Are you looking for a Top 10 list for how to better communicate with your dealership team? Stop looking. Experts say communication is much too complex — and important — to be simplified into a list.
“Everyone wants a checklist. It won’t do you any good. Successful communication is a complex integration of thought, process and behavior,” says Bob Gray, president of the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation.
What’s more, it’s one of the top challenges for many businesses.
“If you ask any business leader what their number one issue is, most would say it is communication,” says Monte Wyatt, an executive coach based in Des Moines, Iowa. Wyatt says when owners and employees aren’t communicating well, the blame often rests with the company leader.
“They’re not intentional about communication. They think, ‘I told them once when they started, why don’t they remember it?’ ” Wyatt says. “Many times leaders aren’t communicating goals and expectations, so nobody knows what to expect or what they should do.”
“Communication is the difference between a strong, successful team and an average team,” says Wyatt.
Keep these strategies in mind to build that successful team through better communication.
The first thing to remember when communicating: Don’t do all the talking.
Bob Gray is president of the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation.
“We were given two ears and one mouth for a reason. Communication starts with good listening,” says Gray.
Then, stay true to who you are.
“Everyone has a different personality. Stay within your own skin to find a style that works best for you,” says Gray.
Wyatt says to watch for these four styles of communication, both for yourself and those you are talking with:
- Reserved personality — May be less likely to speak up or initiate interactions.
- Assertive personality — May prefer to take the lead. More likely to ask questions.
- People-oriented — Focused more on emotions and personal interactions.
- Task-oriented — Focused more on details or actions.
“We all have a mix of these four styles, but some are more prominent and we need to be conscious of them,” says Wyatt. “In an ideal world everyone is adapting. We need all four styles to make a business run great. Each has benefits and perceived disadvantages.
“If I am talking to someone that is reserved and very task oriented, they will want details and will desire some time to review and think it through. If I am more assertive, I will need to adapt if I want to communicate well. That means I need to slow down and not be overbearing,” says Wyatt.
Gray adds that consistency is important regarding the message.
“It’s helpful in business to be predictable and take an even-handed approach. You can tailor the message, but deliver that message in a consistent way,” Gray says.
Build in a Feedback Loop
Successful communication is about more than sharing a message. It’s about whether that message was understood — and leads to a desired action. Experts say to build in a feedback loop to make sure everyone knows what’s expected after the conversation ends.
“The simplest feedback loop is to ask if they understand what was said,” says Gray. It doesn’t need to be formal. For instance, after a team meeting, just leave time for questions. And, it’s up to you to make sure your team is comfortable asking questions.
“Are you approachable with questions? Do you have an ‘open door’ policy? Communication is a two-way conduit,” says Gray.
Monte Wyatt provides executive coaching, leadership training, and business growth strategies.
Wyatt says results are the ultimate measurement of communication.
“If people are following through and executing from your communication, then you are a good communicator. If they are not, you need to look at how and what you are communicating. Take ownership of what you say and how you are saying it,” says Wyatt.
That ownership comes in the form of follow-ups. Ask your employees what actions they are taking based on what you communicated and when they’ll complete those actions. Do the same for yourself.
There’s another twist to communication: generational differences. This is especially true in many dealerships, which have long-time employees, some for decades, as well as new hires.
Gray says that younger employees, often called “millennials,” have different work expectations than older generations. Millennials generally were born between the late 1970s and 2000.
“They expect more of a team structure and immediate and constant feedback,” says Gray. He says some businesses are taking advantage of this by building collaboration into the work environment and setting up management committees.
Wyatt says these generational differences may dictate what communication tools you use.
“The older generation may not use emails. Younger employees may not use emails because they’re on Facebook,” Wyatt says. Regardless of the tool or the generation, leaders need to go back to the preferred style of the person, such as whether they’re reserved, assertive, people-oriented or task-oriented.
Internal Communication Dos and Don’ts
Communicating with employees may be a complex mix of messages, delivery style, understanding and behavior. However, Wyatt says these tips can make communication count:
- Be proactive. Over-communicate if necessary.
- Be conscious of your audience and their preferred method of communication.
- Look for ways to put your messages in writing, such as follow-up emails, shared documents, even wall posters.
Follow up with a regular schedule.
- Wyatt says to consider a daily “huddle” of ten minutes with key employees where you discuss challenges for the day. Adapt that into a weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual huddle. At the different intervals, examine larger issues and measure results.
- Never assume the person understands without confirming.
- Don’t force people to adapt to your style.
- Don’t ignore questions or issues employees offer.
And, most importantly, don’t let poor communication be an excuse for why you and your team are not achieving your goals.