Someone to Lean On

Street Toyota hires caring professional to support employees
by Karen Nielsen
Nov/Dec 2016
Someone to Lean On
Simply Sincere
Danny Mize enjoys getting to know the employees at Street Toyota and hopes they will come to him if they ever need comfort or a sympathetic ear. Photos by Rex Curry
Danny Mize isn’t new to crises. He supported grieving and injured people after the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. And over the years he’s comforted countless individuals and families through tragic situations.

These days you’ll find him at Street Toyota in a new role. The Amarillo, Texas, dealership recently created a staff support position that shows it cares not only about its customers, but also its employees’ well-being.

Employees know if they are having a personal issue or a family struggle that Mize is available to listen or offer an encouraging word of support. The 65-year-old isn’t a licensed counselor or “fixer” of people. He’s simply there to care.

“The reality is if you don’t have employees who are happy and well connected to each other, it will reflect on the customer in a negative way,” says Mize, who has four decades of experience as a hospital chaplain, hospice bereavement coordinator, grief center director and full-time church minister. “Employees who are valued and feel supported and loved will be more engaged at work and with customers instead of worrying about their own issues.”

Street Toyota is joining the ranks of other caring companies who have added similar positions—often called corporate chaplains or employee resource counselors—to their roster.

“Everybody is dealing with something in their lives and, often, people just need somebody to listen to them,” says the store’s General Manager Mike Good. “The car business needs to be more sensitive in serving people. It’s important to have heart when dealing with people.”

Relationships Matter
With a population of 196,000, Amarillo is the largest city in the Texas Panhandle. Community loyalty runs deep and relationships are a big deal. Among the area’s 19 new-car dealerships, Street Toyota continues to dominate the market.

 

There to Care
Mize knows that happy employees like Service Valet Patrick Stewart feel valued, and it shows in their work.

“A cornerstone of our culture is to treat people well. And if you treat your associates and your customers well, you’ll earn a reputation for it and reap the benefits,” says Good.

Good has known Mize for years. In 2013, he saw firsthand what a difference Mize could make when his sister was in hospice care.

“I’m pretty rough and tough and I didn’t think I needed anybody, but when your sister dies…he was just there,” Good says. “He made me feel better. He has that gift.”

So when Mize retired, he approached Good about creating a staff support position. Since coming onboard, he attends employee functions and visits departments, stopping in to chat or have coffee. He provides referrals to local professional counselors or other resources. He’s also available to visit employees in the hospital and attend funerals.

 

Comfort Zone
By varying his time at the dealership, Mize makes sure he gets face time with as many employees as possible, like Sales Consultant Victor Alvarez.

“It takes an estimated nine to 12 months for relationships to develop to the point that employees really begin turning to someone for support and encouragement,” Mize says. “I want to show I’m real, I care, and I’m part of the team.”

Mize is open about his own personal losses and a painful journey with his son through drug and alcohol addiction to recovery. That connection recently opened the door for an employee to talk about his own struggle and serve as a resource to others in recovery.

Personal and Confidential
Confidentiality is a huge part of his job. Mize won’t break that confidence unless it involves a matter that, by law, requires reporting—such as a threat to harm self or others.

If an employee or manager thinks someone is having a problem, Mize asks that they give them his card and share that he is an available resource.

“It could feel threatening or intrusive, especially if a manager is asking me to speak to them directly,” says Mize who carries a cell phone and can be reached 24/7. “They might think they have to talk to me or they’re in trouble with the boss.”

None of the managers will get personal information about who he talks to and what they talk about.

Management will receive a factual quarterly report listing the number of hours devoted to the company, including the approximate amount of time spent on relationship-building and the amount of time given to employee support. But there’s nothing specific that would identify an employee.

Clearly, building trust and providing a safe work environment are key.

“It’s more than just supporting our staff. It’s about creating a way of living and operating and an identity of who we are,” he says. 
<< Back