Colleen McDonald likes her employees to set goals, but she wants to make sure they are realistic goals, “because there is nothing worse than not having a chance to hit anything,” says the president of Holiday Automotive Group.
Yet, even if an employee hits a goal, McDonald doesn’t want to broadcast it to everyone because it could seem like bragging, which may lead to contention within the organization.
“Bragging sometimes gets the other people really mad,” she says. “It depends on the person. It could have just the opposite effect of doing well. They could get down and that kind of thing.”
However, sharing some good news may foster some friendly competition among the stores within the 170-employee organization, which posted 2007 revenue of about $148 million.
“If someone sees one store doing quite well, it’s good,” she says. “Because [they’ll say,] ‘Hey, what are they doing? How are they doing that?’”
Smart Business spoke with McDonald about how to keep employees informed, involve them in decisions and lead by example.
Keep everyone in the loop. In any organization, the key is communication to your employees. I started a quarterly newsletter a couple of years ago that seems to work out very well. When we get disgruntled employees, I think the reason they get disgruntled is because they don’t know things are happening and they don’t know certain things that are going on in the business.
I try to keep everyone up to date on what we’re doing ... how business is, whether we’re hiring people I always give them the first shot of family, friends. So, I kind of make it more of a huge family atmosphere, for lack of a better term.
I do a lot of that through e-mail, constantly telling them where the deals are. My newsletter I send out via e-mail, and then those that don’t get it, the managers make copies. I also include their home if they want their home on there. No one likes being left out of the loop, especially where they are going to work every day. Most employees, when you are starting to dig holes somewhere or are putting up the building (they’ll say), ‘Wait, what’s that?’ They all just want to know what is going on, why it’s going on, why we’re doing this.
Make yourself clear. Everyone likes to communicate in different ways. With the way e-mails are now, I think we have a much easier time of communicating than we ever had because there is no way I’m going to be able to sit down and talk to 170 people during the course of a week. That’s impossible.
I rely on my management team at other stores.
It’s management by wandering around. They’re not stuck in an office. They’re talking to people, talking to customers, closing deals, talking to service, handling problems. So it’s just really that face to face.
Involve employees in decisions. Another thing I do that I think employees really like is, if it’s a really big decision that we make here, like our 401(k), I usually put together a panel with managers and employees not just management but also just the regular employees. I ask them to volunteer.
We’ve done it successfully twice with our 401(k) and our medical insurance. We put a panel together, and we each do our little homework, then we vote on who we are going to bring in as a team, as opposed to me dictating what we are going to do.
I do a big e-mail blast, and I do it on a first-come, first-served basis, and I usually try and get two to three (volunteers) from each store. So, I don’t wait for the people I expect to do it. It’s whoever wants to do it first; they’re in.
If I’m full, they’re out. If somebody really, really wanted to be on it, I’d let them. But normally, I get two to three volunteers from each store.
The beauty of it is I kind of sit back and let them run the meeting. Then, they’ll come up to a determination amongst themselves that I can either veto it like any president or agree with it.
I usually go with what they want as long as it’s good. I let them kind of fight it out amongst themselves.
Lead by example. I never ask anyone to do something that I won’t do myself or can’t do myself, for the most part.
I’m more of a softer manager. But, yet, as long as people do things that I ask them to do, and I always follow up I inspect what I expect then we’re good. If you don’t keep doing what I ask you to do, then obviously we have problems.
I’m not a yeller or a screamer. I just ask people to get things done, follow up and make sure they get things done. People that are new, they learn that about me as they go.
People take people more seriously when you do things like that. Too many business owners think they can sit on this high pedestal and just start barking out orders to people. But, I think you earn respect [by not yelling], and I think if you earn your employees’ respect, they’ll work harder for you.
HOW TO REACH: Holiday Automotive Group, (248) 919-6940 or www.weloveholiday.com