A few weeks ago, I presented at Fran Taylor’s “30 Sales a Month” workshop in Philadelphia, PA. The presentation was mainly focused on my retail sales “story”, if you will. Part of what made me successful, however, was that I questioned… well, just about everything. If I saw a better way to do something, I said so. If I disagreed, I spoke up. My sales managers got so fed up with me that, at one point, both the GSM and Sales Manager walked into my GM’s office and announced that they “washed their hands of me”. My GM’s response was that I could report directly to him then. The fact that I had a great leader and mentor that believed in me and was willing to give me leeway was what allowed me to go to the next level in my career.
I remember what he used to tell me every time I came to him with some crazy idea, “I’ll give you all of the rope that you want. You can either hang yourself with it or make a basket to carry all of your money.” I never hung myself. While my presentation was mainly geared towards salespeople, I wanted to leave the dealers and managers present with a takeaway encouraging them to change their perception of employee loyalty. Attendees really liked the message and shared it on social networks with their peers so I thought I’d share the origins of that and explain it for those who couldn’t attend.
Many experts have extolled the fact that the genesis of customer loyalty lies in first ensuring that you have employee loyalty. Your employees are the front-line people that can make or break the best designed and intentioned customer experiences. The porter washing that new car just purchased could send those otherwise happy customers leaving with a slightly less wonderful taste in their mouths. The receptionist who sends a customer off into on hold limbo can send a service customer elsewhere. Don’t think that just because you care that your employees do. I believe most successful businesses, however, intuitively understand this concept. The trick is identifying these employees and sometimes that can be tough.
In a recent article, Hubspot founder Dharmesh Shah listed what he believed to be the 7 qualities of a truly loyal employee. In that article, he illustrates that while it may seem easy to identify loyal employees based on things like how long they’ve worked for you, some of the traits of a loyal employee are the same traits that may actually lead you to firing them. It’s a fact that, in general, there is high employee turnover at dealerships. Some managers are also not the most sympathetic people to work for either. It was easy to see how some of these traits could be easily have their intentions misunderstood.
The first quality he lists is the display of loyalty through integrity. In his opinion, the employee who openly disobeys you to “do the right thing” actually has your long-term best interest at heart. Secondly, they generate discussions. Shah explains that a loyal employee knows what peers understand and assists them in learning how you think by asking the questions others are hesitant to. Third, they praise others. They recognize hard work or a job well done and care enough to verbalize their praise. Fourth, they disagree with you and share their opinions because they want to improve the company and doing so leads to better decision making. Fifth, they support your decisions regardless of whether they disagree. Six, they tell you “what you least want to hear… especially when it’s awkward or even painful to do so.” And last, they leave when it’s time to. That last one would seem to particularly illustrate disloyalty but, according to Shah, when your best employees leave, they help you fill their places while doing so.
His article was very thought-provoking and certainly presented a compelling argument listing qualities that many would deem insubordinate and reversing them into qualities of a loyal employees. At one point in all of our lives, we’ve all had that boss that exhibited the “my way or the highway” method of supervision. They weren’t much fun to work for. I certainly displayed many of these qualities and, while I may not work for my mentor anymore, when I left, it was simply my time to do so.
In the turnover challenged industry that is automotive retail, managers must pause and take a moment to reflect on these qualities. List first the employees that you would say were your most loyal. Afterwards, reassess everyone using the qualities presented by Mr. Shah then compare the two lists. Are they the same? Chances are that some different names will suddenly appear. Loyal employees are key factors in business success. Identifying and understanding employee loyalty can assist you in not only increasing customer satisfaction – but also in identifying your future leaders.