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Recently, I was asked to make an appearance as Ms. Florida Forestry Queen. Unfortunately there was no clear leadership and miscommunications abounded. Even the day of the event, it was not clear what was going to transpire. I tried to be prepared for anything. After the event, I received this text message, "A diplomat is a person who can tell you something is going to be challenging and you actually look forward to the adventure. You are the quintessential diplomat in my book! Thank you for helping us as we all struggled to figure out what was going on and what we were supposed to do."
That text message spurned me into deep thought. Where did I acquire such diplomacy skills? Maybe I should put in a bid for political office? When I finally came to my senses, it dawned on me that I work in an industry in which there is a tendency towards unreasonable expectations. Part of my job is to be the voice of reason, to find solutions and to deliver these solutions; so that all parties walk away from the table feeling like business was handled in a professional manner and they received a fair deal. With a little diplomacy, I usually can alter the path from unreasonable expectations and disappointment to fair business practices and customer satisfaction.
Like in most industries, Automotive Management can deploy diplomacy in leading by example and training our sales and service teams to be active and conscious communicators when interacting with customers. For example, a service advisor calls to speak with a customer who dropped off their vehicle for an oil change. "Well, I have bad news. I know you brought in your car for an oil change, but the technician discovered you need a new fuel filter and a couple of belts…." If I were the customer, you would have lost me at “bad news.” My thoughts would have shifted from excited that my car was finished to "how much is this going to cost me?" With a little diplomacy, the conversation and outcome can be shifted. "While your car was getting an oil change, our technician preformed a courtesy inspection of your vehicle to ensure safety and performance. Lucky for us both, the technician discovered that you need a fuel filter and a couple of belts. Since your car is already here at the dealership, I can save you a little time and money and get that done for you today."
Diplomacy can also be as effortless as just listening. Remember the six letters that spell LISTEN also spell SILENT. When unreasonable expectations loom over moving a process forward, I close my mouth and open my ears. I listen for what the upset is. I listen and listen until the awkward silence tells me that it is my turn to jump into action. Sometimes, I discover that the upset is really not an upset at all, just a desire for someone to appreciate and understand a viewpoint. Sometimes, the upset person resolves the problem by just being heard. Sometimes, the upset and solution are presented to me as a package deal. Rarely, after listening intently am I left with an upset that does not have a resolution.
Diplomacy can be as straightforward as taking that extra mile, yard, foot or inch. Don’t tell someone where something or someone is, actually walk with them and take them to that spot. Be your word and not a bunch of intentions to do something. When you make a promise or an offer, exceed the expectation by delivering just a little more. Smile and make eye contact because everyone wants to be treated like they are important. Look for ways to make a difference and act on them.
Diplomacy is a mindset. Think of the glass as neither half empty nor half full. Actually, the glass is half full of water and half full of air. Train your sales, service and management staffs to employing diplomacy as part of the skills for completing their job, a little optimism, positive language and thinking outside of the box can provide immunity for unreasonable expectations. Your products and services might not get less expensive, but oh what a difference a little diplomacy can make on how your consumers value your products and services.
Stephanie Young is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for The Manus Group, where she is an active blogger, social media contributor and spokesperson for one of the nation’s leading automotive recruiting and training firms. Stephanie is also the current Ms. Florida Forestry Queen, promoting her platform encouraging young woman to pursue their interests in STEM field careers.
Copyright © 2014, Stephanie Young All rights reserved.