Running a Shop Leadership How To Lead

3 Ways to Diversify Your Point of View

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Diversify Your Point of View

In last month’s column, I began delving into some simple but critical behaviors that leaders need to deploy in order to drive employee engagement. The three we’ll talk about this month are: set information free, diversify your sources of information, and admit your mistakes.


Set information free.

There are many areas where sharing information can be beneficial to your organization. It is very common for body shop operators to withhold financial information and results from employees, but I think they need to know at least some of this data. If you want to have individuals and teams all pulling for the same goals, you’re going to need to pull back the covers a bit and share information. Imagine how your employees feel not knowing the score. I’m not suggesting you open up your P&Ls to every employee, but you could set up proxies for your financial goals. I think you can set up and post a monthly sales goal and track the team progress to the goal every day. I think you could do the same thing for setting a goal for labor hours to be produced each month. This can engage your estimators and technicians toward a common goal. I think you can further engage your blueprinters or estimators by setting goals for a profitable sales mix (the ratio between labor sales, parts sales, paint material sales and miscellaneous sales) from the jobs they write. Do you publish your CSI survey results every day? What about your cycle time results? Specific goals and proxies for financial goals can be very powerful. Give it a try!


Diversify your sources of information.

Most of what I have learned about leadership comes from a wide variety of sources. In fact, the list of behaviors we are discussing now were first presented to me in a 2009 Harvard Business Review article entitled “A Culture of Candor.” The authors, James O’Toole and Warren Bennis, are highly regarded writers and have published numerous books and articles on the topics of leadership, organizational transparency, candor and trust. I like to read books but, like you, I don’t have a lot of time for reading. For that reason, I default to book reviews and synopsis from sources such as the Harvard Business Review. If I want to “read” a complete book I get a copy of it in audiobook form. If you come across great articles or books, practice setting information free and share them with your co-workers. This demonstration of concern for their well-being, growth and development speaks volumes to them. Other diverse sources of information include the publication you are reading now. There are many fine magazines dedicated to the autobody industry, but I’ve always thought that FenderBender is like the Wall Street Journal of auto body journalism. Make sure you subscribe to their online content, podcasts, and special briefings. I also highly recommend that you get involved in a regional or national performance group. These groups are typically sponsored by the major paint companies and there are several independent groups, as well. The 20 Groups I belong to are populated by body shop operators from all over the country. We meet twice per year for two or three days and exchange information relevant to business growth, day-to-day operations improvement, management training, financial benchmarking, and employee training and development to name a few topics. Many of the members of my groups operate on the cutting edge of our industry and have tons of information to share. Our rule is that if you attend, you must contribute and also be open to new ideas and suggestions. Trust me, there are a lot of contrarians in my groups and, for this, I am grateful.


Admit your mistakes.

Growing up, my father used to tell me, “Steve, if you are going to make a mistake, make it a big one.” The basis of this advice may have come from Albert Einstein who said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” The point is, we all make mistakes, because not a single one of us is infallible. Most of you are constantly testing and implementing innovative processes and ideas in an attempt to improve current conditions, and not all of your ideas are going to work. How you handle a mistake is what separates effective leaders from the run-of-the-mill excuse makers and blame shifters we usually encounter. Admitting your mistakes isn’t a sign of weakness but a sign of maturity and wisdom. Making excuses, denials or outright lying to cover up mistakes will completely damage your credibility, perhaps irrevocably. The benefits of admitting your mistakes are enormous and I think Patrick Lencioni summed this up quite well when he wrote: “When team members trust each other and know that everyone is capable of admitting when they’re wrong, then conflict becomes nothing more than the pursuit of truth or the best possible answer.” The next time you make a mistake, admit it, move on and don’t repeat it.

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