It’s long been the responsibility of dealers to identify and grow today’s automotive retail professionals into the dealership leaders of tomorrow. The dramatic challenges facing the automotive industry in the past year have largely emphasized this, plus the critical importance of ensuring dealership leaders are coached and prepared for whatever new obstacles may lie ahead.
This preparation starts with effective leadership coaching. NADA research finds that 90% of dealership executives consider leadership coaching a critical topic for dealership success. It’s more important than ever that dealers design and implement automotive leadership trainee programs that provide effective leadership coaching to prepare the next generation of leaders in the automotive industry for future challenges and opportunities.
In this post, we share starting points for your dealership’s automotive leadership trainee program and best practices for coaching and mentoring leadership, including:
– Prepare and plan
– Give them what they need to succeed
– Identify the right leadership coaches
Have a plan and set expectations
Research finds leadership coaching offers real benefits, both to the recipient and organization. From the individual side, 80% of people who received coaching report increased self-confidence, and more than 70% said they benefit from improved work performance, relationships and more effective communication skills. Meanwhile, surveys found that 86% of companies report a positive return on their coaching investment.
Leaders in the automotive industry know all too well dealership success hinges on setting effective goals and measuring outcomes. That’s not just for sales quotas or F&I upsells, but also true for your automotive leadership trainee program.
Make sure you’re setting clear targets for your dealership leadership coaching programs, both for the program as a whole and individually with personal targets for participants. Ask if the goals you set for your team are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timely, and ensure you have the proper tools in place to track progress.
Your expectations should mirror those of your customers. Ensure your team is thinking of evolving buying behaviors and focus on building a team culture based on delivering a great customer experience. These metrics won’t always be sales numbers, per say. Look at the behaviors that empower your team to deliver that exceptional customer experience – engagement with teammates, engagement in training, effective use of resources and tools – and incentivize participants to take these actions.
Identify the right coaches – with the right mindset
As we’ve noted before, Google’s own internal research found the top attribute of a successful manager in their organization was “Is a good coach.” However, don’t assume this means the best performers in your dealership are automatically the right people on your team to run your automotive leadership trainee program.
Consider that in sports, superstar athletes rarely become great coaches. Rather, many of the best coaches in sports history were “grinder” players in their day who built their careers figuring out how to maximize every facet of their own skillset or finding innovative ways to overcome challenges. Similarly, in a dealership your best leadership coaches may not be the top sellers, but rather the people who had to learn how to overcome challenges.
When you’re looking for the first cohort of coaches, start with the people who had to work the hardest to get where they are today. This tenacity is a critical trait during times of market volatility. Seek out those who look for creative solutions to challenges or limitations, as they’ll be more likely to provide effective coaching and mentoring leadership themselves.
Help your dealership team succeed now and in the future
Coaching isn’t cheerleading – and it isn’t necessarily managing either. One other difference between coaching someone and managing them is the role of advice in the relationship. Effective leadership coaching encourages – and sometimes even forces – the person being coached to develop the answers themselves.
To empower your team to develop these dealership leadership skills requires giving them the tools and training they need to succeed. Audit your current tools and technology to identify opportunities to improve. Look for areas of opportunity like integrating data from tools such as your CRM, DRM and sales platform to unlock greater impact for your team. Ensure every member of your team can confidently use employee-facing technology and can take advantage of its full range of applications.
Many times, dealers will invest in the tools, but not the training. In fact, a recent industry study found 1 in 3 dealership leaders aren’t investing in employee training opportunities beyond what the OEM provides. Encourage future dealership leaders to expand their horizons and seek out ways to grow beyond their current experiences through expanded professional development and automotive sales training.
Remember: You’re coaching someone, not cloning yourself. Instead of doubling down on the way “it’s always been done,” encourage mentees to develop the tools and habits they’ll need as a dealership leader when they’re the one being asked for advice rather than doing the asking.
Here’s a leadership coaching principle to keep in mind: If you’re trying to turn them into you, they’ll never get any better than you.