t going to cut it. If we want to make a difference, we have to be the difference.
The definition of insanity is “to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different outcome”. If we were to put the automotive industry up against this definition, it is clear as day that we are insane!
No one is going to come with a magic wand and cast a spell that makes automotive dealers, and OEM’s the top place to work for females or a place where female consumers feel comfortable; we have to choose to do something different and action the changes necessary to see a different outcome.
GM is Breaking the Cycle
There is one brand that is taking a significant step in the right direction, and I wanted to take a moment to outline who it is and what they have done!
In a recent article The ‘Extra Oomph’ that changed GM, Auto News featured GM’s Mary Barra, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer who is the first female CEO of a major global automaker. Barra states “Corporate culture doesn’t change quickly, but it’s critical to have a strong culture to motivate employees and to cultivate an environment that breeds success.” In her effort to build a strong culture for females in automotive GM has established the GM’s Women’s Retail Network.
Recently, GM has also developed three core values for the company: The Customer is our Compass, Relationships Matter, and Individual Excellence is Crucial. Having core values like these is a step in the right direction to attracting female candidates and ultimately female consumers; these values outline that people come first, decisions are made with the individual in mind and culture matters.
I challenge you to think about this: If women don’t want to work for you, why would women want to buy from you? GM understands this, and is breaking the script!
What Can We Learn From GM?
More Automotive Brands need to create a network of tools, resources, and pathways that support women in the industry to grow without worrying about the glass ceiling that has been above their heads for decades.
Programs such as:
- Employee resource groups for women that support women in the current environment
- Female-driven 20 groups
- Education for personal development and succession and;
- Mentoring programs that connect other male and female executives with up and coming female team members
Programs like these will help bring more women into the workforce and keep them there, a classic tale of “if you build it they will come”. Having more of a female presence at the dealership and executive levels will, without a doubt, attract women consumers to your brand. It is in the best interest of the Automotive Brands to build a culture that women can get behind; if you do this both female employees and consumers will take notice!
I will drive my point home by reiterating this “The purchase share of women around the world will continue to rise, and with the lack of women at the table, decisions will remain to be made by men, delivered by men, for men. Continuing to lead in this manner will proceed to affect dealerships lack of or decrease in loyalty, retention, referrals, and overall all top line dollar. It’s in your best interest to be ready to serve the women who are purchasing your vehicles; every day of the year!”
It’s time to take action. Let’s stop talking about all the incredible ways women can help move the automotive industry into the 21st century and start breaking the insanity cycle by doing what needs to be done to make it happen.
Apr 04 2018
It is your sole responsibility as a leader to build and grow the confidence of your team. Your team’s performance and engagement is a direct reflection of your leadership.
Follow these nine tips to help you cultivate a team that is confident in you (as their leader), themselves and their abilities:
- Trust first, give your team the benefit of the doubt.
- Listen actively, pay attention to your team’s needs.
- Praise in public, let your team be the hero.
- Coach in private, coaching is a positive thing when done in a private setting and framed around growth and development.
- Play to your team’s strengths; put the right people in the right seat on the bus. They will feel, much more confident and successful in their role.
- Show compassion & empathy; no one is perfect. Show that you care and create a safe environment for your team members to come to you with anything.
- Let your team in! They want to be a part of the big picture. Ask them their opinion, show them it matters.
- Create a safe environment where it is ok to fail, making mistakes/error is ok; this means they are trying.
- Own it, if you do nothing else do this. Celebrate your team– ‘we’ when you succeed and own the failures– ‘I’ when we fail, don’t place blame. Let your team know you have their back no matter what.
If you are doing one or a combination of the above, then you are off to a great start! I challenge you to look at your reflection as a leader and ask yourself, honestly, if you positively contribute to the confidence your team has in you, themselves and their abilities.