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The Donkeys and The Eagles

Let’s take a look at two people that are found in various departments within most dealerships. I’ll bet people’s names and faces will probably come to mind as you read these descriptions.

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The Donkey is often late, and you better stay out of the way on a Monday morning because he or she is not in the mood for questions or to be held accountable for anything. For Donkeys, leadership is a joke because they truly believe they know a better way — and are offended when no one asks them. In the afternoon, they’ve got one eye on their work (when they’re not distracted by something on the Internet) and one eye on the clock. The Donkey has never heard a piece of gossip he or she didn’t pass along with embellishment. Donkeys are self-absorbed, constantly whine, complain and focus on what they don’t have, overreact to everything, bully whenever possible, and their disgruntled attitude is like an ominous rain cloud when they walk into the room. And somehow, they remain employed at the dealership year after year.

The Eagle arrives early each day, having mentally planned their day the night before and is ready for business the moment he or she walks through the door. Eagles know their job backwards and forwards, but are always willing to learn more to improve themselves and their performance. Eagles always go beyond what is expected not just for themselves but in supporting their team, as well. When challenges arise, the Eagle is the first to step up, ready to do whatever needs to be done. He or she is the one your team goes to when they need assistance, guidance or encouragement. Everyone around the Eagle feels better because he or she brings excellence, positivity and a winning spirit to the workplace.

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How leadership treats these two people sets the tone of the entire department, if not the entire dealership. We all know that there’s a very big difference between treating people equally and treating them fairly, but too often, this bit of common sense is ignored.

Treating Unequals Equally

Imagine a business where, when handing out bonuses, everyone got the same amount added to their paycheck in an effort to treat everyone equally. How motivated would the Eagles be to continue to put in the time and effort to excel at their job? How long would they be able to maintain their outstanding attitude when the Donkeys, who put in the bare minimum to get by and are proud to let everyone know it, are equally rewarded? If these two are treated the same by management, what’s the logical conclusion that not only they but everyone else in the office can draw?

  • Exceptional behaviors and efforts aren’t rewarded
  • Good results don’t matter
  • Excellent attitudes and performances aren’t appreciated

On a commissioned-based pay plan, Eagles will certainly earn more, but if management doesn’t show any appreciation other than the paycheck, they’ll soon start looking for a company where effort is recognized and rewarded. In a salary position, however, giving equal treatment to unequals will be a complete culture killer. If everyone gets the same bonuses and perks no matter what their attitude and performance might be, those companies will run off their superstars. There is nothing more unfair than the equal treatment of unequals.

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Can You Turn a Donkey into an Eagle?

With the right coaching and training, sometimes a Donkey can be transformed, but they need to be able to answer “yes” to the following two questions:

  • Are They Able to Do better? — A bad attitude sometimes can be tracked down to a lack of training, experience and support in doing the right things. If they are held accountable for their performance, consistently made aware of what’s expected of them in actions, attitudes and results in the workplace and given the proper training (or if they need a refresher), it might make a difference. Experiencing success while being recognized and rewarded can often be a cure for a bad attitude.
  • Do They Want to Do Better? — Sometimes a sour attitude seems to be baked into certain individuals. Their upbringing, experiences, peers and other factors have all taught them bad lessons, and they’ve internalized those lessons to the point where they are embedded in their personality. Part of the Theory of 5 philosophy is that we tend to think and behave like the people we spend the most time with. Success and hard work might not be valued among the Donkey’s group of family and friends, and so he or she might not be open to coaching, or even understand why we’re coaching them to improve. As much as you want to support Donkeys in becoming better team members and discovering success, they might not be willing — or even able — to change their outlook.

If you’ve made an honest effort to coach them into bringing out their best and you haven’t seen any effort on their part to join your team on that path, it’s time to consider parting ways with them for the good of the team.

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Maintaining An Atmosphere of Success

Attitude is absolutely contagious in any environment — for better and for worse — and how we as leaders choose to react, reward and recognize outstanding behavior, attitude and results will absolutely determine if we have a team of champions or a team of “chumpions.” Choose wisely!

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