Manager Or Damager?

Retaining good employees should be up toward the top of any manager's list.

If someone scratches your dealership’s pickup truck, that’s often considered a problem. Ding a customer’s bike that’s in for service, it’s a big deal. Drop a bike on the showroom floor, that’s tantamount to treason!

But what about taking care of your people? Getting and keeping high-quality employees will help your business, your customers and the entire motorcycle industry. So why do we give such due to scratches on a fender when we barely pay any attention to the damage that may be occurring to our most precious resource?

One answer may be that the event and its subsequent results are intangible. An exchange between a manager and an employee can’t be put in a box and sent to the paint shop. Another reason may be that we don’t think it’s a big deal. We think a person should be able to take a little gruff, at least that is what we tell ourselves.

Yet another reason may be because the results of such damaging exchanges are not immediately apparent. The results of today’s actions aren’t seen for weeks or even months. The following are some behaviors of "damagers" and what you can do to avoid them:

Giving NO Direction

Very often in our dealerships people don’t do what we want them to do because they have no idea what we want them to do. Yes, they are a motorcycle salesperson, but giving them a title (albeit devoid of any creativity) without direction is useless.

New Salesperson: "Wow, I’m really excited to be working here, what do you want me to do?"

Damager: "Do? Man, where did we get you? We want you to s–e–l–l motorcycles. You’re just going to set the world on fire, aren’t you?"

Then he skulks off to read back issues of Outlaw Biker.

Now imagine a manager instead of a damager handling this situation.

New Salesperson: "Wow, I’m really excited to be working here. What do you want me to do?"


Well, we are excited to have you. First things first, we always want to take care of customers. If there is someone on the showroom floor makes sure they have been acknowledged, and they are being taken care of. Or if there is a phone call, make sure that person is being served. If a person has taken time to visit us or call us they are our priority.

Second, we always want you to learn and use customer’s names. Either on the floor or on the phone, we want you to know the customer. This, we think, which makes us different from other stores in the area.

The other thing that sets us apart is the fact that we know what we are talking about. Our rule of thumb is that you must be able to tell the customer about five to seven features of any given motorcycle on the showroom floor. So when you and I are finished, I’ll introduce you to Steve. He’s very experienced and can start to show you the different models and what’s unique about each. Also here are the brochures and some article reviews of the motorcycles we sell.

Here is some additional reading material. This sheet details the five steps in our sales process. Follow this and you’ll do fine. Also here are the policies around price negotiation and the responses to the four most frequently asked questions on the showroom floor. Learn this stuff and you’ll have 90% of the job down cold.

We are looking for you to sell 15 motorcycles per month to start. Spend some time on this and the come see me at 2 p.m. today, and we’ll review phone prospecting. Do you have any questions?

If you want your people to accomplish something, tell them what it is you want them to do. Make sure your directions are clear and the objectives clearly specified, not some sort of abstract mumbo-jumbo.

Giving Abstract Directions

Another dilemma is when damagers think they are giving direction, but their objectives are so vague the person doesn’t know what it is they are actually trying to achieve. Here are some prime examples:

  • "We want you to take pride in your work."
  • "You need to have customer-focused mentality."
  • "We need you to be more professional."

Perhaps you have even been a part of conversations like this?

Damager: "We’re going to have to put you on employment probation."

Salesperson (Stunned): "What!?"

Damager: "Yes, we told you we wanted you to be more professional."

Salesperson: "I thought I have been. I come in early, stay late, my desk is clean, my numbers are good and, darn it, customers like me."

Damager: "Yes, well you still don’t record the time customers shop accurately on the floor traffic log."

Salesperson (Dumfounded): "You never said anything about that!"

Damager: "Well it’s just part of being professional."

Taking pride in one’s work, being customer-focused and being professional are all well-intentioned and reasonable goals. At the same time, they are way too vague to have any real utility when managing a dealership.

Instead you need to identify behaviors that can be seen and observed which indicate positive movement towards those goals. You can identify one or a handful but those behaviors need to be clearly communicated to your people.

Manager: "We are going to increase our level of professionalism in our department. From now on the expectation is that you will arrive 15 minutes before your shift starts; you will make sure that all your calls and e-mails are returned before you leave at the end of your shift; your work area will be kept clean and that there is nothing on it but your phone, your calendar and your brochures. We also expect everyone to make their monthly objectives, and we want the traffic log filled in completely, including the time the customer shopped the dealership. This is important for us to understand trends in the business. Any questions?"

Now that’s direction! You can get your arms around it, and there is no uncertainly as to what is expected. Increased professionalism is nice, but knowing what that really looks like is nicer.

Ever-Changing Priorities

When most people are given specific directions they perform reasonably well. Most people when given a new direction are flexible enough to change course. When done repeatedly however, ever-changing priorities create fatigue and manager mistrust.

Perhaps you’ve seen this happen. A manager starts the day espousing customer service as the dealership’s top priority. Then after having lunch with the with the owner, calls everyone together and rails about profit margins and says that the team is giving too much away to secure sales, only to have the day end with another tongue-lashing, but this time about sales numbers not being reached and the need for more prospecting. Make up your mind already!

We all want our work to count for something. When damagers keep changing their minds, we feel our work is for naught, and we also grow suspicious of those who keep changing direction.

In business many things are important, of course. But there is no way everything can be the top priority all the time. Good managers know this and choose their shots wisely, letting their people make real headway towards a priority.

The Top Priority

Speaking of the top priority, seems to me that retaining good employees should be up toward the top of any manager’s list. Wait until you see the research showing just how tight the future job market is set to become! Next time we will also talk about the damager’s abilities to withhold compliments, damn with faint praise and otherwise drive good employees away.

Of course, we will cover the manner in which managers effectively deal with these same elements. In the meantime, start by improving your sense of direction. In fact, consider making that your top priority because your performance matters.

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