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Let’s face it. The car business can be brutal. Many in auto retail find themselves working long hours, under stressful conditions, with hardly any free time to see their families or enjoy other activities.
In our industry, many managers are under a lot of stress. The stress of production can wear a person out– whether that’s sales goals to be met, or service revenue targets. As a result, tempers flare and leadership skills sometimes sway away from being nurturing to being annoyed and short-tempered, which affects everyone on the team.
If this is the case in your dealership stop and think for a minute. Running any business with an iron fist where managers lack any flexibility and are overly demanding about meeting goals, can in fact be less productive. It can make it even HARDER to reach those goals.
An excellent article in The Harvard Business Review tells the story of the importance of connecting your employees with their work. It discusses an alternate way to lead, which not only makes the business more productive, but also creates a better company culture which then results in happier customers. What is it?
I know, it perhaps sounds a little out there if this is not a term you’re familiar with. But stay with me here for a couple of minutes and all will be revealed!
So, how do you use storytelling as a manager? The article gives the example of a restaurant employee who was mentally checked out. Rather than doing his job, he was sneaking peeks at his phone and when things were busy, was failing to make the effort needed to quickly keep tables clean for customers. The supervisor noticed this and approached the employee. Rather than discipline him or rebuke him, she told him a story of how she watched a mother leave her 2-year old at a table while ordering food. The table had not yet been cleaned and the 2-year old proceeded to take her hand, wipe it across the dirty table and then licked the crumbs and catsup off. The employee immediately understood how his failure to keep up with cleaning the tables had affected the customers on a personal level and immediately proceeded to perform his job better.
Why does this type of management work better? Because, rather than simply telling an employee that they are not doing their job, the manager was able to make an emotional connection that was real to the employee and could easily be understood. It personalized the importance of the task. By making that personal connection, it turned a mundane task into a meaningful one. And that made the employee more productive.
This type of leadership and management style may sound arduous and time-consuming but, in fact, it’s not. According to the article, most storytelling is brief. It involves using concrete examples that reframe a moment by personifying human consequences.
By emotionally connecting your employees to their work, they become more productive, both personally and as a team member. This makes your entire organization run more efficiently, makes your goals easier to achieve, creates a culture of hospitality and lays the foundation for a better customer experience.
The next time you feel the need to discipline an employee who is slacking, consider telling them a story that makes the task meaningful.
A couple minutes of thoughtful interaction can change their behavior for good - not just the one time. In the end, that’s what truly matters and what turns managers into leaders.