Leadership How To Lead

Seven Keys for Managing Your Superstar Employees

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How to Properly Manage Your Superstars
Focus on the future of your business by cultivating your top employees.

They’ve got the work ethic, the attitude and the ability to get things done without being told so. They’re your go-to secret weapons, that you feel most motivated to invest your time in. They’re your shop’s top employees.

Managing your shop’s “superstars” differently from the rest of your staff can prove dangerous for shop culture. At least that’s what Dave Luehr, founder of collision consultant company Elite Body Shop Solutions, says. In fact, your whole team can feel disengaged and unmotivated to even try.

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t focus on those superstars. As a shop owner, nurturing top employees can create a strong foundation for your business’s future.

Tony Adams, owner of Weaver’s Auto Center in Shawnee, Kan., believes that all of his staff members are superstars, so his emphasis on providing what his employees need, and also providing opportunities for growth, is one of his keys to success.

Both Adams and Luehr realize it can be easy to sometimes neglect your top employees because they know what’s expected of them, which is a common mistake a lot of owners make. Here’s how to lead your shop superstars to success.


Key No. 1: Get on the Same Page.

You need to communicate with your superstar, Luehr says. What is your superstar’s vision? What do they want out of a career with you?

Your one-on-one conversations should involve asking your superstars about their goals, their perspective on their performance and, most importantly, asking how you can help them reach their goals, Luehr says.

One mistake business owners often make, Luehr says, is looking at a superstar and thinking, “They’re the best one we got, let’s make him or her a manager.” Pushing someone when he or she is not ready or interested can lead to failure.


Key No. 2: Challenge Your Superstars.

“The challenge with superstars is that other people in shop may see them as a threat. One thing I do with superstars is that I want to challenge them to be better team members,” Luehr says.

When he still owned his shop, Luehr had a tech that would lose interest every 2–3 months, always judged other team members and caused a lot of strain on the culture. Combat that by having them work with the superstar, Luehr says. If they have leadership capabilities, have them be a role model for other people and provide other employees in the organization a career path to becoming a mentor.

For example, let’s say you have an estimator you want to take to the next level. Challenge them to improve their customer communication.


Key No. 3: Motivate.

Your superstar should symbolize what is attainable if you work hard, Luehr says.

Most importantly, regardless of which staff member it is, Luehr says in order to understand what motivates your staff members, you need to understand them on a personal level. You should get to know your teammates as individuals to find out what makes them tick and how you can help them be successful.

Often, you may assume your superstars don’t need any feedback, but it’s crucial to constantly check in, he says.

“You want to make sure that even though they are self-sustaining … superstars still need to know they are appreciated,” he says.

Don’t micromanage your superstars, but make sure you’re providing feedback.


Key No. 4: Grow.

In order for your employees to grow, you need to give them a good, clear vision, Adams—who is also a fellow Elite Body Shop solution coach—says.

Beyond the vision, focusing on personal growth is something Adams takes pride in, as he attempts to help his employees realize their dreams.

For example, if employees are having financial troubles, he’ll help manage their debt or sign them up for classes—he’ll even hire coaches for the staff, if necessary.

Brian Frame, owner of Gene’s Paint & Body Shop in Montrose, Calif., values the same sentiment. He knows bigger shops and chains can offer more money, but he can offer growth and training, as well as a more personalized experience.  

Frame, whose mission is to combat the tech shortage, uses his shop to build employees from the ground up.

One of Frame’s tech’s, Edgar, started off with no experience or training, but after meeting him for the first time, Frame knew he would be a good fit. He had experience working with tools and cars. Within the first week, Edgar began assembling cars—something that typically takes a trainee six months to which to advance.

Edgar is now the lead body tech of the fast lane department at Frame’s new second location.    


Key No. 5: Set Expectations.

Advancing quickly can be as easy as setting expectations for your employees. Adams uses scorecards that list the job descriptions separate from the performance expectations.

It’s important for leaders to ask themselves and their staff members if they have everything they need to be successful. Do they have the appropriate training? Equipment? If anything is missing, it is your responsibility to provide that.

Luehr says to create a strategic plan for your superstars. For example, let’s say you have a superstar estimator, Luehr says. You’ve determined he or she shows some skills and potential of being a great leader.

You need to identify the gap between current skill level as an estimator and what he or she needs to learn to become a proficient manager, he says. Map out the skills and intention of the classes, training and education, and materials in order to gain the skills.


Key No. 6: Listen and Show Them You Care.

If your employees are telling you something is wrong, then something probably is wrong. Dealing with issues as they come up is one of Adams’ top tips for managing overall.

He has implemented a “24-hour rule” in his shop. If you see something, you have to say something within 24 hours of the incident. If you don’t report it within the time frame, you have to let it go, he says.

Frame will take individual staff members to lunch. All of his staff members know that if they have issues, personal or work related, he has an open door to go to lunch, he says.

He says it gives them an opportunity to get things off their chests they otherwise wouldn’t say in the shop around their co-workers.

He also motivates everyone with personal touches, such as flexibility with cross training and hand-written Christmas cards. Showing that he cares motivates them more than money, in most cases, he says.

Frame’s porter enjoys a hug every single day, so Frame provides that. He knows that not every employee wants a hug, but understanding what they need allows Frame effectively meet their needs.


Key No. 7: Reward.

Once you get to know someone on a deeper level, then you can cater rewards with what excites that person most, Luehr says.

Luehr looks back on the best boss he’s ever had, who would express appreciation for Luehr’s work several times per week, but on occasion, give Luehr a $100 to take his wife out to dinner.

It wasn’t about the money, Luehr says, but the experience.

Regardless if they’re a superstar or not, or share the same interests or not, make sure the same type of rewards are available for anyone in the organization who is willing to put in the effort, he says.

In addition to compensation, Adams has opportunities for bonuses, celebrations for company achievements, barbecues and cookouts, and provide breakfast every couple of months.

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