Securing Commitment: How to Gain Buy-in From Your Employees – and Prevent ‘Sandbagging’

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Securing Commitment: How to Gain Buy-in From Your Employees – and Prevent ‘Sandbagging’

In the January 2020 issue of Modern Tire Dealer, Mike Townsend discussed the importance of managing healthy conflict with employees. In this article — the third installment in a five-part series about steps you can take to build the best possible team at your dealership — Townsend provides some best practices for securing commitment from your employees.

In my last column, we discussed the importance of managing healthy conflict with your employees. But what happens after that? How do you secure “buy-in” from your employees so you can work together to move your business forward?

After healthy conflict occurs, it is always important to ensure open, “two-way” communication between management and employee. This is a natural next step in the process.

Here are three ways to secure commitment from members of your team:

  • Know their goals. Do you know what your team members want to accomplish, both at work and outside of it?
  • Look for their strengths. Chances are, you see some of your team members’ strengths already. Don’t stop there.
  • Understand their interests. Do you know what your team members care about, both at work and outside of your store?

Knowing goals is different than setting goals. To gain shared commitment around a goal, the employee must have ownership of that goal.

Since some employees can hold back, or “sandbag,” it’s important that you ask your employees a two-part question.

For example, I like asking alignment techs how many alignments they can perform on an average day — and also on a good day. I’ve found the number, at the average dealership, varies from 15 to 20 a day, depending on the vehicle.

If a tech tells you he or she can only process 15 alignments per day, ask, “Would it be possible to perform 17 alignments per day?”

If the alignment tech agrees to 17, you now have a new goal and he or she will own it.

Looking for strengths is also important when gaining commitment. Using the example above, if you know your alignment tech is more productive when he or she is left alone, you may want to relocate the alignment machine to a space that’s away from the busiest part of the shop.

Always ask an employee to stretch in an area of their greatest strength.

Or if you know they waste 20 minutes per day on trivial conversations and are refusing to increase their total number of daily alignments, you may need to revert back to some healthy conflict and ask, “If you limited the number of cell phone calls or side conversations, would it be feasible that you could use that extra time to perform two more alignments per day?”

The goal here is to know your employee’s strength in order to secure his or her commitment. Always ask an employee to stretch in an area of their greatest strength. Most of the time, they will commit to improving.

Knowing what your team members care about is often the most important thing when gaining commitment. In our leadership coaching sessions, this seems to be the hardest thing for managers to understand and or get comfortable with.

Managers most often don’t see the need to know their employees. And unfortunately, some don’t know how to be sincere when engaging with their employees. Nevertheless, knowing what motivates employees is an important spoke in the wheel of gaining commitment and being successful.

In addition, knowing your people will help you be more comfortable, more intentional, and more aware of the impact when you hold an employee accountable.

One the best ways to know if your employees are committed is find out what they will allow you to hold them accountable for, in relation to their daily habits that produce profit/sales.

Most leaders stop after they gain a commitment and do not ask for permission to hold the employee accountable.

During our next article, we will discuss how to develop a successful accountability process for your employees.   ■

Mike Townsend is owner of Townsend Strategies, a sales coaching and leadership coaching business. He has 30 years of sales experience, 13 of them in the tire industry. As a Six Sigma black belt and professional trainer, Townsend says he “has witnessed every scenario and heard every objection in the retail tire environment across every state in the U.S.” For more information, call (865) 318-4588 or (800) 319-8552, or email Townsend at

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