Shop Life

Steps for Motivating Your Staff

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A New York shop manager notes the necessary steps to keeping a large staff motivated

Juan Oliveres, co-owner of Gotham City Collision, says his shop’s manager is a gifted motivator.

The reasons why are many. But, mainly, manager Dominick Passarella simply knows how to walk the fine line of when to offer tough love and when to take an employee out for a steak dinner.

“I’m stern; I have a presence,” admits Passarella, 37, who has worked in the auto industry for roughly two decades. “I try to motivate them by showing them how it should be done, and why it should be done, and what the necessary steps are to do it the right way.

“So, my guys have faith in me.”

That said, Passarella, an avid sports fan, knows he can’t lead his staff in Long Island City, N.Y.,  

like a stressed-out baseball manager. Otherwise, his team will start pressing, stressing over each mistake.

The shop manager, whose facility boasts a CSI score near 96, explains the steps he takes to motivate a collision repair center staff of 31.  

Motivate in Multiple Ways.

Passarella has been in the industry since he was 16 years old. And, over the last 21 years, he has taken note of managerial styles that work and, most importantly, those that miss the mark.

“The way I see it is, I treat my guys here as if we’re a team,” he explains. “And that’s how I try to keep them motivated; I oversee all their work.

“I’m not just a guy that comes inside the shop and delegates. If I’m critiquing somebody’s work, that means I know how to do their job, because I’ve done their job a million times.

“So, if a guy’s compounding a car, or sanding or prepping a panel, I know how it needs to get done the right way. … Are they installing air bags? Are they looking for an air bag module that needs to be replaced? I find it for them and I print it for them. And that motivates guys, because they’re not sitting there frustrated.”

Passarella also buys lunch for his staff every Saturday, and even takes exemplary employees out to local steakhouses, or Mexican restaurants. Additionally, he attempts to keep employees motivated by paying for training courses for any technicians or painters that seek to expand their skillsets.

Give Tough Love Time.

Passarella tries not to stomp around the shop floor while screaming demands at employees. After all, earlier in his career, he worked in shops like that, and it never sat well with him.

“I’ve been in a few other shops where that happens,” he says, and, eventually, “employees lose trust and motivation, because it becomes unpleasant.”

That said, Passarella is willing to sound like a drill sergeant if the moment calls for it.  

He knows that it’s tough to be a boss if you’re viewed as a pushover by employees—especially in the world of collision repair.

“That’s the way it’s got to be; we’re working on peoples’ cars, and it could be very dangerous out there [if there are] improper repairs,” Passarella says. “Every single car, every job, and every function of the job, gets quality checked. Even if the [employee] has been here for 15 years, it doesn’t matter; somebody else is going to check the work and make sure they did the right job.”

Recognize Stressed Staff Members.

The last thing Passarella wants on his shop floor is to see employees who are frazzled and “flying through work just to get it done, while making mistakes.”

Because of that, when he sees employees who are stressed, he makes sure to sit them down to pinpoint any issues. And, often, he lightens those employees’ workloads, in an effort to balance out work throughout his staff. On occasion, he’ll even advocate for hiring a new employee, if his staff seems overwhelmed by its workload.

Typically, Passarella has found that if he simply clarifies employees’ work deadlines, they usually make the necessary adjustments in short order. Because of that observation, he leaves employees like painters and frame specialists with detailed lists that illustrate their daily deadlines.

Most of the time, he notes, when an employee’s work starts to suffer, it’s because “they don’t have direction. So, every morning, there’s a list: My paint guys get a paint list of what cars need to get painted and in what order, with what parts. And, my frame guys know what cars are going on the frame machines, and how much time they have for each car.”

 

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