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Sean Kelley

Sean Kelley CEO

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It's Time to Lead Follow or Get Out of the Way

Are you giving your leadership the grace they need to lead you through the struggle?

Company owners and managers have the hardest jobs in the world right now. Leaders are darned if they do, darned if they don’t!

Owners whom I coach face a divided team: Some employees want to close to avoid getting sick. Others want to work and feed their families. Only owners know how hard it is to build a business and a team! Most care about their people’s health yet feel that shutting down the company is giving up to the virus without a fight!

Managers I coach are the glue keeping the stressed-out employees and customers together! They are adapting quickly, but constant high tension situations wear on them. As does the question always on their mind, “How can we produce enough to keep our jobs?”


These are no doubt, challenging times, and here are some ways to make things a little easier.

Owners: The only poor decision in a time like this is indecision. Remove the whispers and morale erosion by scheduling time to listen to employees’ opinions. Soon after, make a decision and take a stand! Communicate the "why" behind your decision to your team. In this way, you can align your team to the direction you are leading them. This will eliminate much of the fear of the unknown. When your employees know where you stand, why it's important, and have clarity around your plan, they can take decisive action. Simply put, rip the band-aid off. You may lose someone who isn’t a good fit. That’s better than losing people who are! Owners, remember three things. First, it's your job to set the direction of your company, even when the decision sucks. Second, you can't saw wood without sawdust. All decisions have a downside in a time like this, it's not your fault. Finally, Winston Churchill’s quote, “You have enemies? Good, that means you stood for something in your life!”

Managers: Maintain a united front with your owner! Leadership must maintain a united front, and if you sew seeds of doubt, you are making your team ineffective a critical moment in your business's history. You may need to have difficult conversations with your company owner if more communication and direction is needed from the top. Tell them what you need to get the job done, and remember you cant get it if you don't ask for it. Stay healthy and manage your stress; you can’t center your team if you’re not focused and centered yourself. You can’t predict the outcome, but you CAN stay positive and communicate positive intent. You will give it your all to ensure the best possible outcome, so there’s no point in amplifying negativity! You are a leader if this is going to make us fail, fail giving it 150% effort. It's time to step up, even MORE.

Employees: You are entitled to your opinion, but spreading negativity and “shoulding” all over your owners and managers isn’t right. “We should be closed.”, is a toxic statement that is likely designed to indirectly influence the company's direction. Be understanding, knowing they have a lot more than you to worry about! They have their family, their employee's families and their business! Does the situation suck? Yup! Is it a good idea to make it suck more by sewing seeds of contention and doubt? Nope! “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” So don’t add dead weight to your already stressed-out leaders. Instead, add value and find ways to be productive! The way you react to this situation could be your one chance to prove how valuable an asset you are! If you can’t say anything nice, don’t talk.

Lead, follow, or get out of the way!



Sean Kelley


Prior to entering the car business, Sean believed leadership was the key to ensure his Special Operations team would survive two combat deployments. Sean Kelley #TheCarBizCoach has since applied those same leadership principles to automotive management, and successfully lead dealers for a decade: lowering turnover, increasing profit, customer retention, customer satisfaction, and setting first-time regional records. Sean Kelley has built a massive following with thousands of coaching clients on Linkedin, his Facebook group, and has become a featured writer and vlogger for Sean’s passion for coaching and people development led him to become Chief Business Development Officer of DriveCentric CRM where he helped them double their annual revenue in just months. Now, as CEO of Car Motivators and President of Next Sale App for Missouri, Sean and his coaches work with dozens of dealer groups, and automotive tech companies coaching hundreds of sales managers across the country. This is why Dealership News voted Sean Kelley consultant of the year in 2018. Sean was also ranked #10 in top 100 sales coaches to follow. Sean’s passion is for helping automotive leaders achieve great results through their people and technology. Due to Sean’s enthusiasm, sense of humor, knowledge, and engaging presentations, he has keynoted or spoken for multiple conferences like: Digital Dealer, Automotive Game Changers, Rockstar Automotive Events, Canadian Game Changer Seminars, St Louis Auto Dealer Association, Texas Independent Automotive Dealer Association and more. Sean helps those with a growth mindset create winning cultures with his unique self-developed approach to coaching and people development called D.R.I.V.E.C3™. Sean’s vision is to positively impact the leadership landscape of the automotive industry and its people by living out his mission of bringing coaching to the car business.

R. J. James

Sean... GREAT article and in my best Emeril Lagasse voice, I say "BAM!!!"

Sean Kelley

Thank you R.J.! I am grateful for your comment and glad it hit the nail on the head!

Derrick Woolfson

I echo R.J. on his comment! Morale is a critical component to a dealerships success, and to your point - and I fully agree - it is a two way street. But indecisiveness on the Exec/Owner level can cause for more, unnecessary,  doom and gloom. Excellent article!!! 

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