Don’t Be ‘Nice’ to Your Team — Be Caring

Don’t Be ‘Nice’ to Your Team — Be Caring

Here are four steps to take to lead a team that minimizes critical actions and will put our team members on the path to success.

Most well-adjusted people don’t like confrontation. Most of us would rather avoid unpleasant conversations when possible — sometimes to the point where we’re biting our tongues rather than telling others uncomfortable truths.

The problem is that, especially for leaders, this tendency will rob our dealerships of productivity and our team of the results that they are ultimately looking to achieve. Ineffective leaders will allow bad or unproductive habits or activities slide in the name of “not wanting to upset people,” sometimes until a point of crisis.

The team member might not even be aware that they’re doing something wrong, and are surprised when the behavior has to be drastically changed “or else.” Robbing your people of an essential part of good leadership is neither nice nor kind — it’s holding them back and hurting your dealership.

My Theory of 5 mentors and I believe in the concept of servant leadership, where the main focus of our position is to instruct, support, guide and, if necessary, correct our team members in their activities to best position themselves and our dealership to succeed. This means having a hard conversation when needed. But if we keep our role as a servant leader in mind, potential issues can be handled quickly and effectively.

Here are four steps to take to lead a team that minimizes critical actions and will put our team members on the path to success:

Be Clear Upfront — When an individual joins our team, one of the first conversations we should have with them as leaders is “what is expected of them and why,” both at the beginning and in the future. They should have specific goals set that are achievable and ambitious. Do not overload them at the beginning, but give them measurable progress markers to ensure they are on the right path, and let them see how these goals will expand as they gather more experience. Unclear targets are no one’s friend. Sharing specific behaviors, actions, attitudes and results shows them what winning looks like.

Micromanage — The term “micromanage” has a negative connotation (the bosses that just can’t keep their hands out of the day-to-day process of their teams’ activities), but when a new team member joins us, they need specific, detailed dierctions. In fact, most people will want their leader’s input when they are first learning the ropes. This management style needs to be dialed back as the team member becomes more adept at their job, but in the beginning, clear instructions are how new team members learn to be effective at the tasks in front of them.

Check In Frequently — It’s easier to correct challenges as they start, rather than wait until they take root. When new team members are just settling in, be there for them, available to answer any questions they might have, and give feedback on what you’re seeing in their performance. Setting the path before them in the beginning is critical. As legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said, “practice does not make perfect; only perfect practice makes perfect.” Work with them on the fundamentals from the start, and that will set the correct course for their future efforts.

Be Constructive, Not Destructive — When you see new or existing team members going down a wrong course or developing habits that will be destructive in the future, don’t wait. Take the time to speak with them and get them back on the right course as soon as possible.

Keep in mind that different people will respond differently to correction. Some might like and want to be directly challenged — they are competitive and can use that as fuel for future efforts. Others might need a gentler hand — they might become discouraged if forcibly challenged by their leader. These people might feel like their leader has lost faith in them, and this could cause them to spiral. Our teams are made up of individuals — we need to treat them as such to guide them in becoming the best versions of themselves.

Whenever correction is needed, it’s best to do it in private. One-on-one meetings will be more productive when difficult conversations are necessary, taking the element of embarrassment out of the picture. Praise in public; correct in private.

As leaders who want the best from and for their team, we’ll have to have unpleasant conversations from time to time. By thinking ahead and keeping in mind that we are servant leaders, however, we can make these moments better for our team members and better for ourselves.

Accountability works both ways. While our team should be held accountable for their results, we are accountable to them to give them the best feedback and guidance we possibly can. Why? Because great leaders care enough to confront and correct.

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