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Creating a Winning Team

Note: The following article contains material
from Beau Hamilton’s Team Building seminar, which is conducted
for the collision repair industry and approved by ASA’s Automotive
Management Institute (AMI) for continuing-education credits.

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When you assemble a number of men and women
to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble
with those men and women all their prejudices, their passions,
their errors of opinion, their local interests and their selfish
views. From such an assembly, can a perfect production be expected?"
– Benjamin Franklin.

When you look at it that way, it’s no wonder
that teamwork plays such an important role in how smoothly – or
not – a business runs. If everyone in your shop isn’t working
toward a common goal – if the left hand doesn’t know what the
right hand is doing – it stands to reason that your production,
profits and people won’t be optimized. It also stands to reason
that if your employees don’t feel a part of something, they probably
won’t have any loyalty toward you or your business, either.

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So what can you do to create a sense of teamwork
– of camaraderie – in your employees? You can start by considering
the following seven principles of team building.

1. The first rule for any effective team is
mutual trust and respect between all team members.

I rarely say never, but in this case, I will
say that a company will never have total teamwork without trust.
Trust is the foundation for any successful relationship. And what
is a business team if not a series of professional relationships
– relationships between supervisors and subordinates, between
peers, between departments, between the office and the shop, etc.
Trust between everyone in the organization is an essential ingredient
for successful business teamwork. We enjoy working with people
we trust, and we’re always suspicious and guarded around people
we don’t trust. How can we ever build winning teams without trust
and respect for our teammates?

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2. The second rule is cooperation and collaboration
at all levels and between all departments.

The body shop must cooperate with the paint
shop, and the estimators must cooperate with the body shop. In
many shops, the paint department must sign off on the quality
of work performed by the body shop technicians. If the quality
isn’t sufficient, they won’t accept the vehicle. Similarly, the
body shop must accept the quality of the paint department before
they accept the vehicle for final assembly and detailing. All
departments must work together and perform their jobs properly
for the customer to be pleased.

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3.The third rule that’s essential to instill
teamwork is for the employees to feel involved and really part
of the team.

Building a sense of ownership is vital to
create a really solid team. One way for management to make everyone
feel they’re on the same team is to provide a "team uniform."
It can be as simple as a hat and shirt with the company logo or
as detailed as having a shirt with the person’s name, title, years
of service and certification/training received. Company jackets
also build the appearance of a company team.

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Another way to make employees feel part of
the team is to ask their opinions. I can’t think of a better way
to make employees feel important and involved than by asking for
their suggestions or comments about things.

4.The fourth rule that’s required for teamwork
is getting recognition and appreciation for doing a good job.

Employees need to be thanked. We have to get
away from that old attitude of, "Why should I thank them,
they get a paycheck, don’t they?" Most employees don’t leave
a job because the work was too hard, the hours were too long or
they couldn’t handle the stress. Most people quit because they
simply don’t feel appreciated for the work they do. They say to
themselves, "I came in on my own time, I helped out when
they needed someone, I busted my butt to pitch in and do the dirty
work, and no one even bothered to thank me."

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If you expect your employees to be loyal to
the team, they must feel appreciated for the work they do.

5. Open and honest communication is the next
ingredient necessary for maximum teamwork.

Everyone on the team must feel they can bring
up topics, even if they’re perceived as uncomfortable. Employees
must be able to voice their real opinions about the attitudes
and work habits of their peers and supervisors. The estimators,
paint and body shop departments, and office employees should feel
comfortable bringing up situations that need to be discussed.
If the messenger gets shot for discussing negative information,
no one will be the messenger and valuable information will never
reach the manager or owner.

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6. Working toward positive results and being
committed to continuous improvement is absolutely necessary for
an effective team.

Each department, from the estimator to the
detailer, must always try to improve its performance. The collision
repair industry is getting more technical, customers are demanding
more and it’s becoming more difficult to operate with adequate
profit margins. Everyone on the payroll must look for ways to
increase sales, reduce costs and eliminate mistakes. Improving
the quality and reliability of workmanship, customer service and
overall professionalism will be required for the on-going success
of any collision repair facility.

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7. Showing a forgiving attitude and being
flexible is the final ingredient for successful teamwork.

We all have bad days, and we all make mistakes.
Things go on in our personal lives that can distract us at work,
and we all can’t hit a home run every day – sometimes just showing
up for work is a challenge. It’s important to cut our teammates
some slack, knowing that someday it will be our turn to need some
compassion and understanding from our peers.

No effective team was ever built on criticizing,
judging and blaming each other. Working together day in and day
out without ever having problems or personality conflicts is unrealistic,
and my advice is to focus on the positive qualities of your peers,
supervisors and owners to help them be more successful in every
situation. That’s the real mark of teamwork.

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Profiting from Teamwork

It may take a little work for you to integrate
the seven steps to successful teamwork into your shop, but it
will be well worth the effort. Employees work a lot harder for
someone who appreciates and includes them than for someone who
doesn’t. So, not only does teamwork foster a healthier and happier
work environment, it also creates a more productive and profitable
one.

Writer Beau Hamilton founded Hamilton Consulting,
Inc. in 1984, and his automotive clients include collision and
mechanical repair facilities, new car dealerships, automotive
recyclers and more. Beau conducts seminars and training programs
throughout the United States and Canada. For more information,
you can contact Beau at (800) 821-1115.

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Seven Steps for Successful Teamwork

  1. Mutual trust and respect must exist between all team members.
  2. Cooperation and collaboration are needed at all levels and
    between all departments.

  3. Employees need to feel involved and really part of a team.
  4. Recognition and appreciation must be given for doing a good
    job.

  5. Communication must be open and honest.
  6. You need to work toward positive results and be committed
    to continuous improvement.

  7. You need to always show a forgiving attitude and be flexible.

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