One of the biggest expenses dealerships face each year is turnover. Not only does finding a new employee take a lot of time and money, but you then have to reinvest in proper training to get that new person up to speed.
I’ve found that dealerships – like many other complex work environments – are negatively impacted by assumptions, something I like to call “story time.” Before I go into the details of how story time ruins your employer-employee relationships and leads to turnover, let’s take a second to review what motivates people in the first place.
Motivation in action: FIRO
Developed by observing well-oiled, capable teams working in high-stress situations, the Fundamental Interpersonal Relationship Orientation (FIRO) approach boils people’s fundamental behavior down to three desires:
- Inclusion. Everyone expresses or wants contact with others—to be around others and work with others.
- Control. Everyone expresses or wants influence over things and people.
- Openness. Everyone expresses or wants to be known, seen, appreciated—a curiosity about others and a willingness to be seen ourselves.
This chart shows how each area relates to the others:
For managers who typically can’t create a team from scratch based on compatibility, we have to focus on the thing we can change. Will Schutz – the psychologist who invented the FIRO method – says that creating an environment that encourages openness is the best method. And openness is what story time is all about.
It's story time
First, let’s address openness. I’m not talking about some touchy-feely “new-age” thing. Instead, “openness” means a willingness to consider other interpretations of behavior.
Whenever something happens to us, we almost always make up a story about it. Unfortunately, most of the time we don’t make the effort to check out our made-up story. We simply create this fantasy world about what’s going on. As time goes on, those stories get hairier and stranger.
Just think about the last time you were baffled by something your boss said. You probably found yourself thinking, “I bet they’re irritated with me,” or “They probably think that …” In reality, you just don’t know what’s happening with your boss. But your brain doesn’t like uncertainty, so it’s compelled to make up a story that gives you some understanding. And our people do the same about us!
Story time has a huge impact on businesses. Dealerships (and all businesses) are composed of multiple, competing stories about what’s going on and why—stories that are rarely discussed openly and almost never examined in a way that could prove or disprove the stories. Left to run unchecked, story time can give your best performers misinformation, and lead them to walk out the door.
Putting story time to bed.
In work relationships, we have two choices:
- Let people make up stories about what is going on with us
- Tell people what’s actually going on, so that they stop making up their own stories
As a leader, you set the tone.
When you stay holed up in your office, I can guarantee that your staff is making up stories trying to understand your decisions.
“Management By Wandering Around” (MBWA) is a great way to stop story time in its tracks. And, what better way to interact with the dealership?!
When I get out into the departments, I share with my staff what’s going on in the department, what’s keeping me up at night … and, critically important, what my hopes and dreams are for the dealership and the department. As an added bonus, the employees relax a bit and tell me things they might not in more formal situations. Everybody wins! And everyone stops inventing stories.
Give it a try in your dealerships. Manage by “wandering around” and find out what’s really going on. Stop the stories and deal with facts! What do you have to lose?