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4 Motivational Tips to Improve Car Dealership Team Culture

How do you motivate dealership employees to work as a team? And is it worth the effort, especially when there are so many other challenges competing for your attention as a dealership leader?

Evidence from the most successful dealerships demonstrates how focusing on building a motivational team culture can pay off in measurable bottom-line ROI. A recent study found engaged employees lead to 21% more profitability, 41% less absences and a 59% reduction in employee turnover.

But how do you go about building a team culture in a dealership, especially in a legacy dealership that may have deep cultural roots going back decades? 

In this blog post, we share 4 best practices for how to improve car dealership team culture and how to motivate employees to work as a team:

  • – Be clear with your team

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– Communicate well and often 

– Coach – but don't micromanage

  • – Give them what they need to succeed 

Focus on Clarity

One of the most damaging things you can do as a leader is set your team up to fail by giving them incomplete or inconsistent guidance. It’s hard to succeed if you’re not certain what you’re trying to accomplish. In a study of professional project managers, 30% identified “undefined project goals” as a cause of project failure.

One of a dealership leader’s most important responsibilities is to make sure each staff member understands their personal role and responsibilities and has a clear view of how they fit both into their team and into the dealership. Evaluate the goals you set for your team by asking yourself if they are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timely. 

Clarity also extends to transparency. Share as many updates as possible about what’s going on in the dealership, especially when times are tough or news is bad. A car dealership team culture that is based on an honest and transparent communication regarding dealership operations will ultimately help minimize discontent and car dealership employee turnover driven by fear of the unknown.

The Power of (Great) Communication

Creating a team culture that values effective communication is critical to both individual and dealership success. A study by the Project Management Institute found that on average, two out of every five corporate projects fail to meet their original goals – and half of the failures are due to ineffective communication.

Never forget that communication goes both ways. As a leader, you should be listening to your team as much as they’re listening to you – preferably more. Great leaders ask great questions, and they’re constantly curious. Ask questions that require more than “yes” or “no” answers, and make sure you’re not just talking to and hearing from your direct reports. 

Remember that you communicate with much more than words. Body language, energy, eye contact – all these things create context that can speak louder than the words you use.

Coach – Don’t Control

In 2016, Google set out to identify what made its own managers effective at building and leading strong teams. They determined the number one behavior of an effective Google manager was “is a good coach.” 

Never forget, as a car dealership leader, your primary role is to support and empower your team. However, it’s critical to not mistake micromanagement for coaching. (In fact, “empowers team and does not micromanage” was the second key behavior identified by Google.)

There’s always the risk that when you focus more of your time and attention on an employee, they take that as a sign of lack of confidence in them. This can cause employees to lose motivation and confidence in their abilities and perform even more poorly than before. 

A manager who sees this decline in performance will likely intensify their involvement in the employee’s work, making the problem even worse than before. Researchers have called this the “Set-Up-to-Fail Syndrome,” and it’s a very real risk for even the most well-intentioned managers.

To avoid this self-fulfilling spiral, make sure you’re using the tools of clarity and communication discussed above. Most importantly, don’t get so caught up in the mechanics of managing a team member that you forget to show you care about them as a person.

Set Your Dealership Employees Up for Success

Equipping your dealership team with the tools and training they need to succeed allows dealership leaders to create an exceptional dealership culture that’s built on delivering a great customer experience. 

Audit your car dealership’s marketing tools. Is your employee-facing technology easily accessible to every member of your sales team? What about your service department or F&I staff?  Do your databases (CRM, DRM and sales platform) easily integrate? 

These tools impact more than just the efficiency of your dealership – they impact your employees’ satisfaction. One industry study found 61% of employees don’t believe their car dealership is using the latest technology – with 12% thinking their dealership is way behind the times. As a result, 25% are considering leaving because they don’t believe their dealership is headed in the right direction. 

Your success as a dealership leader depends on equipping your team with both the right tools and the skills they need to use those tools to their fullest potential. The same previously mentioned industry study found 1 in 3 dealership leaders aren’t investing in employee training opportunities beyond what the OEM provides. 

Investing in dealership training like technical job-specific courses and broader automotive leadership training is a great way to keep your dealership’s staff motivated and inspired – while simultaneously empowering them to deliver exceptional customer service that sells more cars.

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