Leading by Listening
Christine Rand Assistant Manager Tom Bush Collision Center Jacksonville, Fla.
Perhaps it’s fitting that Christine Rand’s first role at Tom Bush Collision Center (TBCC) was as a receptionist.
After all, she has a proven knack for listening.
These days, Rand serves as the assistant manager at the Jacksonville, Fla., facility, and she frequently earns praise for the empathy she shows coworkers.
“When I think of character, loyalty, perseverance, and caring—I think of Christine,” noted DeWayne White, who oversees TBCC.
Rand has handled several roles during her time at the collision repair center, over parts of three decades. After answering phones part-time as a 15-year-old, she eventually ascended to administrative and accounting roles. Then, six years ago, she landed in the collision repair center, full-time.
Rand promptly put herself through a crash course in collision repair, by working in a stall alongside any technician who was willing to tutor her.
And, these days, she pays that generosity forward, as a shop leader who shows compassion for her staff.
Rand says she has learned that one way to keep employees’ morale high is by “listening—if you show them that you’re going to take 10 minutes out of your day, or maybe longer, to listen to them.”
The assistant manager, who helps oversee a collision repair center that produces $6 million in annual revenue, explains how she helps lead the staff of 30 by staying attuned to employees’ concerns.
Rand, by all accounts, is naturally inquisitive. And that eagerness to learn has served her well as she ascended up the hierarchy at TBCC.
Nowadays, as an assistant manager, she closely observes shop floor workers. Not only does she do so to learn more about collision repair, but also to pinpoint any potential issues before they simmer over.
“I want to go out there and see how they work; I want to know why they do the things they do,” Rand says. “I want to see why they use the sandpaper, and the way they prime. Why are you doing what you’re doing?”
Rand typically pulls employees aside if she senses any displeasure during staff meetings,
or notices negative body language.
“In meetings, if you just listen and watch everybody when things are brought up, you can see how they’re feeling,” she says. “You can see it on their face.
“Then, after the meeting, I’ll go ask, ‘What’s going on? I noticed when this was brought up in the meeting that you looked a little disturbed.’ And, nine times out of 10, they’ll tell me.”
Observing employees closely also helps Rand identify entry-level workers who appear to be worthy of grooming for larger roles. She typically takes note of young employees who are energetic and willing to learn—“anybody that has energy, motivation, and drive,” Rand says.
According to her boss, Rand has a gift for learning what makes employees tick.
And, the concern Rand shows for coworkers is one reason TBCC boasts a solid employee retention rate, according to White. Rand says it’s simply in her nature to display motherly instincts.
“It’s just listening, and asking them, ‘What’s up? What’s wrong? What’s going on?’” she explains. “Maybe we have equipment that’s not working properly. Maybe someone doesn’t return tools to [their coworker] properly. Or, maybe they can’t find a part.
“If you just sit there and listen them, and ask, ‘What’s going on?’ or how their day is,” it helps.
Rand typically has such exchanges with employees after staff meetings. After all, she knows some staff members are reserved, or seek to avoid potential conflict.
“Go to each person individually and you talk to them, and you ask them what’s wrong—‘What problems are you coming across that weren’t addressed in this meeting?’” she says. “They’ll usually tell you. And then you take what they say and help them as much as you can. Say, ‘OK, I understand you’re having a problem with this; how can we get around it? Why didn’t you bring it up?’”
Rand isn’t interested in listening to endless complaints, however; if an employee complains to her, she expects them to offer their own suggestion on how to rectify the issue. And, in the interest of avoiding workplace gossip, she instructs employees to avoid naming names when they make complaints, but rather explain general situations that are the root of frustrations.
Rand says she helps maintain workplace harmony simply by “listening to [employees’] problems, and trying to help them as much as you possibly can.
“I’ll say, ‘What’s going on? What’s up? Why the gloomy look? And, how can we fix it?’”