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How to Inspire Teamwork Among Shop Employees

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I’m a huge hockey fan. And, as a result, I’ve seen the 2004 movie Miracle a time or two. 

That movie, you might recall, documents the 1980 U.S. hockey team’s stunning upset of the far more experienced and talented Soviet Union—the four-time defending gold medalists. One reason I’m such a fan of that film is because it perfectly illustrates what a group of individuals can accomplish if they’re willing to work as a team. 

When teams figure out how to unite, it doesn’t matter as much the skill level of the individuals, because you’re better as a team when everyone has each other’s backs. You see that in sports all the time. 

And, you see examples of that in well-run body shops, too.

At my shops in Alaska, our goal is to promote teamwork in everything we do. Yes, your team members will have varying skill levels, but every hockey team has a fourth line, right? Every team has talented veterans and green rookies trying to work their way up the ladder. But those employees all have to find a way to work together for the common good of the group. 

In that spirit, here are two valuable lessons body shop owners can take away from the movie Miracle. 

Successful teams require trust. 

In order for the 1980 U.S. hockey team to upset the Soviets, the Americans had to be confident that goaltender Jim Craig had their back, and that captain Mike Eruzione would deftly move chess pieces into the proper place on the ice. Similarly, to me, the number one thing in a body shop is to make sure that we have trust throughout our staff. When we see trust broken in any way, shape, or form, we do everything we can to repair it. 

We really promote that we’re stronger as a team. We never have just one person go out and deal with a customer that looks like they might be a problem; we always do that as multiples—as a team—so that one person isn’t left alone to deal with a difficult situation. 

Sometimes at body shops, you can actually hire too many superstar employees. And, one of those experienced employees might complain about having a “weak link” on the staff. But, as a shop leader, you need to remind them that, you’re always going to have a weak link, but our goal is to bring that weak link up and make them better. 

Successful leaders stop problems in their tracks. 

When the 1980 U.S. hockey squad got too full of itself, coach Herb Brooks had no issue putting players through punishing workouts. I’m no Herb Brooks, but I work hard to halt negativity from employees quickly. 

Sometimes employees start to act as individuals. If that happens, I remind them that there are places you can be an individual, but that doesn’t happen to be with our shops. 

When negativity hits your staff, it hits hard, and you’re left with a degraded shop culture where one employee starts speaking negatively and it can spread quickly. A philosophy we have is to fire fast but hire slow. When we have an issue that needs to be dealt with, we will take care of that immediately. 

If there’s something that’s boiling and needs to be dealt with—maybe it’s an employee that’s going to leave for another shop, or it’s something that could harm our staff culture—we’re not going to say “Okay, let’s have a meeting next Tuesday.” We’re going to stop what we’re doing right then and there, call in whoever needs to be called in, and deal with it. We don’t want things to fester. I just try to be open and honest, and discuss how we can handle the issue to keep both parties happy. 

The 1980 Miracle on Ice provided the perfect example of teamwork. That group of underdog Americans shouldn’t have beaten the Soviets, but they did, because they were willing to work as a team. 

And, as a shop leader,  you can inspire great teamwork, too. It just requires constant coaching, and reminding people that, as shop staffs, we’re always stronger as a team. 

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