Tire dealers and service shop operators must recognize that leadership is not a popularity contest.
Instead, effective leadership requires a boss to make tough, decidedly unpopular decisions.
Simply put, no one ever said that the correct decision was the trendy, fashionable or popular one.
What's more, a boss often learns the correct decisions from experience. Experience, in turn, entails making wrong decisions — but learning from them.
During my years working as a technician, reporter, editor and instructor, I have had the good fortune to work with and observe some highly respected leaders.
These men and women owned and/or operated various automotive service businesses.
Among other things, they distinguished themselves by attracting and retaining teams of capable, loyal workers.
Perhaps the most convincing message has come from these loyal employees themselves. Repeatedly, they have told me that honesty, fairness and a sense of even-handed behavior characterize a leader.
They have stressed that honesty and fairness sometimes requires bosses to make tough calls.
This is especially difficult when these calls involve the discipline of co-workers who made mistakes or committed infractions of company policies.
Interestingly enough, long-term employees have told me that "bossin' people around" does not equate to leading a team toward a common goal.
That goal is creating job security by building a prosperous business. Furthermore, they recognize that anyone can lose his or her temper from time to time.
But solid leadership doesn't entail yelling or screaming at employees. Those are enlightening qualifications, aren't they?
Okay, so imagine a casual setting in which these capable, loyal employees describe why they enjoy coming to work every day.
Everyone from tire busters to technicians to service salespeople have emphasized that leadership traits earn their respect. (Mind you, being an owner or manager doesn't automatically generate respect. Respect, they told me, must be earned.)
In turn, respect builds loyalty as well as an esprit de corps within the company. These elements create the atmosphere that makes workers enjoy coming to work in the morning. Or at the very least, they don't dread coming to work.
Let's return to those concepts of honesty, fairness and the willingness to call the proverbial spade a spade.
Experience has shown that many bosses actually resist these practices because doing so can be personally unpleasant.
It's considerably easier to just ignore improper procedures than it is to cite them.
Predictably, it's much simpler to overlook infractions that involve, for example, the owner's son or the highest-earning technician in the service department.
It may become even more uncomfortable when the offender is the most-popular person on the team.
However, a respected leader makes the tough and/or unpopular call. He or she cites carelessness, shortcuts, rudeness, etc., regardless of the person involved.
Furthermore, they help maintain employees' respect by following this old axiom: Praise in public, reprimand in private.
Believe it, word of your meeting will get around to everyone in the business — that's human nature. No one enjoys getting an earful from the boss in front of his or her co-workers.
An effective leader restates his or her expectations of all employees: Conscientiously follow procedure first time, every time.
And when in doubt, collar your manager and ask questions before any maintenance or repair job gets out of hand.
In conclusion, a boss can't earn respect and lead effectively without making the tough calls and doing so promptly.