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Pulling Together: Leadership and Employee Performance, Part 3

The potential for a new employee is practically limitless. Each new hire could be your dealership’s next superstar. Reality, however, soon kicks in and reveals the truth. Some new hires do indeed rock the lot and exceed expectations. Some, however, might not immediately live up to their potential or the hopes we had for them.

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The potential for a new employee is practically limitless. Each new hire could be your dealership’s next superstar. Reality, however, soon kicks in and reveals the truth. Some new hires do indeed rock the lot and exceed expectations. Some, however, might not immediately live up to their potential or the hopes we had for them. This month, we’ve asked our dealer panel how they deal with employees on each end of this spectrum.

AutoSuccess: What do you do with a new employee who you believe is underperforming? What steps to you take to guide them?


Andrew DiFeo, GM of Hyundai of St. Augustine: It’s important to go back to the initial hiring process and make sure you’ve clearly defined job descriptions with clearly measurable expectations, so when you do have that one-onone conversation, that employee isn’t caught off guard about what the expectations for them were. Then, it boils down to finding out if the employee can’t do it, which could be a training issue, or if the employee won’t do it. That might be a time where they get another chance, but you must set clear expectations. But, if the problem continues as a “won’t do,” then maybe that employee isn’t a good fit for your organization.


Chris Saraceno, VP and Partner of Kelly Automotive Group: With people new to the field, I believe in “situational leadership.” Adult learners are different from child learners. At the beginning, a person starting in a new field needs a lot of direction. They don’t know what they don’t know, so they need direction and they need you to be very specific (“These are the behaviors and these are the activities that you need to do on a daily basis”). Once they get more experience and then fall into a rut or aren’t performing, that’s a different situation. That’s when you can involve them and get their input on what needs to happen. It still comes down to your daily activities — what you’re doing to plan out your day on a consistent basis — and the right attitude. These are things you’ll only notice if you take time to meet and talk to people and observe what’s happening.


Mike Good, GM of Street Toyota: Again, you must first examine the interviewing process. Sloppy hiring infuses dealerships with under-performers who seemed to have all the “right answers,” but were invalidated by zero reference checks. That being said, if the hiring, training and clear expectation delivery process is precise, the next conversation involves objectives, accomplishments, expectations and feedback. Did I mention it’s two-way communication? Ask thoughtful questions that unearth hidden issues and challenges. Refer back to the original “why” both parties agreed to that created your working relationship. Moving forward, agreement must be present regarding re-formed objectives and empirical improvements, followed by measureable progress for both parties.


AutoSuccess: What do you do to encourage a new employee who is exceeding expectations?


Andrew DiFeo: The simplest thing is to recognize it. Often, good deeds or good performance go unnoticed; simply recognize them on an individual basis or a team basis in meetings. I also believe in having conversations with that employee to learn what their goals and objectives are and where they see themselves in the future, and then trying to create a clearly defined path to get to those goals and expectations in the company. We also try to get employees who are exceeding expectations into more training opportunities because we feel investing in those employees is money well spent. And, if they’re not in management, we try to get them involved in management meetings so they feel more welcome, and that could be part of their career path down the line.

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Chris Saraceno: When someone does well in the auto industry, when they first start out and exceed expectations, they’re almost like a magnet, with people being drawn to them. They are the exception, not the rule. At this company, we believe that recognizing the behaviors you like to get those behaviors repeated. Keep recognizing the good behaviors and being specific. You don’t want them to fall into the trap of hanging around the group of people just being average, talking about the weather or politics and all the things that are non-productive when you’re in a production based business.


Mike Good: For most, this is a dream come true. I hired an individual 11 months ago from another industry. He quickly vaulted to No. 2 in sales earnings out of a team of 28 (12 of whom make six-figure incomes). He has high CSI, exemplary morals and obvious integrity. He’s tripled his wages from his previous job. We saw him begin to bloom early on; our concern was burnout or “beginners luck.” We soon realized, however, that neither were applicable factors. We affirmed him with public and private praise. We also revisited his ambitions and future potential. In the last several months, we gave him a mentorship position with several newer sales associates. We continue to monitor his work/life balance in deference to his wife and two children. All is well. I’d add we believe strongly in affirming each one of our 28 sales associates. You grow a
dealership by growing people, not by throwing sales.

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If you have questions or are a dealer who would like to be considered for the panel, please contact us at [email protected]

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