How to Become an Authentic Leader

Prominent thinkers in the motivational and leadership fields are challenging the traditional traits of great leadership. Their research indicates that valued leadership qualities have changed. They believe that leaders should lean more toward authenticity rather than perfection.

Most leaders feel that being professional in their position means being organized, focused and strong.  Although these qualities are important, being an authentic, compassionate, and caring leader is equally important. Techniques that coax better performance require a personal touch. It’s human nature to want to work with people we like and can relate to. As a matter of fact, we not only want to work with them, but we want to work harder for them.

As a professional service advisor trainer, I have had the opportunity to work with many different types of managers. In many cases, this position is filled by someone who has stepped up from another position that had absolutely nothing to do with leading employees to reach new levels of success. We can make the mistake of directing their focus to reports and numbers more than coaching and building. While the bottom line is critical to a successful business, we will never get the numbers we want without building a strong team.

Your people are your business

One of the dealers that I work with has an invaluable habit of walking through his dealership front to back and telling everyone good morning. Sometimes he would even thank them for just being there or doing a good job. If he knew of some significant event in their lives (and he seemed to know about them) he would comment on it or shake their hand and congratulate them.

One morning, I watched a technician approach him excitedly to share pictures of his new baby. The technician was treating the dealer like a member of the family who couldn’t wait to see the new addition. When I asked the dealer about it, I found out that this young technician hadn’t worked there long. This dealer had established some critical relationship building skills. No wonder he had one of the most dedicated staffs I have ever worked with. Who wouldn’t want to work for someone who so genuinely values each person who makes up his business?

Why do so many of us spend all of our time displaying authority and demanding perfection and leave no room for individuality, honesty and compassion? In this business, most managers are performance-oriented and don’t consider the human element. Many of us have been taught that our personal lives should be left at home and the lines should never be blurred.

I’ve found that by getting to know each Service Advisor’s passions and goals- as well as their challenges and areas that need improvement – we can get more accomplished in a shorter amount of time.

Understand Your Team Members’ Motivations

If someone who was a top producer suddenly falls to the bottom of the board or if someone with a great attitude suddenly becomes quiet or even negative, it’s our job to find out why.

Too often, rather than sitting the struggling advisor down to find out what’s causing the changes in performance in order to offer solutions and support, we begin to go over reports and numbers. It then becomes more of a performance review, which can cause the employee to retreat even more. Believe me, this person already knows they’re not performing.

Usually, just having someone care enough to listen is all it takes to get them refocused on the job. Spending time asking questions and listening is exactly what we teach Service Advisors to do in order to get to the bottom of what’s concerning your customer. Shouldn’t we lead by example by letting this human element become a part of our management style? It’s a much more effective way to get to the root of the problem and form a plan for recovery, not loss.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you be come a counselor. And, yes, performance reviews are still an important part of your job. I am, however, suggesting that taking the time to learn more about each individual on your team so they will like, trust, and respect you will pay off in a big way.

This new approach will promote the desire to be loyal to you and your company. In other words, your employees will be working hard, not because they have to, but because they want to. That can make all the difference. It’s a win-win situation for you, your employees and your customers as you create a unified, happy, work environment.

Sally Whitesell is President of sw Service Solutions and Fixed Ops University. She is the author of “Words That Sell Service” and a featured speaker at many automotive events. She has 26 years of experience training and motivating managers, advisors, porters and cashiers. 

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