AKRON (Aug. 29, 2005) — The boss is solely responsible for setting the example for all employees at a tire dealership or service shop.
In doing so, he or she establishes the tone or style of the entire business.
You would think these statements would be foregone conclusions, but they aren't. The more I travel and the more I observe service personnel at all levels, the more convinced I am that many bosses still need to learn this.
Until they embrace and apply this concept, they truly haven't taken responsibility for their businesses. The crew really does reflect its leadership, and they can't or won't own up to that whenever a worker does something stupid or dishonest.
In my last column, I emphasized how walking the proverbial walk can encourage and motivate a dealership's staff to rise up to another level of performance. If you want to look at it this way, then leading by example is another style of motivation—another form of expecting the staff to do the same things you expect of yourself.
Anyway, a boss' actions always speak louder than his or her words. For that matter, inaction (indifference) also speaks louder than words.
This means that the boss' behavior gives tacit approval or disapproval to employee behavior. I repeatedly have discussions as well as arguments with bosses about these facts.
They perceive no problems with their own behavior; they're often the first ones to remind you how well they've done for themselves up until now.
Then, almost in the same breath, this owner or manager whines about the difficulty he's having getting workers to (choose one or more problems) quit cursing in front of customers, show up on time, tidy up the work area, treat female co-workers respectfully, etc.
The funny thing is, observe this boss firsthand and you see that he's got as foul a mouth as you've ever heard.
Show up on time? He routinely telephones the manager that he's minutes away from the dealership and then fails to show up for several hours—without explanation. This childish routine is a regular joke among the entire staff.
Be tidy? The workers call the pile of paperwork on the boss' desk the “Leaning Tower of Pisa.” They know that when the air in his office turns blue with vulgarities, there's an excellent chance that the “Leaning Tower” has tipped over into the waste basket again.
Consequently, it's tough for technicians to keep a straight face when he accuses them of having a sloppy service bay and workbench.
A boss' inaction or indifference is equally damaging to the business. For instance, I've been in a customer lounge when a technician said a racial slur loud enough for everyone there to hear. I could see people near me cringing at the remark and wondered if someone would object or just keep quiet and never come back.
Meanwhile, the boss was standing where it would be impossible or at least very difficult not to hear that vicious remark.
But he didn't bat an eye then and said nothing about it later. To me, that's tacit approval of the slur.
Perhaps the classic example of tacit approval is the boss who admonishes his staff to exercise honesty and in-tegrity.
However, he has never challenged anything his top producers and top managers do.
It may be a staff joke that this service team or that service writer plays fast and loose with estimates. In some circles, this is called “pencil-whipping” a work order.
Regardless, the boss is tacitly approving this shady behavior simply because he or she never says anything about it.
So if this is the example you're setting, Mr. Boss, good luck motivating these people to the next level of performance.
If this is the style you've established, good luck keeping good employees—let alone pushing them to another level. Your example and style tends to attract and retain a particular type of worker.
If you're unhappy with this type of employee, Mr. Boss, you may need to look in the mirror before you criticize them any further!