by Steve Hiatt, Jr.
Everyone wants to feel appreciated. The key is in knowing what makes your employees or coworkers feel that way. What motivates one employee may not motivate another, in so much the same way, appreciation can be shown in many different facets. As a friend of mine taught me, “Facts are irrelevant, the truth is unimportant, and perception is everything.” The perception needs to be that you want everyone you come in contact with at work to feel appreciated. Have you ever put in that extra effort to help someone, just because you know they have shown you how important you are to them? Of course you have, and you can develop that powerful emotion throughout your company. This can be done no matter what position you are in at the dealership.
It’s a big chain reaction every day, where everyone in the chain of command interacts with each other; and everyone in the chain has an effect on our customers. Too often, we are ‘zapping’ each other with frustration and indifference rather than support and encouragement. Sure stuff goes wrong, but can’t we control how we react to it? The key is keeping the energy positive and the entire company looking for solutions together.
Be aware of how you interact with others. Are you a ‘hurry up, get it done’ personality? If so, are you coming across as abrasive or demanding? If you need to give exact directives to others, could you deliver the message differently? When you are complimenting their work, make sure you are specific about what you are talking about. The compliment will be incredibly more sincere.
Give respect to get respect. By taking an appreciative tone and slowing down for a few seconds, you can show people you appreciate the job they do. More importantly, you can show you appreciate them as a person. When someone talks to you, don’t assume you know the question they are asking or the position they are taking, you might be wrong. Even if you really do know what they are going to say, listening is classy. Even if you give the person a response they do not want, they have to respect you for hearing them out.
Write a note. This is simple and powerful and costs next to nothing, except time and ink. When you catch someone doing something right, let him or her know. Have you ever seen a person who has been doing a great job let their performance slip, and you don’t know why? Often, you find out in an exit interview that that co-worker simply felt no one cared about the job they did. Instead of suffering with declining performance, workplace drama, and employee turnover, prevent it with genuine caring two or three line hand written notes.
Give awards. This can vary from little to big to outrageous, but often it is the person you are giving it to that has that perception. And the rest of your staff notices, too. Certificates are a wonderful reward; and they cost next to nothing, just get into your computer and there will be some type of certificate generator. Make the awards fun, too; one manager this year made up an award for our “Green Pea of the Year.” There is also the FNG award for the Fantastic New Guy/Gal.
Other awards can vary depending on your budget. Lunch coupons to the lot porters can be just as effective as a $20 write up spiff for the weekend. Gift certificates for malls, stores or coffee shops aren’t large expenses but can mean a ton to your support staff.
Once we did a breakfast meeting for our staff where we made out special certificates for everyone attending. When the meeting was over, people were walking out three feet off the ground. Sales and grosses were way up that week.
We have a sales person of the year award that gives the top producer a Rolex watch. We simply have to accrue a few hundred a month to expense the watch at the end of the year. One sales person won it two years in a row, so we bought one for his wife the second year. Next time she looks at the watch to see if he is late coming home from closing a deal, I suspect she will be a little extra forgiving.
If your dealership uses credit cards to pay certain bills with, use the points that accumulate to give certificates and awards for production that is above or beyond. It doesn’t even cost the dealership any extra money, and the extra motivation from the employees can be amazing.
Don’t forget the spouses. You don’t have to buy the spouses expensive watches, but a note home once or twice a year sure could improve the family’s overall feeling of appreciation for the company. If there is a contest, send a letter home to let them know, the support, and drive can increase dramatically. Even a simple phone call to the house can make a huge difference, just thank them for the support they give their husband or wife.
Be spontaneous. Catching people off guard can be some of the most fun and rewarding. One thing we like to do is surprise people with an impromptu evening off, sometimes with a gift certificate to dinner out, a ball game or a show. Are two extra hours off and tickets to a movie going to kill the dealership, or is it going to create an environment where people want to give it their all more often? The loyalty and production far exceeds the investment.
Lead by example. Most importantly interact with others in a manner that you would want to be treated. Sure there are always urgent, stressful situations that need to be addressed, however don’t let the exceptions become the normal mode of operations. Good employees are hard to find, don’t let them disappear, or worse, work for your competitor because you showed an attitude of indifference towards them.
© 2006 by Steve Hiatt, Jr. All rights reserved. Used with permission from the author.
Steve Hiatt, Jr. is former president of Mountain Mitsubishi in Tacoma, Washington. An avid student of our craft, he is also a published author and he is a contributor to Auto Success magazine.