Improving leadership skills key to success

Jan. 1, 2020
Mike Anderson, during a NACE presentation, emphasized that shop owners really have to

serve as leaders, not just managers.
During his "Leadership Best Practices" presentation at NACE on Wednesday, Mike Anderson, principal at consulting firm and an ABRN columnist, emphasized that shop owners really have to serve as leaders, not just managers.Like this article? Sign up to receive our weekly news blasts here.

"A great leader has a vision and shares it with his people," Anderson said. "People want to work with someone that is energetic. Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm. If you are enthusiastic about your work, you will attract like-minded people."

Culled from experts, colleagues, his own experiences managing a body shop, and his time in the military, Anderson provided information to help shop owners inspire their employees and improve their ability to both manage and delegate responsibility.

Many owners simply want to get the work done, as quickly as possible. But this doesn't allow much time for them to help develop their technicians and other personnel. Anderson suggested a "tell me, show me, let me, correct me" approach.

"You tell them how to do it, show them, then let them do it and help correct their mistakes," Anderson said. "Too often we show someone something, and if they make a mistake we get frustrated and do it ourselves. That doesn't help them improve."

Words also are important. "A multi-dealership owner in Canada shared this with me," Anderson said. "He told me, 'Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don't say it mean.' You can build people up or tear them down with words. You have to know when to push people, and what the breaking point is."

Anderson also frequently hears complaints from owners that they can't "grow" a manager or that the younger generation can't be developed at the shop. "I use a sports analogy," Anderson said. "You practice during practice, and you play the game during the game.

Coaches don't run out to the mound in the seventh inning of the World Series and try to teach the pitcher how to throw a ball. Too often we're training new hires during the game. You have to have designated training time after hours or on weekends. There has to be practice time."

When he owned his own shop, Anderson designated certain nights each month as training time for the body shop, the painters, and the office staff. "You also have to take score, and let your people know how they are progressing," Anderson said.

Owners should also make better use of the data being generated by their shop management systems. "Don't collect data just to collect it," Anderson said. "Data tells you to do one of two things: celebrate or go look. If your parts return ratio is 4 percent, you celebrate. If it's 15 percent, you have to look and figure out why that is. You have to use the data to affect change."

Good leaders also are trusted, Anderson said. "One of the first things I do when I work with a shop is survey the employees about whether they trust their owner or the manager," Anderson said. "Often they don't trust who they work for. That's not because they think the owner is a liar, but at some point they may have broken a promise. That causes employees to lose trust. Go back and ask your employees if there was ever a time you promised something that you didn't follow through on, and then ask for a chance to make it right with them."

Anderson also emphasized the value of risk in successful businesses. "Great leaders understand that you have to try new things," Anderson said. "Failing or falling is part of the process of improving. It's like training for the Olympics. You may have to take actions that take you out of your comfort zone, but the goal is going for the gold."

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