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The 7 Culture Killers

By giving team members a work environment conducive for success, we’re providing them a launch pad so they can soar.

Chris Saraceno is the Vice President & Partner of the Kelly Automotive Group. Visit

Are These Behaviors Robbing Our Teams of Outstanding Results?

As leaders, part of our commitment to our team members is to give them a place to work where they can fulfill their potential and go further than they ever thought possible. One way to support them is to make sure our office or our dealership runs smoothly. 

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In order to do this, my Theory of 5 mentors and I have found that we must avoid seven culture killers, which requires paying attention and making sure none of them take root in our dealerships. While any one of them might not seem significant at the time, these behaviors will begin to strangle workplace morale, team member enthusiasm and overall results. 

1. Big Ego and Arrogance

Arrogance can make a room feel like it’s too full for anyone else to matter. This is especially true if it’s the leader displaying this quality. There’s a distinct difference between confidence and arrogance. People like confidence; arrogance cultivates a “me vs. you” mentality that will break a team apart — or prevent it from forming at all. Additional obstacles are leaders with the “I, Me, Mine” mindset, who believe every great idea is theirs and will take credit, even if they don’t deserve it. This will shut down cooperation and creativity in a heartbeat.

2. Consistent Micromanaging

There is a place for micromanaging in a business — it’s important to take a hands-on approach in guiding people when they’re first starting out in an organization. Consistently hovering over people when they are properly trained and doing their jobs, however, makes everyone uncomfortable and less productive. Uncontrolled micromanaging will chase off talented team members.

3. Gossip

To be blunt, gossip is a workplace cancer — and once it’s discovered, it needs to be excised aggressively and immediately. It’s a tool small people use to make themselves feel powerful at the expense of others, and it has no place in a healthy organization. It is not to be tolerated. Fortunately, there’s an easy solution for leaders who see it for the threat that it is. It only takes two words: “STOP IT” (perhaps three more: “OR YOU’RE FIRED”). 

4. Office Politics

Working at a dealership is challenging enough without constantly worrying that someone is about to stab us in the back to climb the next rung on the company ladder. Petty power plays, rules for the sake of having rules and other activities that drain people of not only their energy but their will to come into work every day have no place in any organization. Make sure your team is just that — a team. We all pull together, or we go nowhere.

5. Dishonesty or Lack of Transparency

As leaders, our team members must be able to trust our word. As soon as that trust is broken by a lie or by an arbitrary change in the rules — or a change they believe is arbitrary — the best and brightest will take their talents elsewhere. If a leader makes a mistake, people can respect that if the person takes full responsibility. They can also understand when policies change if they know the reasoning behind it. What they won’t accept is being lied to or blindsided.

6. Equal Treatment of Unequals

By treating everyone the same — where promotions are given strictly by seniority, for instance — we will cause morale to plummet. If everyone is given the same bonuses at the end of the year, regardless of results or effort, a leader will begin to receive lower effort, initiative and commitment, which will impact the team’s overall performance and the company’s outcome. Also, our most talented people will look for the door. Treating everyone the same is simply not fair. We’re not playing “favorites”; we’re basing our rewards on their outstanding results, actions and behaviors. We never penalize our hard workers with good results and reward the unmotivated underachievers.

7. Unresolved Issues

Things will go wrong from time to time with computers, equipment, personnel, outdated policies, etc. When things need our attention, we must take care of them. Don’t put off getting necessary equipment repaired or replaced. If a change is needed in our process to make it run smoother, make it happen. When disagreements between team members are causing concerns or conflicts in the office, and there is no sign of it stopping, get involved. Model the behavior that gets things done at the dealership.

My Theory of 5 mentors and I believe that we should give our team members every opportunity to shine and show what they are capable of achieving. By giving them a work environment conducive for success, we’re providing them a launch pad, so they can soar. 

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