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Employee Engagement - The Lone Ranger: When You're The Only One In The Dealership Who Cares

  • The Lone Ranger: When You're The Only One In The Dealership Who Cares

When a sole individual in a dealership is the only one wishing to pursue an initiative of employee engagement, there are steps to take. The first order of business is survival, followed by a "recruitment" of potentially like-minded individuals onto a better path for all.

Every now and then, we are contacted by a "Lone Ranger" — an employee in an organization who feels like they are the only one who wants to be engaged — who feels a bit helpless, even hopeless, in their wish to make their place of work a better place for everyone.

Sometimes, even the owners of the company the employee works for are completely checked out. The company is running on momentum and customer loyalty from times past, and the only reason the place is still functioning internally is from the energy of pure habit. Among all the checked-out staff is this solitary employee who wishes to turn the place around.

Why bother? Why should an employee care when even the owners don't? Well, a small percentage of us are idealists, that's for sure, but sometimes an employee is simply not in the position to move on to another organization. It might be for personal logistical reasons, limited regional job opportunities, or specific experience the employee desires, and only that company can provide it, despite the challenge that faces him or her.

Many years ago, I was in a similar situation. I arrived on day one with the exact subject matter experience the company needed, and the job challenge itself was very attractive to me personally. If I could make this work, I knew, it would be a career accelerator. The only problem was, two long-tenured staff members did not want me to be seen to succeed, because their previous and current, ever-failing efforts would then come under scrutiny, so I had some serious passive aggressive behavior lurking in the shadows, waiting to exploit any minor hiccup in my efforts.

Long story short, I was successful, and it became the springboard for something big and extraordinary. How did I get past others' efforts to undermine what I was doing, and how did I cope with organizational indifference? The answer lies in a simple question I would always ask myself — an "acid test", if you will — that helped me decide how to handle any situation, and that would neutralize any effort to undermine me.

What's in the best interest of the organization?

The question I always asked myself was what's in the best interest of the organization? Whether I was talking to myself — something I did quite a lot in that job — or parrying the destructive arguments of those who would see me fail, it's very hard to argue with the core intent of the question. Who can get away with saying the organization's interests are less important than, say, someone's fiefdom within it?

It was a way of making it not about me. If someone wanted to undermine me, the implication was, they were really attacking the organization's interests, not mine, because I always behaved an expressed myself in terms of what was best for the organization. I even had conversations where I was saying I don't matter in all of this. Let's talk about how it affects the company. I must have been very annoying to be around.

Common in a highly disengaged workplace, are individuals who want to drag you into the gutter with them. They are like zombies, stalking around the dealership showroom floor, looking for brains — your brains — to slurp out of your skull if you let them. So, you first need a way to survive. And the best way to get zombies off your back is to distract them towards something else. At least, that's how it often works in the movies. So, you always make it about the organization's needs, not yours.

Recruiting like-minded individuals

The reality is, being a disengaged employee is hard work. It's negative, destructive and is bad for everyone. People get that way because of a leadership issue, and the downward spiral into complete disengagement is accelerated by fear. So at least, deep down, every employee wants to be engaged again. You have that going for you.

To get any of your colleagues over to your way of thinking, you will have to remove fear from the equation. To do that, your new philosophy at the water-cooler will be there's nothing to lose by trying to be successful.

Showing your colleagues that you are committed to making a go of it, and convincing them that they, too, have nothing to lose by trying, will help you recruit your first zombie into coming back to the sunny side of the road.

When you've gotten one colleague on your side, it gets easier. Good spirits and an attitude of employee engagement are contagious. The next big step is to get an upper level of management over to your way of thinking. Call me when you are ready to take that on. We can show you how the PDP solution can do a lot of the work for you.

Tom McQueen is PDP's automotive industry expert and has consulted with over 400 dealerships on performance improvement and employee engagement.