This article has a strange title, right? Your employees aren’t like a faucet. My dad always used to say that. It wasn’t a concept I grasped immediately early in my career. However, I’ve come to realize how truly important it is. As the decision maker in your shop, there are many levers and knobs you can turn to try to get different results and metrics. However, your workforce should not be one of them.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t come up with the best possible strategic vision and pay plan for your shop – because you should. However, what you should not do is act like your employees or their livelihoods are expendable.
Employees are not a new piece of equipment that you can toy with. Your employees should not and can not be turned off and on again at your will. It’s an unfortunate truth that some shop owners and companies feel they can do precisely that. And I’m not just referring to the auto body industry either.
When my grandfather retired from the City of Philadelphia in 1970, he was given a pension, a party and a gold ring which I still have. Try getting one of those things today!
We’re all aware that the world we live in today is very different. There is no pension or gold rings waiting for you at the end of your career rainbow anymore. Today, it’s up to the employee to fend for themselves and make the best moves for their careers.
For some people, this unfortunately means having no loyalty or scruples and not even being thoughtful enough to give their employer two weeks notice anymore. Equally troubling is that some managers and business owners have taken this climate to the next level and used it as an excuse to treat people as expendable commodities that serve only as a means to an end. It seems only to be getting worse as the cycle continually feeds off itself. Some employers don’t feel the need to appreciate and protect their employees, and some employees have no loyalty or appreciation for the company they work for. But it doesn’t need to be this way.
I’ve been blessed in my career to have been both an owner and an employee. I’ve been a rookie and a top-level regional manager responsible for 75 people. The greatest successes of my career have resulted from holding myself highly accountable for my employees’ success. Furthermore, I knew I could not succeed without my team and helping them to succeed first. The captain of a ship can’t go anywhere without his crew’s help. Likewise, no one in a body shop or any other business can succeed without the team’s help. As a leader and manager, I’ve always taken my crew – my team, my people – very seriously. They were and are my “guys,” and it was my job to protect and defend them and remove all roadblocks so they could do their jobs. You can’t expect anyone to follow you if you don’t earn their respect. I don’t care what your business cards says, the crew will know if you’re a real leader or not.
I recently started a new position with a new company and found myself addressing a new group for the first time in nine years. The first thing I told them was that they didn’t know me yet, but that in time they would. For now, I told them to watch my actions and take me at my word. I needed to prove and show them what kind of leader I am. I didn’t demand respect because the owner hired me. I didn’t think I had it coming to me because of the title on my business card. I’m their leader because I intend to earn their trust and respect and because I care.
If you expect trust and devotion from your employees, then you must first show them that they have your trust and devotion. Show them that you’re committed to their success and that you’re prepared to do what it takes for them. This, of course, is a two-way street, and I demand the upmost from my employees and set the bar high. In return, they get my upmost and I set the bar high for myself, too.