As a consultant and coach to leaders in the automotive industry, I hear two common questions.

How do I motivate employees to do what I want?

How can I move my organization to the next level when I am spending so much time putting out fires?

Below are the answers to those questions. If you want more information tune to ASTN for my five-part series called "Legendary Leaders; How to Develop Staff."

Getting Results from Employees A good rule of thumb for getting someone to focus on an issue is to ask versus tell. In other words, ask them a question that will allow them to think through and come up with the answer on their own.

Let's assume a service writer receives a call from a customer who is asking for a special favor. This would require extra effort on the service writer's part and would help solidify the customer's relationship with the dealership. The employee gets frustrated and complains to you, the manager.

You could tell the service writer, "just do the favor, it will help the dealership." Often the employee might respond to this remark by being defensive. She may do the favor but resent it and not do the job properly.

A Rule of Life It is human nature to be defensive when someone tells you to do or be something.

Or you could ask the service writer the right questions so she can come to the correct answer. "If you extend this favor, how will the customer feel about the dealership?" Then allow the employee to answer.

"Is that the way we want our customers to feel about us?" Or "Do you think extending this favor is in the best interest of the dealership and the customer?" "Would the extra work you must do be a good use of your time for the dealership and the customer?"

Asking the employee allows the employee to get the answer without being told what to do.

The key is asking the right questions. With practice you will learn what are good questions and what are not good questions. Make a commitment today to focus on asking more than telling your employees. You will see a world of difference in how they respond both to you and your customers.

Firefighting 101 Everyone has experienced the stress of walking into the dealership and being told of a major problem we must deal with now. We often call these stressful situations "Fire fighting." Fires happen to the best of us, however, most fires are avoidable. The best firefighters are the ones who learn from every fire, no matter how large or small.

Three Questions to ask at every fire: (These questions are for both you and your employee to answer.)

What part did I play in creating this fire? We always can think of what responsibility other's play. (i.e. if F&I had.... if the service writer had.... if the customer had...then this wouldn't have happened.) The real lesson comes in looking at our own part in creating the fire. We play a part in every fire. Looking at and admitting where we erred is the first step to becoming a better firefighter.

If I could go back to yesterday, what could I have done to avoid this fire? Fires often are the result of responding to the distracting daily demands. We are busily responding to requests from employees or customers all day and forget to order that part for a customer that had to be ordered today. No one reminded us and we forget about that one important item. The next day that forgotten item becomes the morning fire. Those who are organized, write a list of what they need to do and prioritize their work.

If the same thing happened tomorrow, how would I handle it better? Is there a different way we should have responded when we first learned of the fire? Could we have stopped the fire before it really got burning by doing something differently?

Fire = Lack of Planning If you have an employee who seems to be having a lot of fires, this may be a sign they need training in time management or organizational skills. Heed the warning! Help your employee grow and you help the entire organization.(Your work and life will be easier too.)

Gloria Gault Geary, CSP is a consultant and coach to top leaders in the automotive industry. She helps leaders develop staff and improve employee relationships. She is a frequent speaker and sponsors a monthly newsletter called "Lessons for Automotive Leaders." For more information call 864-489-5500 or visit her website: