The Rules of Engagement

PF_iStock_59601598_XXLARGEIt’s all about your attitude

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] recently attended a Dale Carnegie course that was really interesting. The subject of the class was the manager-employee relationship and the eye-opening thing was that attitude really is everything! Well, almost everything. The premise of Carnegie’s “The Bottom Line For Engagement” is that attitude must be combined with engagement.

During my 25+ years in the motorcycle industry I have hired my fair share of employees, and thinking back to some of the more recent guys hired for sales, I have opted for personality over experience. I have always said, “I can’t teach personality, but I can teach sales.” The traits of good salespeople are that they are ambitious, dependable, helpful, flexible, responsible, passionate, reliable, resourceful, confident; I can work with that!

Now take some of the most common soft skills: strong work ethic, good communication, time management and problem solving. These skills can easily transfer into attitude, but attitude doesn’t transfer into a skill. Then there is knowledge.

Knowledge is the last trait that we look for in employees. Knowledge is usually categorized as experience, but it can also be a skill. As part of the course we had to come up with a bunch of great traits for fully engaged employees. After we listed as many as the class could come up with, we then put those traits into three categories: Skill, Knowledge or Attitude. We added them all up and 85% of the traits we want in an engaged employee are ATTITUDE.

I’m running the risk of copyright infringement, but what the heck, its for a good cause. We then went on to talk about the three drivers of employee engagement. First is satisfaction with immediate manager; second is belief in senior leadership, and third is pride in the organization. Everyone plays a part in making an employee feel fully engaged.

An employee who doesn’t feel valued will only be partially engaged. An employee who feels deeply involved is an energized employee. An employee who is inspired and empowered is an enthusiastic employee. If your employees are valued, confident, empowered, enthusiastic, inspired and have a sense of ownership… well, now you have a fully engaged employee!

You’re probably thinking this is good information and a fine theory in a classroom, but how do we get our employees to feel that way in the real world of the dealership? Appreciation and recognition are the first steps.

Praise – Give it sincerely, based on behavior, values, accomplishments, successes, personality traits, etc.

Context – Use a specific example to put that praise into context. “John, I’m really impressed with how you upsold a helmet to that customer.” Then take it one step further by putting the praise into context. Explain how this helped you, the team, the company and the customer: “Getting that customer away from the $99 helmet and into a better helmet put more money in commissions in your pocket, it helped our department get closer to our goal, the company made more profit, and the customer will be safer.”

Reinforce – Top it off with a final positive statement or suggestion for the future. “I encourage you to keep doing that with all the customers, look for ways to help further yourself, our department, and the company. Nice Job!”

As managers and leaders we simply need to keep a couple of things in mind. Leaders need to let go and guide their employees to mature within new and expansive roles and responsibilities. Employees want to feel valued and challenged; they want to be trusted and given the freedom to explore and learn within the job.

[pullquote]“If your employees are valued, confident, empowered, enthusiastic, inspired and have a sense of ownership… well, now you have a fully engaged employee! If you’re not engaged… it just becomes another job.”[/pullquote]

True leadership is about enabling the full potential in others. It’s about allowing employees to be their authentic selves so they can leverage their strengths and unique perspectives. It is not about micromanaging (that is a rant for another time).

Today’s leaders must constantly focus on the growth of their teams and strengthening the capabilities of individuals who can make the team more effective. This creates an environment of continuous innovation and initiative. Leadership is about having each other’s backs – especially those of your employees. Employees disengage when their leaders play mind-games and are inconsistent with their approach and style.

Who wants to engage with a leader that doesn’t have their back? This is why operations lose top talent all the time. Managers just assume their employees will be loyal to them – rather than recognizing that retaining top talent requires leaders to always be looking out for their best interests. Leaders must communicate and become more emotionally intelligent to stimulate employee engagement.

How else can you determine if an employee is capable of performing and stepping-up their game if you are not continuously finding new ways to engage them? The bottom line is that the employee and the managers all must be fully engaged.

One thing we tend to forget is that we are in an enthusiast-based industry and we are in the motorcycle industry because we love it. If you’re not engaged or if your employees are not engaged, it just becomes another job!

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