An old baseball manager named Leo Durocher once said that "Nice guys finish last," and in many ways, it is true. People who are naturally pleasant usually don't like confrontations with people, because they just want to be nice. But, when you run a body shop while balancing 50 repair jobs and supervising a crew of 15-20 people, nice doesn't always work.
I know one service manager who told me that he manages through fear. A 30-year industry veteran who has managed crews of more than 50 people said that scaring people into doing a good job is the best way to go. He tried the nice approach initially, he said, but realized over the years that it didn't work. Fear motivates people, he explained, and after switching to the not-so-nice way of managing his crew, he saw better results almost immediately.
Now, I don't fully agree with that approach to managing your personnel, but it is an interesting concept. General managers want results, and if a wishy-washy manager isn't helping the bottom line, they may need to go.
Successfully running a body shop requires someone who isn't afraid of making decisions that aren't always easy to make. A leader who doesn't shy away from complex issues will gain respect and build trust with his or her crew. Remember, that a leader should be committed to his boss first and his employees second. Some decisions can potentially make everyone unhappy, but that comes with being a manager of people in any industry.
Many service managers will run into problems that can potentially dissuade them from doing an outstanding job. These include things such as a lack of useful data, workers that get poached away from the competition, no long-range perspective, and the failure to look at the big picture. Some managers get caught up in the day-to-day and forget to lead. They see them as supervisors instead of managers and that is where many of the problems begin. Everyone wants to be nice and pleasant and if people are always in a bad mood, they won't normally be great leaders. You can't wear your emotions on your sleeves and expect people to respect you. Clearly, a manager practicing determined leadership is crucial to the overall success in any body shop today. A genuine leader understands that with responsibility comes hard decisions and hard work, but hopefully with some compassion for your crew in there as well.
So, here are some ideas and approaches that might help your service managers:
- Focus on the things you can control
- Don't be afraid to get rid of bad employees while encouraging and promoting the good ones
- Rely on your instincts and don't second guess your decisions
- Remember that you are not your employees' friend or confidant--you are their boss
- Be truthful with your crew and they will respect you
- Keep your personal feelings and emotions in check
- If you want to chastise or warn an employee for anything, do it in the privacy of your office
- Communicate regularly with your entire crew and never leave them in the dark about things that can affect them directly
If you can be a strong, focused and committed leader than everything else will likely fall into place. There is a time to be nice and there is a time to be tough, so find a balance and watch your numbers go up.