Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Building a Winning Team: Getting Everyone on the Same Page, by Robert Spitz, Management Success!

Robert Spitz
Snr VP Business Dev
Management Success!

I was talking with a shop owner the other day, and he said to me, "I am having a hard time getting my crew, especially my service writer, to understand what I want. I go blue in the face explaining over and over how I want things done, yet he always seems to be on a different page. He's a good guy and sells well, but honestly, he's driving me crazy. How do I get employees to be on the same page as me?"

Wow! That is what I call a quick question that does not have a quick answer. I told him I do not like to do off-the-cuff consultations, especially on the subject of employees, but I would see if I could help him here. Before you pop a cork, sit back, take a deep breath, and relax for a moment. Employee management is the trickiest part of a business. The reason most employees go off on a different direction from the owner is a lack of understanding of what the owner is trying to accomplish. There is no agreement. Telling people what you want done and how to do things only works when the understanding is already established - in other words, when the employee twigs on how their job is related to the overall plan.

What is the goal of the shop? What are you trying to get done? Have you put this in writing for yourself and your employees? This should be the first step you do. If you are clear on where you want to go, what you want to accomplish, and how you want to get there, then it is easy to communicate those concepts to others.

You do this in the form of policy and staff meetings. You should have a meeting at least once a week to reiterate the purpose of the shop and what it is you want to get done. The next step is to get employees to understand their job, the purpose of their job, and how their job fits in with the overall big picture of the business. With a service writer, you have to break it all down - how many jobs or hats is he or she really wearing? In most independent shops, the service writer wears a multitude of hats: reception, sales, parts, dispatching, quality control (checking the vehicle before the customer picks it up), etc. Each one of these has to be broken down into their actual components or functions and then taught how the job is to be done according to company policy. Just telling people does not fully work in most cases. You need to hold training sessions where the employees practice the new procedure or technique. However, be careful here; you do not want a group of clones. You have to leave room for initiative and creation on the position; otherwise, you will end up with robots who cannot think.

One of your biggest barriers in training people is when the person you are attempting to train feels there is nothing to learn, that they already know it all. You have to know how to handle this kind of person, and better yet, know how to spot this kind of person before you even hire them. You also need to know how to motivate people to attend training. There are many ways of doing this, but beware of the person whom you cannot motivate - there are other problems in this case.

People learn in gradients and by step-by-step processes. It is so easy to overwhelm a new employee by piling on too much too quickly. Owners tend to forget how much they know, especially about their own business. Too many owners have trouble communicating what they want and how they want it done. To them, it is too simple and too obvious. How could this new employee not get it? Well, to a new employee, it is not necessarily simple or obvious. You have to break it all down. Remember, the only thing you ever have in an employee is willingness.

In the case of service writers, break down all the hats they are wearing; take one hat, and work out step-by-step what you want them to know and do regarding the functions of that position.

There are many tools you must have and know how to use when you train employees, but attitude is critical. If you do not have a high tolerance for stupidity, you should not attempt to train anyone! You must have patience and be willing to go over the same points many times. Most people learn through repetition.

By the end of our talk, this particular shop owner agreed that he had not spent enough time training his service writer. He agreed to take some of the tools I gave him and take half an hour each day to work with his service writer, one thing at a time. I heard from him about a month later, and he told me that things were starting to improve, and his service writer was not stupid after all!

Management Success! is the leader in quality management training. As an owner, you must have strong organization and communication skills, and a big part of organizing is training yourself and your team.

Get trained and learn how to train others. Your life and the life of your employees will greatly improve. It is the only long-term solution. 

Wishing you success!
Robert Spitz

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