Running a Shop

Finding Your Next All-Star Leader

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In any line of work, leadership is crucial. Effective leadership ensures your company is operating at a satisfactory standard and can even push your employees to the next level. An all-star leader is someone who inspires his or her staff and is able to pull the best out of others.

Leaders don’t always announce themselves, though, and as a result, you may employ some of which you’re unaware. Identifying all stars within your shop can facilitate growth by allowing you to promote from within, while trusting that you’re setting up the right person for the job. FenderBender spoke to professionals in both the automotive and coaching industries to help you identify your next all star, or to know when it is time to look outside for help. 

 

Effective Leadership

The attributes of an effective leader can be found on a poster in any grade school classroom: responsibility, accountability, and integrity. But what do those traits look like on the shop floor?

Vice president of Ulmer’s Auto Care, Bryan Kauffeld, says each of his technicians have strong points. Some are more versed in nitty-gritty diagnostic work, he says, while others are great at tracking down hard-to-find problems. But those who stand out are willing to ask for help and do their best to answer the questions of others.

Jan Fox, an award-winning public speaker and motivator, says a leader is someone who steps in, steps up, and empowers others to do the same in their line of work. But, she says, it all comes down to one trait—the ability to listen. In fact, she even has an acronym for it. 

“E-V-A”, she says. “Empathy, validation, and advocacy are the three layers of listening.”

Showing empathy is as simple as saying “I hear you,” to a frustrated or struggling co-worker. Steamrolling is not leadership, Fox says. Validation, the second layer of listening, is about relating to the issue. Saying, “I have experienced this myself,” provides meaningful support to the speaker. The final piece, advocacy, Fox says, is about team building. Saying simple phrases such as “We can get this done,” or “We can work out a plan for you,” helps the employee to know he or she is not alone. 

If someone is able to effectively apply the EVA acronym, says Fox, “You know they have leadership ability and can do it with the next one.”

 

Spotting the All-Star

Fox says it’s one thing for an employee to complete a task, but in order to be a standout leader, they need to be able to pass on their knowledge and expertise by enabling someone else to complete that same task. 

Fox says a surefire way to identify someone with leadership potential is to see who offers support to others when they are struggling. 

“If you have someone who is depressed or not working to their full potential, look to who’s helping them. That’s definitely a leader,” she says.

Another way to spot an all star that may be lurking in your staff is to take note of who offers the most solutions during team meetings. 

“Those people are invaluable,” Fox says, “Because they’re paying attention.” 

Kauffeld, who oversees 18 technicians, says, “Every single one of my techs is an integral part of the team.” 

But there are two things he looks for in a stellar technician—attitude and aptitude.

Someone with a great attitude is eager to learn, eager to help others, and is dedicated to solving problems, he says. An individual with great aptitude not only knows how to complete their own tasks, but is willing to help others and ask for help themselves.     

“Aptitude and attitude,” he says. “If you’ve got both, we can train you, you can fit into our culture, and you can work within our team for a long, long time.” 

 

When to Look Elsewhere

Fox says before you look elsewhere for talent, first you need to look inward. Talking to your employees and learning how they are doing is just as important as how their work is going. Supporting your employees through difficult times is part of the responsibility of being a leader, and if an employee is not working up to their usual standard, there could be more going on than meets the eye. 

Fox says she has talked to many leaders who thought one of their employees was a “goner,” but in reality, they just needed someone to lead them through a difficult time.

“They don’t lose the skills,” she says of underperforming employees, “If you can get through that bad attitude, then you can save the skills.” 

But sometimes, even that isn’t enough. 

“If you have done everything you can possibly do, that means it’s time to look outside,” Fox advises. 

 

How To Fill the Gap 

In order to solve an issue within your company, Fox says first you need to identify where it’s coming from. Whether it’s a lack of communication or a decrease in revenue, you need to find the hole that is causing you the most problems. 

Once it has been identified, Fox says to seek talent that you know you don’t already have within your current workforce. Bringing on more individuals with the same skill sets can leave your shop in a rut, dealing with the same issues, just under different management. That is why the interview process is such a crucial part in determining who can push your business to the next level. 

While interviewing, ask questions that specifically relate to the issues you have already identified, says Fox. More often than not, the interviewee will not have the perfect catch-all solution to answer your question, but are they able to work through the problem?

“If [the applicant] doesn’t give you answers that push the problem forward, then they’re not your person,” Fox says. 

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