One of the most common questions I hear from shop owners is: “I need to hire a leader. How do I do that?”
So that’s the bad news. The good news is that by learning how to look for leadership qualities during the hiring process and learning how to apply some leadership-development tools to your new employees, you can ultimately hire a leader who’ll be able to run a tight ship, take work off your plate and improve your shop’s bottom line.
During the hiring process, you need to be as diligent and discerning as possible, especially when you’re looking for a shop leader. Potential for leadership is the biggest thing you’re looking for, in addition to quality character and industry knowledge.
A trap a lot of hiring managers fall into is making hires based on assumptions, guesses or simply a good resume. This is a mistake, and when you hire someone based on a gut feeling or list of fancy job titles, you fall into it hook, line and sinker. When that person ends up failing – an inevitability in my experience – everyone involved is upset. Furthermore, you end up second-guessing yourself and go into “analysis paralysis” during the next round of hiring.
A lot of times, individuals seeking positions of power within our industry are looking to build their own empire or feed their own ego – not help your shop succeed. I’ve seen this happen many times before. These self-interested individuals will turn your team against you, create culture problems and cost you customers/profits galore. And trying to get rid of them can be even more problematic.
Train & Gain
The biggest mistake I see shop owners make is hiring a new employee and expecting them to understand how they’re supposed to do the job.
Again, this is simply an unrealistic expectation to have, even if they were a manager before with good references. You need to make training the highest priority for every new employee you bring on board.
Investing in training at the start of an employee’s tenure with your shop yields an extremely high ROI. You’ll be saving yourself time down the road because an employee who isn’t 110% sure of your expectations and the best way to operate within your shop’s culture will inevitably falter and force you to make corrections on their words and behavior.
The time it takes to unwind a person once they’ve become comfortable in their bad habits is five times what it would have taken to train them the right way in the first place … and they all have bad habits.
People aren’t pets – you can’t just tell them to get off the furniture or to stop barking. You need to explain the reasons why your shop does things a certain way, especially if they’re veterans of other shops, because they all have picked up some different or bad habits at some point in their career.
Once they get comfortable in the new environment with their old ways, it is much harder to reverse. After all, if you have a knot, do you continue to apply pressure to both ends for it to come lose? Of course not. People are the same way – if you continue to put pressure on them after they’ve gotten into game shape, they won’t work properly and will ultimately break.
Before your perspective leader even talks to a customer, they should know the ins and outs of your shop extremely well.
You should give your new employee at least a few weeks before letting them loose. Does this mean they’re just sitting around and watching for two weeks? Heck no!
Every single aspect of your shop’s culture and modus operandi should be hammered home during this training phase. Answering phones, signing customers in, filling out forms – all these tasks need to be perfected by repeating them over and over again while explaining to them “the why” of each step in each process.
Encourage Growth – In Your Team & Yourself
Once you have a quality employee in place, the next step is fostering a quality leader.
The main thing to remember in this phase is to nurture the qualities about your employee that you first saw potential in during the interview process. Encourage these traits and give him or her opportunities to develop them – slowly, but gradually giving them more responsibility and more power.
As we seek to improve someone else’s behavior, we as shop owners must work on our own as well.
My own leadership style has drastically changed over the years. I started out as a drill sergeant, complete with a vocabulary that would make most sailors blush, using my size (I’m a big guy) to intimidate my underlings to do what I wanted. I had to work on myself in order to become a more dynamic – and effective – leader. I recognized the limitations of my abrasive leadership style and took steps to keep my emotions in check, resulting in a better leadership style that has led to better, longer-lasting employees and higher profits.
Raise the bar for yourself, and your whole shop will follow suit!