LEADING the team

Neil Pattemore looks at the particular challenges of leadership in the workshop. It’s not all point and shout you know…

By Neil Pattermore | Published:  16 April, 2018

Unless you are a one-man business, you will probably have staff to manage. The art of managing your team is one of the most challenging, but ultimately, one of the most rewarding

If you look at a description of what a business needs, it would be something like ‘the team leader is required to put people first and that they need a high degree of emotional intelligence, patience and a working knowledge of human resources, in order to keep both the employee and the company satisfied’. If you subsequently wrote the job description it would highlight at least the following – ‘Manages and leads a team of employees. Communicates company goals, safety practices, and deadlines to the team. Motivates team members and assesses performance. Provides help to senior management, including hiring and training, and keeps senior management updated on team performance. Communicates concerns and policies among management and team members.’ Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Keep in mind that you won’t always get these skills right away and some may always remain difficult. You’ll make mistakes, but that’s OK as long as you keep working at it and resolve that no matter what, you will become a better leader. So, what are the top five skills to focus on to become a good ‘team leader’?

Communication is about much more than the basics of sharing ideas, or conveying information. For leaders, communication is the most fundamental skill they can possess when it comes to leading an individual, or a team. Communicating well is more than the sum of its parts and is also ‘not what you say, but how you say it.’

It’s one thing to say or write something, and another to have people know exactly what you mean. A good communicator will be able to express themselves clearly, without engendering confusion or ambiguity. However, and most importantly, a good communicator also understands that communication goes both ways: being a good listener is as important (or possibly more important) than doing the talking. Equally not all communication is verbal, some is in the ‘non-verbal’ category and being a good communicator means transcending written and verbal communication. Conveying a sense of openness and being non-judgmental, even when you are not directly saying anything is important, as body language and general demeanor can sometimes convey even more than words. Leaders should be intrinsically calm, open, optimistic, and positive. Who wants to work for an eternal pessimist? Managing people means supporting your team. This means not only supporting them to do their jobs well, but also to encourage them to move forward in their careers. Sometimes this means helping them improve their skillsets to enable them to become better at the nitty gritty of their work. At other times, it can mean assisting them in developing their own communication styles or guiding them in their daily work or motivating them to ‘think outside the box’ to develop their competency and skill levels. Whatever their work is, adopting a coaching mindset is an integral part of being a good leader. A coach encourages and supports and should know how best to do a job, even if they are not the best at actually doing it. A coach is part cheerleader and part trainer in the same way that a football manager has different team members playing in different positions, but he knows how to get the best out of each of them, especially in their specific roles.

Leaders must show leadership, so must be able to clearly and effectively formulate directions for others, and then articulate them in such a way as to convey them effectively. Show by example and then support the team member in developing how they can fulfil the task. Don’t ask someone to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself, but remember that delegating responsibility can make team members feel responsible and valued. However, ensure that this delegation is clearly communicated and that the team member is both motivated and capable to take on what’s expected of them. Direction often involves more than a simple, “do X by Y date.” Direction can involve guidance, instruction, mentorship, planning, motivation and keeping a positive attitude even if someone is struggling. A good leader will value and actively encourage relationships, working to build one-on-one associations as well as fostering healthy relationships amongst the other team members. Relationship building could be as simple as remembering certain personal details about people and subsequently inquiring about those things every now and again. It can equally be a simple question about how today is going and listening to the answer before offering support – verbally or through actions.

Most of all, building relationships is about authenticity and genuinely connecting with people in a way that creates a familiar feeling and a sense of understanding and appreciation within the team. Don’t just assume that an ‘out of hours’ team activity will suffice – it could even be seen as encroaching on an individual’s private time and be counter-productive.

People want to be heard, really heard, and not patronised. Often, instead of listening to someone in a conversation, people are really just waiting for an opportunity to speak. One trick is to say “OK, I understand you’re saying…”. By repeating what you understand the other person to have said, it helps you to really listen to what they are saying. Equally, it reinforces to the other person that you are truly listening to them and respect what they have to say. Eventually, there will always be the time when you need to criticise or praise, but the surest way to demotivate people is to constantly criticise them or complain about them. Always be firm but fair and explain what the problem is, or equally, why you feel they have done well. If they make a mistake, put it in perspective with the things they constantly do well. Accentuate the positive and utilise mistakes as opportunities for continued improvement. Praising someone is easier, but it still needs to be done correctly. Give honest and sincere praise and appreciation and focus on using positive reinforcement. This is probably one of the greatest motivational methods you can ever employ.

Finally, one of the most important elements of being a successful team leader is being respectful of other people’s ideas and opinions.

Encourage the team to improve themselves and be more open by asking ‘open’ questions –why, when, how and what in relation to the different aspects of their work. Sometimes, even as a team leader, you will make mistakes, but rather than deny and repeat those mistakes, show some humility and admit your failures – but ensure that you learn from the experience. If you’re honest and humble enough to own up to your mistake, apologise to those affected, and work to avoid repeating your mistake, you will gain the respect of those you work with. Set a high bar for your team, believe in them, communicate that to them and you will be amazed at what they can achieve. Good luck!


xenconsultancy.com

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  • Managing a winning team 

    Most businesses need staff to operate effectively and this means that those staff need to be managed. However, what does ‘managed’ really mean and how can the ‘business manager’ also be an effective manager of people?

    A good manager of staff should fully understand the roles and responsibilities of all of their team members, but ultimately, each of those team members should be better at doing their own jobs than the manager could. Secondly, the manager should be able to ‘get the best from the team they have and only change it when all other possibilities have failed’. In summary, the manager needs to know how to structure, manage and motivate his team to optimise their performance.

    Critical
    It is a well-known saying that people don’t quit their jobs, but they quit their bosses, but in reality this means that they left their job because it wasn’t enjoyable, or that their strengths weren’t being used or that they weren’t growing in their careers – and who is responsible for this – their manager.
        
    Recent research showed that 31% would swap their manager if they could and 22% felt that they could do a better job themselves if they were given the chance. Ineffective management not only impacts negatively on staff retention, quality of work and morale, but also on customer service and your company’s image. Not good for either your staff or your bottom line.
        
    The best managers know what they are doing, where their businesses are going and ensure that they have the right people in the critical roles to make it all happen. They then communicate and delegate effectively to their staff who have been trained, supported and motivated to fulfil their responsibilities. Businesses with well managed and competent employees are the best performers and frequently handle problems before they escalate to become real issues.

    Guiding principals
    So what are some of the key guiding principles for good people management?

    1. Build solid and respectful relationships
    Don’t aim to be liked, but aim to earn and keep the respect of your team
    Take time to talk to members of your staff. It will show that you are interested, but it will also be both motivational and allow you to better understand their position and any concerns that they may have. Be confident, strong and professional, whilst remaining transparent, approachable and encouraging.

    2. Strengthen your communication skills
    Your ability to listen and communicate is vital to your success as a manger of people. I don’t just mean your ability to listen and speak on a one-to-one basis, but also your ability to capture people’s minds in order to present your ideas, values and visions as well as your ability to listen and soak up the ideas, values and visions of others; that is true communication. Whether you are speaking with one person, or presenting to a whole audience of people, strong communicative skills are a must.

    3. Actively develop your team and be the team leader
    As you build and strengthen relationships throughout your team, you should begin to identify the individual talents, abilities and strengths of your employees. Knowing this detail will help you develop your team so that everyone is positioned within a role in which they can succeed and excel. Take time to communicate with each employee individually, as quite often employees will be forthcoming about what they see as their strengths and where they aim to be; they may also spark ideas to strengthen your team and its performance as a whole. Sometimes low morale and performance can be due to a lack of support and training. Ensure that your whole team are up to date with regular training appropriate to their role.
        
    To establish what your employees really appreciate and value, or to discover their training and support needs, use surveys, one-to-one appraisals or focus groups to talk through each key area to identify the good points, skills gaps or areas that should be improved. Quite simply, support your team.

    4. Be transparent
    Hiding things from your employees is a recipe for disaster. Remember that you have spent time building relationships with these people, relationships based on respect. As part of that mutual respect you also need to engender trust. By remaining transparent, honest and trustworthy with your employees you will further develop their respect and loyalty.

    5. Take responsibility
    This can often be tough, but is a sign of truly exceptional people management. As the manager, leader or head of your company, all responsibility should end with you. You are accountable for the performance of your employees. Remember failure is not a weakness; it’s an opportunity to learn, strengthen and improve. Take responsibility for your team and they will further respect you for it.
        
    All of these people management principles are important internal management skills, but these will also be seen externally by customers in a variety of both obvious, and not so obvious, ways.

    Perception
    When customers experience your business, whether by telephone, e-mail or physically visiting, their perception will be significantly more positive if they feel that they are being looked after by a well run, well managed business with highly motivated and professional staff. Often it is almost imperceptible how this can be picked up, but for sure, if your staff are not working within a well led and motivated environment, it will be reflected in their attitude to their work and frequently, to your customers in a negative way.
        
    The reality is good managers are not born, but learn the skills as part of learning how to understand people as individuals. Most of us work much better if we enjoy what we are doing. It has been said that the best qualification for running a business is not an MBA or a qualification in accountancy, but in psychology. Ultimately, good managers plan, monitor and review before delegating the work, but they can only do this effectively if their team is working well.
        
    As a small business, it may be a difficult to become recognised as one of the Sunday Times ‘Best companies to work for’, but the same good management practices will still apply.  Work hard with your staff and they will work hard for you.
    xenconsultancy.com

  • Would you like to diagnose more vehicles first time? 

    As we reach March, 2019 is well and truly underway. In fact by the time you read this one third of the year will have whizzed by never to be seen again. Now, I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions (they’re so last year), but I am the type of chap that likes constant progress when it comes to developing a technician’s career.
        
    There’s so much to be said for small steps taken everyday that on first look appear don’t appear to make a difference, but when gazed back upon over a 12 month period have a staggering affect on your capability to diagnose a vehicle first time, in a timely manner.

    Pitter-patter of tiny feet
    Small steps are all well and good but where do you start? After all, you don’t know what you don’t know, and you’d like to start your journey to diagnostic success off on the right foot. In this instance I’d start with the end in mind and reverse engineer the outcome you desire. It’s a logical process that works, and can be replicated time and time again in your diagnostic routine.
        
    Your ‘end in mind’ in this instance is a vehicle where the fault no longer exists, that won’t appear back across the threshold of your workshop anytime soon. But how do you guarantee that?

    One test to rule them all
    I love nothing more than when the delegates working through our training programs have a technical epiphany. This happens at many points on their path of learning, but none more than with bypass testing.
        
    Bypass testing is step nine in Johnny’s diagnostic circle of love (our 15 step routine), and often the key element in the first time fix. The good news for you is that it doesn’t require mythical creatures to forge their magical powers into an object that only one technician can possess. It’s something that every tech can learn, and become a diagnostic wizard.

    What is bypass testing?
    Quite simply it’s fixing the vehicle before you fix the vehicle. Let me explain.
        
    Wouldn’t it be great if you suspected that a Mass Air Flow sensor was at fault and you could prove that you were right before you fitted a new part, or spoke to the owner of the vehicle. If you could do that then the positive effect it would have on you and the business you work for would blow you away.
        
    Picture this: Your customer has reported that the vehicle is low on power. You’ve diligently questioned them, experienced the problem with them on a road test, and the bought the vehicle into the workshop.
        
    You’ve pulled codes and found none present, followed by taking a look through serial data to hunt for diagnostic clues. It doesn’t take you long to identify that the MAF sensor frequency looks a little low at 1.5 Khz and your fuel trim data is incorrect and making a positive corrections. You’ve seen a bunch of these before and know that 1.85 Khz is a suitable value for this vehicle.
        
    You’re keen to prove that the serial data is leading you in the right direction so confirm the sensor output with your oscilloscope. The oscilloscope frequency mirrors that of the serial tool and your starting to get that warm fuzzy feeling that an you’re onto something.

    Steady the buffs
    You’ve been close to success before though, only to be thwarted in the final moments so you’re keen not to be caught out twice. You know that documenting the reasons that the MAF output could be incorrect is the way to go, and duly make a list of tests required to confirm your theories.

  • part ONE: ‘You owe me!’ 

    As an employer, have you ever found yourself in a situation where you need to make a deduction from an employee’s wages? Are you confident that you know the legal rules in this area? Andrew Rayment, a Partner in the employment department of law firm Walker Morris, has seen this question arise many times with employers who have made the wrong decision.
        
    He offers an example to illustrate the point. A worker has had to take three weeks off work because of a bad back. He is paid statutory sick pay but there is no company sick pay scheme to top this up. He has three young children to support and the employer knew he was going to struggle to make ends meet. The employer ‘topped him up’ to his full wages for the three weeks as a ‘loan’ to help him out. It was agreed, however, that the loan was to be repaid when the worker was in a better situation. The payment was through payroll so the money was received as ‘wages’.
      
     “The problem in this case was that everything was done on trust, so nothing was written down or confirmed in writing,” and as Andrew continued, “a year later the worker resigned after a disagreement. During the interregnum, the period between handing in his notice and his departure, he didn’t repay the money, so it was simply deducted from his final wages payment.” The agreement for the loan was verbal and there was nothing written into his employment contract for the employer to make deductions from his wages.
        
    As if to inflame the situation, the worker subsequently filed a claim in the Employment Tribunal for unlawful deductions from wages and the employer was ordered to repay the sums deducted.
        
    As Andrew says: “It seems unjust, but these were the actual facts of an Employment Tribunal case. But there is a further sting in the tail. Once an Employment Tribunal has ordered an employer to pay back an amount that has been deducted unlawfully the employer cannot attempt to recover that money later in another way, for example by bringing a civil action in the county court.” This rule, he adds, applies even though the sum may have been properly due from the employee to the employer. The fact that the employer has sought to recover it unlawfully effectively extinguishes the previous debt and the employer does not get a second bite at the cherry.

    What does the law say?
    Section 13 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 sets out the provisions that protect workers from unauthorised deductions (known as unlawful deductions) being made from their wages.
      
     “Quite simply,” says Andrew, “the law says it is unlawful for an employer to make a deduction from a worker's wages unless the deduction is required or authorised by statute or a provision in the worker's contract; or the worker has given their prior written consent to the deduction.”
        
    Worse still for employers, he says that unlike breach of contract claims which can only be brought after the employment has ended, employees can bring unlawful deductions claims in the Employment Tribunal while their employment is ongoing.

    Who is protected?
    The law applies to all workers and includes not only an employee, but an individual who has entered into ‘any other contract... to do or perform personally any work or services’, unless the individual is carrying on a ‘profession or business undertaking’ and the other party to the contract is ‘a client or customer’ of that undertaking. In practice, anyone who is on the payroll regardless of whether they are full-time, part-time, casual, direct agency hire or zero-hours will be protected.
        
    Andrew cautions employers that following a raft of recent cases on worker status many self-employed contractors may be deemed in law to be workers regardless of the parties’ intentions or the contractual paperwork.
        
    In essence, workers are protected from having deductions made from their wages except in certain specific circumstances. Says Andrew: “The law puts the onus firmly on employers to obtain authorisation from the worker to any deductions before they are made. The overriding aim is to protect staff from unscrupulous employers, but employers also need to protect themselves against falling victim to the strict legal rules.”



  • LAST CHANCE TO ENTER TOP TECHNICIAN 2019  

    Techs wanting to take part in Top Technician 2019 have until 23.59 tomorrow (Friday 4 January) to take the round one quiz, or risk missing out on the competition this year.

  • Do you have a business or a profitable job? 

    It’s a favourite of mine, and one we ask of all garage owners that join the Auto iQ business development programme...
      
    “Do you have a business or a profitable job?” Not sure which one you’ve got? Carry on reading.
        
    That question is a doozie and is often met with a few seconds of silence followed by a mixed range of answers whilst the questionee arranges their thoughts. The question is designed to be thought-provoking and entice the garage owner to work through the differences between the options.

    Different sides of the coin
    What’s the difference between a profitable job and a business? It’s a fine line with a BIG difference.
        
    Quite simply if you have a profitable job the income from your work (where you spend your hours in the day) reduces when you’re not doing that work. You might be able to get away from the business for a week or two but longer than that will have you sweating, you’ll wonder if your techs are efficient without you in the building, concerned that your numbers are going south.
        
    A business on the other hand will run without you being there for a significant length of time. Which one do you have?
        
    I can feel the tension elevating as some of you may be rising from you chair ready to give me a good talking-to. Hang fire though and hear me out. In no way am I saying that having a profitable job is wrong. Quite to the contrary. If that’s what you set out to achieve then who am I to say any different? Here’s the deal though. Most garage owners don’t embark on this amazing journey to be ‘self employed,’ they do it to build a bigger and better future for their families. They did it to have more time with their loved ones, the funds to allow this and probably have early retirement thrown in with the business providing the income. Can a profitable job do this or do you need a business that’ll run without you? I think you know the answer.

    What’s the difference?
    So you’ve decided that a business is preferable to a profitable job. But is there really that much of a difference? Let’s take a look. It often comes down to nothing more than a state of mind that separates these different sides of the same coin.
        
    Let’s compare the owner with a profitable job and the business owner. At first glance I’d challenge you to notice the difference. They’ll both have a business that they’re proud of and rightly so, they’ve worked hard to build it. More often than not they’re both skilled technicians, have the respect of their team as well as their customers. Then how can it be that one earns significantly more than the next. One word, focus.
        
    Our owner with the profitable job will be very focused. He’s focused on his own ability to fix the vehicles in his workshop often working shoulder to shoulder with the technicians. The technicians respect him because of his technical ability and work hard alongside him. All admirable qualities.
        
    Our business owner also has a laser-like focus, his target is a little different though. His gaze is firmly fixed on a vision of the business he’s building and knows that long term success requires not only focus but patience. He’s acutely aware of the one thing that will bring freedom and the time with his family (the reason he started this venture) is the team he builds and trains.
        
    This isn’t to say that he doesn’t roll up his sleeves and lead from the front when required, it’s just that his daily focus is on the strategic functions of the business that drive success, rather than the day-to-day tasks that so many owners get caught up in. There’s a huge benefit to this as well. You get to keep the skin on your knuckles.

    Dominant thoughts
    It’s a proven fact that we all move through our day in the direction of most dominant thoughts. What does your typical business owner ponder?. Now I can’t read minds (how cool would that be?) but I do know that these are the questions that need to be answered:

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