I think there are 2 defining moments for a leader: The first one is leading through adversity and the second is leading at midnight. Leading at midnight are those rare moments where it’s just you and a lingering salesperson-no incoming phone calls, no pages to the showroom floor, and everyone else has gone home for the night- the only light left on is the one in your office.  Initially, it looks like he’s just rehashing the day-he tells stories of the objections he overcame, the customer he bumped $40 dollars a month, and the phone call of a rude customer who refused to give his name and only wanted a rock bottom price-he survived another day on the blacktop.  As you tally the day’s numbers, you smile when prompted, and insert the, “oh really’s” in all of the right places, but the truth is, you’re just trying to get home. Then it happens; he comes back in to tell you goodnight for the third time, but this time it’s different. Instead of just walking out, he opens up. In a rare, vulnerable moment, he opens up to reveal what he’s going through in life. His wife has grown tired of him never being home-working long hours for a minimal paycheck; his daughter, limping into 6th grade, is failing miserably; and he just found out that his mother has been diagnosed with bone cancer. But even though he is terrified and has no idea what to do, you begin to see him come out from underneath the yokes of life; his burdens seem to become lighter, more manageable simply because he is able to talk about them. It’s as if his trials are temporarily suspended-almost as if life has given him a brief reprieve enabling him to catch his breath and reveal even more.

If you ever want to know the hopes and dreams of a child, give her a sheet of paper and a box of colors. She’ll draw a big house that she’ll one day live in, a solid gold car that she’ll be chauffeured in, and she’ll even bring a departed loved one back to life. She doesn’t worry about the messiness of the what and why’s in life, she just colors, unbridled. It is in these late night moments, after the venom of life is released, that your salesperson gets the chance to color. As if a child again, he opens up even more and begins to color his dreams for you-who he wants to meet, where he wants to live, what he wants to do in life and often, it’s got nothing to do with the car business. This is where I’ve failed many times as a leader because instead of admiring the picture they’ve colored for me, I’ve discredited their dreams-tearing them in half by calling them crazy, ludicrous, too expensive, too late-too anything if it had nothing to do with the car business. It’s as if I was insulted that their dreams had nothing to do with selling cars, becoming a manager, or even a dealer one day. I’ve come to realize that my dreams aren’t their dreams and instead of aborting their dreams, I want to give them life.

  • Respect their dreams. Respect the fact the fact that they have dreams. Most people go through life drifting along while those who have dreams are purposefully driven. It was Jim Rohn who said, “There’s a difference between making a living, and making a life.” Acorns of dreams, planted in the right soil, given the right nourishment become the mighty oaks of success. Sure their dream may seem far-fetched, insurmountable, downright crazy, but weren’t all great achievements? People thought humans flying through the air in cylinder tube was far-fetched; having an overweight black woman with her own TV talk show, eventually becoming a self-made billionaire seemed insurmountable; using your cell phone as a gateway to buy or know anything in the world seemed downright crazy. But yesterday’s dreams are commonplace today. 
  • Dreams need legs.  Give their dreams legs by having them write it down. There are no boundaries-no how’s, just let them color, unbridled and when they’re done, don’t judge the picture- just find a place in your heart to hang it.  They don’t need to worry about creating a best seller; they need to create a crappy first draft. Get it first down on paper; they can make revisions along the way. Use their dreams of tomorrow to fuel their motivations for today.
  • Believe in them. Their dreams will meet plenty of resistance from others. Including close friends and family, you are likely one of the few who believes in them. Everyone looks at them as who they are; you need to look at them as who they are to become. The people who try to talk them out of their dreams are the ones who have given up on their own. Give their dreams room to grow; you don’t have to understand their dreams today, you only need to believe that they’re capable of achieving great things. One spark of your belief can ignite the bonfires of their potential.

Some of us treat the car business as a home; others treat it as a highway. Many of us stumbled into our dreams and finally found a career where we could use our quirky skills and talents; others of us use this business as a byway-a detour toward what we feel are higher, loftier callings. One thing is certain, if allowed, this business of selling cars-all of the peaks, valleys, twists, turns, and calamities-all of the doubts, struggles, fights and strains you have to overcome will make achieving your dreams-whatever they may be, worth it.  

You have your dreams, now let them have theirs.

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