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Dennis Kane

Are You Covered for Pollution?


Your service manager calls you and explains there has been a pollution incident with your waste oil. Do you have insurance coverage?

If you live in the United States, be afraid, because anyone with your EPA generator number who has picked up pollutants from your dealership has created a liability for you. Some greedy attorney will sue you for every dime you have earned. Our government will fine you, plus interest. The courts will imprison you, pending judgment, and your spouse will leave you for a rich plastic surgeon. I’m told fear and sex are the two best ways to get a dealer’s attention – the rest of this article has neither. But if I still have your attention, the following is worth reading!

Every dealership has pollution liability exposures, but many dealers don’t have insurance coverage for these complex and constantly emerging hazards. Many companies that have significant pollution exposures are required to buy pollution coverage (ie: those with underground tanks); however, for most dealerships, the decision to purchase insurance is voluntary.

This coverage is often overlooked by insurance agents because they don’t understand dealership pollution exposures or they don’t have access to markets that can provide cost effective coverage. Most garage liability carriers have standard pollution exclusions, so a separate policy is almost always required. There are many different types of coverages and policies depending on the complexity of your pollution exposures and hazards.

Every dealership has pollution exposures.

For example: solvents, caustics, cleaning agents, collision repair and painting operation, and petroleum products all can create pollution exposures. Results of pollution incidents include:

  • Damage to third party
  • Clean up costs of contaminated property
  • Off-site waste disposal clean up expense
  • Fines and penalties for violation and adverse public reactions

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act provides “cradle to grave” regulation of hazardous waste. It imposes strict waste management requirements upon generators and transporters of hazardous waste, and upon waste treatment storage and disposal facilities. This basically means that you own the liability for the lifetime of the pollutant. There is also strict joint and several liability with pollution incidents which means, regardless of who was negligent, you can be brought into the suit to defend and remediate the pollution incident.

At a minimum, every dealership needs three basic coverages.

First, your dealership property and damage to third party that originates at your property for bodily injury, property damage and clean-up costs. Second is transportation coverage from non-owned autos that pick up your pollutants and transport them to non-owned disposal sites for bodily injury, property damage and clean up cost. Third is non-owned disposal sites which offers coverage for properly permitted sites for bodily injury, property-damage and clean up resulting from pollution event on, under or migrating beyond the boundaries of disposal sites. In some instances, if you have underground tanks, you need specialized coverage.

Take the time at your next renewal to ask your agent to review the pollution coverages to make sure your exposures are covered and there are no surprises. Depending on the size of your dealership, pollution policy premiums start around two thousand dollars for one million dollars of coverage.


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Jeff Cowan

How Service Appointments and Reservations Destroy Customer Retention, Survey Scores and Upsells


In my workshops I always like to have plenty of Q & A time so that I can address the real concerns that Service Advisors believe keep them performing at their highest level. One concern that never fails to be mentioned revolves around the issue of service appointments and reservations.

Typically, when your Business Development Center (BDC) or your Service Advisor sets your customer up with an appointment or reservation, the customer assumes it means the same thing as it does at a restaurant: when they arrive at the given time, their seat will be ready with no waiting. And just as when they make airline reservations, they expect to be on the plane backing up from the gate at that reserved or appointed time. When you set up a reservation or an appointment for your customer, they have been trained by business in general to believe that the work will begin at the appointment time. No matter how many times or how well you try to explain to your customers what is really going to happen upon arrival, the mere usage of the words “reservation” or “appointment” reinforce their belief that the work will begin at the exact time of the reservation.

This is a serious problem.

According to what I hear from your Service Advisors, and based on what we witness when providing our training on your service drive, three fourths of the customers your service staff work with everyday have this misunderstanding at the initial write up. As your Service Advisors try to explain that the time set for the appointment was for the purpose of gathering information, the exchange with the customer quickly turns into an argument. Therefore the write up and the relationship began with an argument. An argument that your staff can’t win; an argument that takes about six minutes to resolve; an argument that only gets the customer thinking that what they were told was just a ploy to get them in; and an argument that sets the mindset that you don’t do what you promise. Anytime you start out a relationship like this, you put yourself at a big disadvantage toward accomplishing the goals of customer retention, high survey scores and the chance to acquire any necessary up sells.

The simple and easy solution to stopping this and turning it around is as simple as implementing the following two steps.

Step 1: In service, never use the words “appointment” or “reservation” again. Not verbally. Not on signs. Not in print. Not online. Not anywhere. Appointment and reservation times imply an exact time that an event is going to begin. Check-in time implies that waiting will be involved. For instance, when you go to the airport you are encouraged to arrive two hours prior to check-in. Once you check-in, the next step is to wait for the reservation time when you will board the plane and take off.

From now on, you are going to start scheduling “check-in” times for your service customers so that after they check-in, they will wait for the appointed time set by the Service Advisor after they have had a chance to talk with the customer in person about their needs. In the customer’s mind, appointment and reservation times indicate that the event will commence at that specific time. Check-in time however, precedes an appointment time. In the customers mind, check-in time refers to a preliminary period designated for the collection of information. After the information is given, an exact time for work to begin can be determined. Check in time and its implications are familiar to customers.

Step 2: Now that we have replaced the words “appointment” and “reservation” with “check-in” time, the following word tracks are how you are going to explain check-in times and stop the arguments forever.

Word track one is to be said by your BDC or by the person scheduling the check-in time:

“Now that we have established your check-in time for 9:00am tomorrow, allow me to take a minute to explain to you what that means and what will happen once you arrive. First, you will want to arrive as close to your check-in time as possible. Getting here early means you will have to wait and getting here late could result in you losing your place in line. Once you do arrive, your Factory-Trained Service Advisor will be ready with all of the information you just gave me.

During the first part of the check-in process they will go over all of this information to ensure that I wrote everything down correctly, to make sure they understand what your concerns are and to see if anything needs to be added to your list.

The second step in the check-in process is when you and your Factory-Trained Service Advisor will walk around your vehicle to collect numbers off your vehicle and do a quick visual inspection.

The third part of the check-in process is when it will be determined which department and which Factory-Trained Technician will be the one best suited to diagnose and repair your vehicle. That decision will be based on what you and your Factory-Trained Service Advisor discussed and saw during the earlier part of the check-in process.

Once that is determined we will then look at the schedule for that department and Factory-Trained Technician and that will determine approximately when your vehicle will enter our state of the art shop.”

By using this one minute long word track, I have fully explained to the customer exactly what to expect when they arrive, exactly what happens if they are early or late, and exactly what will happen and why. I have explained that the check-in time does not mean reservation or appointment. I have explained and prepared them to wait. Once they arrive prepared, the Service Advisor has two word tracks to deliver:

“Thank you for arriving on time to get your vehicle checked- in. Now that you are here let me explain to you what we will be doing to get your vehicle checked-in. First, I will be going over all of the information you gave us on the telephone to ensure that it was written down correctly, to ensure that I understand your concerns, and to add anything that needs to be added.

Once that is done, we will both walk around your vehicle to collect some numbers off of it and to do a quick visual inspection. Based on what we discuss and what we see during the visual inspection, we will select the department and or Factory-Trained Technician that will be best suited to address your concerns today. Once that is determined, we will take a look at their schedule which will dictate approximately when your vehicle will enter our state-of-the-art Service Department.”

After the Service Advisor completes everything as they said they would, they follow with this final check-in time word track:

“Now that we have reviewed all of your original concerns and have completed our visual inspection, I believe the department/ Factory-Trained Technician that would be best to diagnose and repair your vehicle would be ____. Right now they are working on another customer’s vehicle, so it is likely your vehicle will be entering our state of the art facility at approximately _____. Let’s give them about one hour to an hour and a half to complete your diagnosis, meaning you can expect a telephone call from me between ____ and ____ with an update on the status and findings regarding your vehicle. Fair enough?”

By using these two word tracks, which combined take one minute to deliver, you have done the following:

  1. You have started the relationship on an up note and not with an argument.
  2. You have done everything to the letter that your BDC told them you were going to do.
  3. You have established the reality that when you say something is going to happen, it is going to happen. They can count on you.
  4. You have saved about four minutes at the write-up by being in control of your customer and the write-up itself.
  5. You have slowed the customer down giving yourself more time to build rapport and inspect their vehicle which will substantially impact customer retention, survey scores and your ability to get necessary upsells.
  6. The customer has been educated that speed is not the most important thing in getting their vehicle repaired.

It’s really that easy.

By changing your verbiage from appointment or reservation to check-in time and by delivering these three, simple word tracks, you will experience immediate impact and the arguing will end forever. I have always felt the best way to win an argument is to eliminate all possibility of an argument arising. You can always tell a great Service Advisor by the number of scars they have on their tongues from years of biting back argumentative words. The solution I have presented here will do two things; stop the arguments before they start and save your Service Advisors from acquiring unnecessary scars.


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Garry House

The Changing Role of Used Vehicle Management


Over the last ten years, anyone who has not witnessed dramatic changes in the used vehicle arena must have his/her head in the sand. Why is it then that so many franchised new vehicle dealers have thus far failed to effectively adjust to these changes? So that you understand what I’m talking about, I’ll just mention two of these impactful changes:

1. The Growth of the Internet as a Marketing Source

2. The Advantages Available through Inventory Optimization Technology

Even the language is changing! The used vehicle manager who was successful ten years ago wouldn’t even be able to communicate today. What did he need to know about inventory turns, price-to-sale gap, SRPs and DVPs, etc.?

Most importantly, the scope of used vehicle management responsibilities has massively expanded. At the used vehicle management classes offered by the NCM Institute, we now define and discuss the 30 Regular Responsibilities that must be performed in a well-run pre-owned vehicle department.

NCM Institute divides these responsibilities into three major categories: Inventory Management, Marketing, and Sales Production. It quickly becomes apparent to our students that even Superman, working 80 hours per week, cannot effectively perform these responsibilities individually.

Many of these numerous tasks must be assumed by, or delegated to, other members of the dealership sales team. In some dealerships, the used vehicle department manager position has been totally eliminated from the organization chart. Instead, the position has been replaced by one or more of the following:

  • Group Used Vehicle Systems Coordinator
  • Used Vehicle Digital Marketing Director
  • Used Vehicle Sales Production Manager
  • Used Vehicle Inventory Manager
  • Used Vehicle Acquisition Specialist
  • Used Vehicle Pricing Administrator

Without a used vehicle department manager, either the GM (or GSM, if applicable) must “own” the aforementioned 30 Regular Responsibilities, and he/she must ensure that each of the responsibilities is effectively delegated and executed. Future articles of Up To Speed will present and discuss in detail many of these individual responsibilities.

Need help structuring your dealership to capitalize on used vehicle department opportunities?  Reach out to your NCM 20 Group moderator or Retail Operations Consulting coach, or sign up for the NCM Institute’s courses in Used Vehicle Management.  Call us at 866.756.2620; we’ll listen and recommend a solution that’s right for you.

UV Training

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Paul Stowe

Check Your Used Vehicle Manager’s Thinking… Then Have a Conversation


Mr./Ms. Dealer:

There continues to be a great deal of misconception in sales managers’ thinking about why they’re not able to increase used vehicle volume. Industry metrics confirm that those dealers not performing at a minimum 1-to-1 New-to-Used retail sales ratio are just not participating in the opportunities of the current market.

So why do our managers continue to have these misconceptions? What follows are some common reasons we hear during our dealership consulting engagements. My responses should help you combat these misunderstandings that are prevalent in our industry today, and they’ll also help you have the conversation that will turn this thinking around.

“I need more inventory to sell more cars.”

You might, but first, do you understand and practice an aggressive “turn” mentality? If not, you are five years behind in your skill set. If you have an aging issue right now – why? Should your dealer give you more dollars to invest unwisely? Just a hint… great operators do believe a 30-day (or faster) turn is attainable. Our Benchmark metrics validate that a 45-day turn is very common, regardless of franchise. Do you understand that if you turn your inventory more efficiently, your volume will increase?

“I cannot find the ‘right cars’ and when I do, they are too expensive.”

Come on! The vehicles are out there! You might have to work every day to source them. What makes you think you are smarter than the market which dictates the cost and sales price of inventory? What is your acquisition plan? What do you buy each week to inventory?

“If I price to market, my grosses are too low.”

This is so common. Question: Have you ever put more money into a trade to make a new car deal? If so, of course you reduced the new car gross – right? If not, what have you just done to the integrity of your pricing model and your used unit gross potential? (Most OEM incentive money is being paid on new car sales. Why in the world would you destroy your acquisition disciplines, bumping used trade-in inventory values and not reduce new car gross to its true transaction value?)

A new car deal is a new car deal, albeit an OEM incentivized transaction. A used vehicle trade acquisition is an investment decision. Buy it right or understand the impact on potential grosses, salability, and aging of your used vehicle dollar investment; in other words, your true return on investment of your dollars, Mr./Ms. Dealer.

Have the conversation.

Understand and clear the air on these misconceptions, if they apply. Ask your manager to give you a plan to increase used unit volume profitably beginning right now. Get it in writing. There is too much missed profit opportunity, let alone the impact of adding new customers to your owner base.

UV Training

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Fred O'Dwyer

Is Everything Clear?


Not too long ago as I was listening to someone talk about how fundamental clarity is in fueling growth in a company. A bell went off somewhere inside me, for I knew I had heard something similar about the virtue of clarity inside growing businesses, even though it was a long time ago.

And then I remembered: Over 25 years ago I was taking a graduate level program at a local university on weekends, here in Kansas City, and was placed on a team with four other working professionals. Two of whom were senior executives at Marion Labs, founded by Kansas City’s most famous entrepreneur, Ewing Marion Kauffman. Kauffman, like many wildly successful American tycoons, began operations from scratch in his home. There, he started a pharmaceutical company and called it Marion Labs. It was 1950 and he began with all he could lay hands on, $5,000. About 40 years later, the company’s annual revenue was closing in on the $1 billion threshold, and was valued at $6.5 billion when it merged with Merrell-Dow. The employee count exceeded three thousand.

How did Marion Labs manage to sustain such a furious growth rate and still maintain almost unparalleled success along the way? I know the two execs with whom I shared several courses could tell you exactly why. They would attribute Marion’s success to the vision, principles, drive and energy of their founder, “Mr. K,” as they called him. Not only did my classmates feel a personal allegiance to Mr. K, they also felt they could follow Mr. K’s direction even when he wasn’t close to their divisions. And that’s because they could quote verbatim (and did so numerous times) their founder’s three core values and three clarities. Six simple principles that Mr. K developed for himself and for his business, and managed to instill in the Marion Labs associates to a remarkable degree. Not only could my buddies quote them, I knew they were part of their own core principles as well. I was able to find these six practices that guided Mr. K’s approach to business; practices that were in no small part responsible for the company’s huge success:

The Three Core Values

  1. Treat others as you want to be treated.
  2. Those that produce should share the rewards.
  3. Give back to the community.

The Three Core Clarities

  1. Clarity of Direction
  2. Clarity of Organization
  3. Clarity of Measurement.

Let’s take a look at how these six items might work for an auto dealership today.

The Three Core Values

The three core values are simple, right? Can you check them off this list with the thought that “Yep, we already do that.” Truth be told, for a long time now, growth-minded auto dealers and dealer groups have indeed adopted the same core values Mr. K. fashioned for his business a long time ago. Look at your ongoing efforts and programs to improve CSI and customer retention, as well as to offer more convenience and value when selling and delivering your products and services. These efforts easily fit into the first core value, which customers are quick to recognize and reward with continued business. Likewise, many of you have crafted excellent pay plans that handsomely reward those that produce, and in turn are rewarded with their loyalty to you. And auto dealers in general take a back seat to no one when it comes to developing ingenious programs to give back to the community in ways that not only help the community but energize a dealership’s customer base as well. If you have been focusing on instilling these values into your operations, you know that what goes around truly comes around. Mr. K. would be proud of you.

The Three Core Clarities

Can we also so easily put these on our “We already do that” list and move on? I think not, at least not in many cases. Each month I am privileged to present a few of NCM Institute’s core courses to a wide swath of dealership managers, ranging from seasoned veterans to newbie leaders and even to some soon-to-be leaders. While most of them exhibit strong leadership aptitudes and interpersonal skills, in my opinion, not all of them could recite their companies’ core clarities, like my Marion Labs friends of so long ago could so well deliver.

As a call to action for you today, consider for a while the following questions that, in my opinion, relate well to Mr. K’s Clarities of Direction, Organization and Measurement in an auto dealership today:

Is my management team, let alone my entire team of associates, absolutely clear about the direction in which we want to lead the company this year? The next five years?

Do we hold regular meetings with managers – and other meetings with the entire staff — to update them on progress toward our goals? Can my leadership team credibly and enthusiastically present company goals to those who report to them? Do they?

Does our company celebrate victories and work together as a team to overcome difficulties?

Do I assume that because I know who reports to whom inside the company, that everyone else must know this as well? Do I have and use organizational charts that clarify the company’s structure to all associates?

Do I have written job objectives that clearly outline each associate’s responsibilities and performance expectations?

Does each employee receive an individual consultation with his or her manager (at least monthly) so the manager can clarify how the employee’s efforts contributed to the company’s success – and to receive feedback from the employee as well?

Do my managers clearly understand the portion of the financial statement for which they are responsible? Do they realize what affects the financial data and how to improve results?

And do my managers daily measure the core activities in their departments that will clarify the financial results at month end?

There are without doubt several more clarity questions to ask ourselves here. Mr. K’s Clarities, in my opinion, are harder to instill into an organization than his Values. Perhaps it’s because Clarities are more like blocking and tackling, and not as flashy as running and passing. And that’s why otherwise good companies sometimes don’t work on them, or let them slip. Should they be surprised then when expected growth slows way below expectation? Could lack of these three simple clarities be the culprit? NCM Institute believes strongly enough in the principles behind these and other similar questions are presented to students in almost all our courses. In short, we wholeheartedly agree with Mr. K’s Three Clarities.

I do believe Mr. K. knew what he was doing when he developed these six basic principles for his business so long ago. If you want some more information about them, click here to learn more about Mr. K’s Formula for Success.


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Jonathan Dawson

Why Should You Brand Yourself?


How memorable are you?

If you learn how to become unforgettable, there is no limit to your success as a salesperson. Branding is one way to make yourself unforgettable. When I bring up the topic of branding, some people ask, “Why do I have to brand myself? I’m not a business.”

Well, my friend, I have news for you that’s good and bad. YOU ARE A BUSINESS! The good news is that the sooner you embrace this, the more successful you’ll become. The bad news is that if you’re not branding yourself, you’re helping your competitors who are.

Have you had any of the following happen to you?

  • A customer came back to the store but didn’t remember your name and bought from another salesperson
  • You call to follow-up with a customer regarding a vehicle they looked at yesterday only to learn they bought from another store
  • You’ve sold about the same number of cars for months, even years

If any of these happened to you, you have a branding problem. Not a traffic problem, a management problem, a weather problem, or a location problem. YOU have a branding problem. Salespeople who have a personal brand do not worry about lot traffic, bad weather, or what the competition is doing.

Personal branding is not a complicated concept. For a salesperson, branding simply means you’re doing things to differentiate yourself from all the other sales people in your field and even at your store. You’re actively doing things to become unforgettable. You’re actively creating a unique experience for the customer.

To put it another way, branding is about getting the customer to remember who you are, what you do, and how you made them feel.

A personal brand will do many things for you:

  1.  Consistency – A good brand will deliver your message consistently. Sales people who don’t deliver a consistent message in their marketplace don’t have a solid brand.
  2.  Uniqueness – A good brand will also confirm your uniqueness in the marketplace. If your brand doesn’t make you stand out, it’s not a very good brand.
  3. Connection – A good brand will help you connect with your target prospects personally. You want to build a brand that is attractive to some people and not particularly attractive to others. You want your brand to be something that people either really like or don’t like. Your brand will attract a certain group or demographic of people and convert them to fans.
  4.  Motivation – Another thing a good brand will achieve is it will motivate lookers and shoppers to consider you seriously. The stronger your brand is, the more it will separate you from all the other sales people a looker may have talked to in a day and will motivate them to do business with you.
  5. Loyalty – A strong brand will also foster loyalty. People like to go for something they’re familiar with, so the stronger your brand is within your customer base and within your community, the more loyal people will become to you.
  6. Better choice – Finally, a strong brand will separate you as the better choice. The stronger your brand is, the more distinct and memorable you will be compared to all the other sales people offering similar products.

Did you know that most businesses fail within the first five years of opening up? Most businesses also do not invest in developing a brand. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. As a salesperson, you ARE a business. If you want to stay in business tomorrow, you must develop a brand TODAY.

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Garry House

Combat is a Leadership Laboratory

US Flag

Combat is a leadership laboratory. That laboratory is a proving ground for veterans like Leif Babin, who shared his insights on leadership and teamwork at last Fall’s Driving Sales Executive Summit. A former Navy SEAL and co-founder of management consulting firm, Echelon Front, LLC, Babin gave an inspiring keynote address where he translated his experiences as a SEAL and SEAL Officer into leadership development tips.

This Independence Day, as we consider the significance of our Founding Fathers’ leadership, courage and dedication to freedom that so many have fought for over the decades, I thought it timely to revisit some of Babin’s insights, beginning with his fundamentals of leadership and teamwork:

  • Cover & Move – Teams must work together
  • Simple - Use clear, concise communication so everyone understands the specific mission
  • Prioritize & Execute – Get the team moving toward the highest priority target
  • Decentralized Command – Everyone knows what to do and why

Babin stressed that the key to effective leadership is for those in leadership positions to embrace three essential concepts:

Extreme Ownership

Leaders own the solution. Take responsibility when things go wrong and develop solutions to overcome problems.

Continuous, Realistic Self-Assessment

Humility and constant training and preparation are required if you want to improve. Set standards for your team: it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate. Remember, there are no bad teams, only bad leaders.

Hard Training

Training must be continual, realistic and practical, stretching you beyond your comfort zone. Babin also stressed that the fundamentals don’t change, and that “advanced tactics” are the basics done really well. Finally, repetition is critical. In his words, “Train, train, then train some more.”

In my humble opinion, the U.S. Armed Forces are collectively the best, most respected military force in the world, and the SEAL program illustrates the discipline, training and leadership that make it so. I’m happy to take a lesson in leadership from them!

This July 4th, let’s celebrate the freedoms derived from those earliest declarations of independence and thank all the wise leaders and brave heroes who have sacrificed so much to maintain our liberty over the years. Happy Independence Day, America!


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Dave Anderson

Building a High Performance Culture (Part Eight)


This article is part of a multi-part series titled “Building a High Performance Culture” by Up To Speed Guest Expert, Dave Anderson, of LearnToLead®.

Words that Hurt: Entitle

In this eighth post on building a high performance culture, I want to discuss a word that hurts: entitle. A sense of entitlement creates mindsets and attitudes that drain cultures of morale, momentum, resources and inhibits peak performance.

For a quick review of this series, peruse the following words that work in a culture, and words that hurt a culture, from the past seven blog posts. This will help you grasp the concepts, values and mindsets necessary for great performance; and help you identify and weed out those that are harmful.

Words that work:

Earn: to acquire through merit.

Deserve: to be worthy of; to qualify for.

Consistent: constantly adhering to the same principles.

Hope: grounds for believing something in the future will happen.

Catalyst: a person or thing that makes something happen.

Responsible: to be the primary cause of something.

Words that hurt:

Fault: responsibility for failure.

To use in a sentence: It’s not my fault I had a bad month. In other words, I’m a victim.

Blame: to assign responsibility for failure.

Excuse: a plea offered to explain away a fault or failure.

Mediocre: average, ordinary, not outstanding.

Wish: to want something that cannot, or probably will not happen.

Entitle is defined as “a claim to something you feel you are owed”. The problem arises when people aren’t owed what they feel they have coming; they have neither earned nor deserve it. Examples of entitlement are as follows:

  • People expect an end-of-the-year raise because it’s the end of the year; not because they earn or deserve it.
  • People expect a promotion because they’ve been there the longest; not because they’re the best person for a job.
  • You provide lunches for your team on a busy Saturday, and soon they begin to complain about the choices.
  • A poor performer feels entitled to extra help, perks or attention because he’s struggling; not because he’s performed in a manner worthy of additional company resources being invested in him.
  • People expect their tenure, experience or credentials to substitute for results; they believe the past entitles them to a permission slip to slack in the present.

With a rise of entitlement in society, you can expect to see more entitlement in business, and in households (with entitled kids), since trends in these arenas tend to follow trends in society in general. You can also rest assured that nothing welcomes entitlement into your culture faster than a lack of accountability. Frankly, it’s tougher for people to become entitled when they’re held accountable for results.

A common question is, “Aren’t we entitled to something in the workplace?” The answer is absolutely: all you’ve earned and deserve; what you’ve acquired through merit; what you’re worthy of, what you’ve qualified for. All perks over and above that are gifts. People should be grateful for them, but should understand they don’t have them coming.


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Garry House

Are You of a Mind(set) to Grow?


Professor Carol Dweck of Stanford University believes humans have essentially two mindsets, growth or fixed, and through her research with employees of Fortune 500 companies, she found that managers with a growth mindset are more innovative.

Why is this important? According to the author,

“Growth mindset managers create better work environments. They are more open to feedback from employees (because they’re interested in learning); they are better mentors (because they believe in development); and they are perceived by their workers as more fair (because they believe everyone has the capacity to improve). Furthermore, those who have a growth mindset acquire the skills for success.” [Source]

It seems our mindsets dictate how we feel about ourselves and how we relate to situations, ideas and other people. For example, someone with a fixed mindset may believe his or her intelligence or talents are predetermined (or fixed) – you’ve either got brains and talent or you don’t. Those traits, therefore, are as good as they will ever be, so there’s no need spending time and energy developing them further. People with fixed mindsets are what we might consider “set in their ways.”  They think they’ve got it all figured out and any challenge to their way of thinking is a personal affront.

By contrast, people with growth mindsets believe that brains and talent are just the starting point; these folks believe their basic abilities can be improved with hard work and dedication. For this reason, they love to learn, are open to new ideas and perspectives, and they don’t let failure set them back; they learn from mistakes and capitalize on those lessons to find new and better ways of doing things.

Apparently, we can have different mindsets about different things: I may have a fixed mindset about my golf game, but I have a growth mindset about how I run a dealership. And, we have the capacity to change from a fixed to a growth mindset.

As you might imagine, we don’t see that many with fixed mindsets in our classes at the NCM Institute. Here we see managers and dealers who want to learn new skills and better processes so they can improve their performance and enjoy greater personal and professional success. It’s not difficult to spot the ones with fixed mindsets, though. They are usually either very quiet or a bit combative when we expose their way of doing things as less efficient or effective.

Want to know how to spot your dealership’s innovators? Find the employees and managers in your dealership who don’t try to cover up their mistakes, but use them as lessons for improvement. Chances are, those are the ones with growth mindsets.  Harness their drive and enthusiasm by giving them every opportunity to expand their knowledge and skills where it will benefit you both.

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Tony Alessandra

Do You Really Know How to Listen?


Have you ever been having an important conversation, in which the other person is telling you something you need to know, and while you know you should give your full attention to what’s being said, you just can’t stop thinking about that annoying sound of static coming from a nearby radio? Or you can’t stop watching the other person shaking their knee? Or you feel compelled to answer every phone call that comes in to your cell?

Everyone’s attention has been drawn away from important exchanges now and then – but not everyone realizes how detrimental this is to effective communication. Too often, people simply allow the distraction to persist, and lose out on valuable information. Therefore, you must eliminate noise and distractions in order to be an effective listener and communicator. These barriers may be in the environment, like noises in the room, other people talking, poor acoustics, bad odors, extreme temperatures, an uncomfortable chair, or visual distractions. Or they could be physical disruptions such as telephone calls or visitors.

Another kind of barrier is something distracting about the speaker. Maybe he or she dresses oddly, shows poor grooming, and has disturbing mannerisms, confusing facial expressions, or body language. Or perhaps he or she has a thick accent or an unappealing presentation style.

Yet another barrier has to do with you, the listener, and can be either physical or psychological. Maybe it’s close to lunch or quitting time, and you’re preoccupied with how you feel. You’re hungry or tired, or angry, or maybe have a cold or a toothache. If so, you’re not going to be listening fully.

Another physical barrier could be your proximity to the speaker. If he or she’s either too close or too far away from you, you may feel uncomfortable and have a hard time concentrating.

A another sort of internal barrier is psychological. Perhaps you’re closed-minded to new ideas or resistant to information that runs contrary to your beliefs and values. Or maybe you’re bored, or daydreaming, or jumping to conclusions.

There are five basic reasons we fail to listen well.

1. Listening takes effort.

As I said, it’s more than just keeping quiet. It means really concentrating on the other person. An active listener registers increased blood pressure, a higher pulse rate, and more perspiration. Because it takes so much effort, a lot of people just don’t listen.

2. There’s enormous competition for our attention.

Second, there’s now enormous competition for our attention from radio, TV, movies, computers, books and magazines, and much more. With all these incoming stimuli, we’ve learned to screen out information we deem irrelevant. Unfortunately, we also screen out things that are important.

 3. We think we already know what someone is going to say.

The third reason why we don’t listen well is that we think we already know what someone is going to say. We assume that we have a full understanding right from the start, so we jump in and interrupt. We don’t take the time required to hear people out.

 4. There’s a difference between how fast we talk and how fast we listen.

The fourth reason has to do with the speed gap – the difference between how fast we talk and how fast we listen. The average person speaks at about 135 to 175 words a minute, but comprehends at 400 to 500 words a minute. For the person who’s not listening well, that’s plenty of time to jump to conclusions, daydream, plan a reply, or mentally argue with the speaker. At least that’s how poor listeners spend the time.

 5. We don’t know how.

We do more listening than speaking, reading, or writing. But I bet you’ve never had a course in listening, have you?

Now, it is your turn… What do you do to help increase your listening power? Comment to this post and let’s share what works and what doesn’t!


Dr. Tony Alessandra is a new contributor to the Up to Speed blog and is featured as a Thought Leader on NCM OnDemand. Click here for more information on Tony’s training.

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