I recently went to my local Toyota store to get my oil changed. I had called ahead of time to make an appointment. I made the appointment for 7pm because I was told the wait time would be less at that time of day. Unfortunately, that message was not communicated to the service department staff. When I arrived in the service lane promptly at 7pm, I stood by my car and waited patiently for about 10 minutes before the only service advisor in the place worked through the paperwork of the customers in front of me and came to greet me and find out what I needed. Find out what I needed? I called that morning and made an appointment after describing to the person on the phone what I needed. It was as if they weren’t expecting me. No. They clearly weren’t expecting me. As my son is fond of saying – “Epic Fail.”

For the past several years I’ve been highly engaged in working with leadership teams in automobile dealerships focused on strategic planning. What I’m most struck by is the incredible level of assumption between expectations of ownership and behaviors of employees. A common leadership style is assuming employees know what expectations are being set in the corner office and employees know how to fulfill those expectations.  Ownership assumes they haves a culture of excellence and high performance, or that people naturally strive for their own best effort. In short, the culture is assumed. 

As a result, in leadership meetings we spend a lot of time discussing and debating “assumptive” behaviors and ideas toward the development of an organization’s culture.  Essentially working to remove any assumptions or unclear expectations.

Embracing an agreed upon standard of excellence is how you go about creating a culture of excellence. Defining what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like ahead of time and making sure your leaders and managers understand and embrace the standard by which you are evaluating the organization’s performance, effectively equips them to see, hear, and feel the things that don’t measure up to the standards.  

When you take the time and go through the laborious effort of defining and communicating these standards, evaluation of how your organization is doing becomes a natural part of day to day operations.  The entire organization operates at higher levels of performance and at lower levels of tolerance for less than optimum performance. 

If you think going through such a process with your leadership team is unnecessary work that distracts your key leaders from bottom line performance, allow me to suggest to you, as the introductory paragraph above illustrates, your organization is being evaluated every time a customer or potential customer walks onto your campus. Whether they are there to kick the tires, get their car serviced, pick up a part, or just to pick up a free bag of popcorn or cup of coffee, there is an evaluation going on.  The sustained performance of your store(s) is highly dependent upon that evaluation.  

Further, every member of your employment team is evaluating the performance of their respective departments against some standard. If you don’t define that standard for them, they will define it for themselves.  In my next posts, I will discuss some very basic, but key ingredients to defining the standards. 

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