When asked why they started their own business, I have heard many shop owners say one of the following things. “I did not make a good employee.” “I did not play nice with others.” “I was not good at following orders.” Or, “No one could do it as well as me, so I may as well have all the benefits of my efforts.”
All of these statements imply that because they were so opinionated and so independently minded or so self-sufficient, they could never work for others. In our individualistic North American society, these sentiments are often admired and respected. The entrepreneur that sets out to start his or her own thing is now a cultural hero.
These same people who set out to start their own companies are frustrated when employees don’t just do what they are told. They use expressions like, “You would think they would know how to do that by now.” These owners expect lock-step obedience, consistent performance, employees that think for themselves and come to work for the love of their jobs. The irony is that they are expecting behaviour from their employees that they themselves were never willing or able to provide for others. And in addition to that, they are expecting these employees to own their positions they way they, the owner, own theirs.
These owners expect lock-step obedience, consistent performance, employees that think for themselves and come to work for the love of their jobs.
The irony is that they are expecting behaviour from their employees that they themselves were never willing or able to provide for others. And in addition to that, they are expecting these employees to own their positions they way they, the owner, own theirs.
Every healthy company needs a good team of employees. These are people that are committed, like to come to work, and do their best to put in a hard day’s work. These are also the same people that get sick, or whose kids get sick, or have a bad day, or feel unmotivated for any number of other reasons. Business owners are known to say on a regular basis, “Nobody cares about this company as much as I do,” implying that the employees should care as much as they do. But again, if the employees cared that much, they would go out and start their own companies.
So it is no wonder that business owners – who don’t know how to play nice with others – are unable to get their team to follow them.
They are asking people to do something that they were unable to do themselves. In addition to this challenge is the fact that many shop owners are still using the paternalistic management methods of the past, and have no training in management or leadership. They ran away from being asked to jump and told how high, but expect to yell “jump” at their own team and be asked “how high!”
The solution begins with the owners themselves. They need to become aware of this situation. After awareness comes change. Every organization needs followers as well as leaders. There are many people that are happy being followers, being employees.
They don’t want to take the risk of business ownership; they know that they are not cut out for it. But they do want to be treated with respect, paid fairly for their time and effort, and included in the decisions that affect their workday lives. And believe it or not, they want to work for a company they can care about. The trouble is so very few companies give their employees a reason to care.
I think that every business owner needs to look in the mirror and ask themselves the following questions.
1) What would have had to change in my past jobs as an employee that would have kept me working for that company?
2) Now that I am a business owner, what are the things that are going to keep my employees working for me?
There should be some distinct parallels between the answers to those questions. Make a short list of the common answers and this is the beginning of your new way of leading your team and managing your business.
A person who is not willing to follow is probably a poor candidate to be a good leader. But then again, if your role models were all such poor leaders, it is no wonder you did not want to follow. This is a negative cycle that has been repeating itself in our industry since its inception. It is time to stop this cycle and create a positive culture of leadership and mutual accountability within our shop teams and the automotive service industry.