“There’s an old saying that goes like this: A fish stinks from the head down,” recites Rick White, president and head coach of 180Biz.
A more crude version of the quote says, “a fish rots from the head down,” but the sentiment remains the same—poor leadership is the cause of a business’s demise. In this case, White is referring to motivation, both of the owner and his or her staff. If a shop owner lacks motivation, it will trickle down to the employees, and soon, no member of the staff will be motivated to run a successful business.
“If the owner isn’t excited or engaged, what does the rest of the staff look like?” White says.
White has been involved in some facet of the auto industry his whole life, from dealerships to owning his own shop, to now, coaching other auto repair businesses. He has worked with hundreds of shops and regularly speaks at conferences around the country about everything that goes into running an auto repair business.
White’s “stinky fish” sentiment is also shared by 180Biz client and shop owner Erick Bock, who puts in the time and effort to motivate himself and inspire his staff at his successful and close-knit New York business, Bock Auto.
White and Bock share their five steps for motivating owners and, in turn, their staff, to better improve overall success.
“What they (shop owners) are getting from their staff is a reflection of what they are bringing to the table,” White says.
Step 1: Begin small.
Leaders can become unmotivated for myriad reasons. One large contributing factor to an unmotivated and uninspired leader is the feeling of being overwhelmed, White says.
“When there is so much to do, we shut off and disengage,” he says.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when thinking about too many things at once, and can quickly give the sense that there is no escape.
By taking a step back and looking at things from a larger perspective, owners can begin to look at isolated factors in their business in order to recenter and remotivate themselves.
A good place to start in the remotivation process, is to do a complete brain dump, suggests White. Everything running through the mind should be written down and looked at from a bird’s-eye view. One factor should be isolated and focused on; start with one thing at a time. This helps with a feeling of accomplishment and pushes motivation to continue.
Step 2: Relocate passion.
Bock says he partakes in a daily reflection, focusing on where he came from, and where he has gone, in order to motivate himself.
“Every once in a while, the stress load will get up, and you have to take a step back and self-reflect on what you’ve done and be grateful for it,” Bock says. “Go back to when you started your shop, to the first day you had the key and opened the door for the first day of business. That excitement—you need to get that feeling again.”
Find the excitement and the fuel that burns inside of you again, Bock suggests.
“This has been a vision burned in my mind since I was 12 years old, of wanting to own my own shop—what it smelled like, what was hanging on the wall, every detail,” Bock says.
Sharing that excitement with the team will also help to add motivation and inspiration that can be passed down throughout the shop.
Step 3: Create engagement.
The most anyone is engaged is on their first day on the job—their head, heart, and hands are all in, White says.
“When people quit, they don’t quit all at once—they quit in stages,” he says.
First to go is the heart—he or she is no longer engaged in the business’s mission and begins to stop going out of his or her way to be a member of the team.
Next to go is the head—the employee has become mentally checked out, and no longer present within his or her role.
Lastly, is the hands—he or she is now lost completely and is no longer an employee.
An issue of skill is easy to fix, White says. An issue of will is a lot of tougher.
It is important to check in and assess each employee’s engagement level and dedication.
To motivate and engage his shop, Bock offers a team lunch to his full staff each day, where they all sit down and eat together like a family, he says. During the lunch, the team is able to check in and talk about what’s going on at the shop, and mention any conflict that might be happening.
Along with full staff meetings, Bock tries to have a “toolbox huddle” twice per day with each team member, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. That way, he can spend 5–10 minutes talking with them about how they are doing. In the morning, he focuses his meetings on their personal lives, their families or upcoming events.
“There are lots of things outside the shop that can factor into their (an employee’s) motivation level,” Bock explains.
The afternoon meeting is more work and shop focused, he says.
Step 4: Communicate expectations.
As a part of motivating each member of the team, White says owners need to ask themselves how they set their standards of success. Expectations should not only be verbalized to the staff but more importantly, need to be all that the owner accepts, says White.
Bock says he reminds his staff at least once per week how they fit into the jigsaw puzzle of the shop’s growth plan and expansion, in order to motivate and challenge his team as a whole.
“It’s really about finding the outcome you are looking for, and sharing that with your employees,” Bock says. “There’s a difference between a leader and a manager—the leader is providing the vision.”
Above expectations, is providing employees opportunities for growth. If a team member feels as though he or she does the same thing day in and day out, he or she will ultimately lack the motivation to excel or even stay at the shop.
It is important for owners to create opportunities and a career path for their staff, White says. Setting goals with employees not only challenges and motives them, but also encourages them to become better.
Step 5: Celebrate achievements.
There is nothing more unmotivating than not being appreciated for hard work and accomplishments. In order to encourage and motivate staff, White stresses the importance of celebrating employees for a job well done. Too often, technicians will say that their owner only recognizes them when a mistake is made, or something has gone wrong, White says. When the technician does something well, or even above the standard, they tend to hear nothing but crickets from their boss.
It is vital to celebrate the behaviors and results a business wants to achieve, White says. Owners have the opportunity to experience a true transformation when they take the time to properly encourage and celebrate their staff.
An incredible consequence of encouraging team members for their accomplishments is the effect it could have on the rest of the team. Everyone wants to be appreciated and cared for, and by celebrating specific staff members’ accomplishments, it shows other team members that they, too, could be given high recognition.
Although, White stresses the importance of ensuring that the form of celebration is something that truly means something to the employee, or else the employee may not feel too motivated or inspired.