My last few columns have been about meeting and exceeding the needs and expectations of the customers of your auto service business. Now let’s focus on the needs and expectations of the team.
The days of a boss telling an employee to jump and the employee asking how high are over. In addition to changes in society, the economy, and employee expectations in general, the sheer shortage of qualified workers is challenging shop owner HR skills to the limit.
These challenges fall into three main categories: attracting, retaining, and motivating good employees. I am going to address these in reverse order.
A key component to successfully motivating employees is great leadership. However, too many shop owners do not understand what true leadership is. The stereotype of an officer leading people into battle, or of the same officer commanding someone to do something, do not serve us very well.
What I am talking about is leading by example. But again, this is not what you think. You don’t go back in the shop and take over and get a vehicle done quickly – or come to the front counter, push the advisor out of the way and deal with the customer!
One of the main reasons you are unable to get consistent results and performance from your employees is because you are still an employee in your company. Or, at least, you are still acting like an employee. You may be the owner, or you may be the manager, or both, but your employees see you as a fellow employee. You see yourself as a fellow employee.
It is difficult to be a leader when you are one of the followers. You just happen to be the follower with the most seniority, or the one that has their name on the building. Business owners reflect behaviour back to the employees, reinforcing either the behaviour that they are looking for, or in many cases getting more of what they don’t want.
Many bosses don’t do what they know they should do – so then neither do the employees. Do your job, and they will do theirs. What are some things you know you should do, but don’t do on a regular basis? When have you circumvented a system or a procedure? The first thing a person who wants to become a leader does is take responsibility. As a shop owner who wants to become a strong leader, you can no longer blame anything or anyone for what happens to you or to your company. By becoming responsible, you gain the trust of those around you; employees will become more responsible when you become more responsible. Responsibility is contagious: the more you practice responsibility, the more those around you will take responsibility.
Additionally, this environment will expose those people in the group who live life as victims, always blaming others, and cause them to leave. And if they do not leave on their own, a good leader learns how to ask them to leave.
What are some ways that you need to take more responsibility? What are some things you need to do in your business to take responsibility? Do you avoid dealing with a team member who is doing shoddy work, or is performing poorly?
What are your working hours? Do you come and go as you please? How long are your lunches and coffee breaks – do you drag them out? Or are you like some owners who never take lunch and coffee breaks, or any other type of break? What is your cell phone use like at the shop?
How much do you do in a day at your business that has nothing to do with your business? Do you drink during business hours? Do you drink on the business premises after hours? Do you drink with your employees, either on the business premises or off?
Do you pay for parts and other company resources and materials that are used personally in a timely fashion? What is the shop policy? Do you take cash on the side for vehicle repair work? What is your policy for discounts for family or friends?
As you can see, many business owners figure they can do what they want since they own the business, but it does not work that way. We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard in order to ask others to hold themselves accountable.
Another good part of taking responsibility is knowing how to make decisions. Most of us let life happen to us; we tend to be reactive rather than proactive. Are we afraid to make decisions? Why? Do too many choices cause indecision? What else causes indecision? As a leader, it is important for you to be able to make a decision. Some decisions will be right; others will be mistakes.
Facing our mistakes, and learning from them, makes us better leaders. Our employees are looking for decision makers. Not only does it give them clarity about their job, it gives them confidence that they are using their time and effort effectively.
They also will become better decision makers in their roles – by following your example.