November 9, 2018 — Even during the day-to-day grind, the unexpected will happen. A panel is left unpainted, a job is unexpectedly scratched, or, perhaps, the manager drops-the-ball and slows production to a stand-still. If you listen, you will hear explicatives being shouted around the facility. It may even be the moment the parts guy earns a new and not-so-desirable nickname. It is also exactly the sort of moment when should-be leaders can show their mettle. Anyone on the floor will tell you that, when one thing goes wrong, it can affect the entire shop. When things go right more than they go wrong, the shop succeeds. If you are the team member to make that happen, you will ultimately succeed as well. If you are not in a leadership role or have bad management, you can still be a leader. In fact, to lead well is to lead up, lead laterally, and lead down.
Leading laterally is crucial for day-to-day work life. It may also be the hardest part to get right. Keep in mind that your decision-making habits reflect your priorities at work—your personal life comes second. If your office friendships are preventing you from working as effectively as you otherwise would, make sure to put them on pause during the work day. Managing toxic relationships with peers, however, is a little more difficult.
Yes, it can be miserable to work in a culture where no one gets along. The new painter may be a primadonna, the body man scratches jobs because he’s always high—but you can’t change those things. A good lateral leader focuses on making it easier for everyone to change, not on changing everyone. A good place to start is by celebrating your co-workers little victories. When a bodyshop’s culture is rancid, people will often roam around like a hawk looking to criticize, but few people roam looking to encourage. If you have the courage to, however, other people will take note—and start to follow suit.
Leading down requires you to listen more than you talk. This ensures that those under you are actually heard and that they know they are respected. Remember, the attitude of the employee is a direct reflection of the one in charge. They may not be your employee, but someone must sweep up after the guy who never cleans his stall. Just make sure you practice what you preach and if you make shortcuts don’t be upset when they do too.
There will be times—especially in workplaces where safety is as important as a bodyshop—that some severity will be required. Keep in mind, however, that you can’t shame people into being on-the-ball. What you can do is be clear about why mistakes are unacceptable. After all, if the mistake doesn’t result in the offenders termination, giving them the opportunity to understand the ramifications of their mistake won’t just help them remain employed, it might just save your neck too!
Leading up is a matter of being effective in your interactions with those above you. Building better habits in your decision making is a great way to begin doing this well. It may sound counter-intuitive, but the best way to get your boss on your side isn’t to befriend him or her, it is to be professional approach your role and make decisions that are in the best interest of your shop—not yourself.
The best way of doing this is to adopt the mindset of the business owner. If you consistently put the greater success of the shop before the smaller success of your own position, the overall impression will be better than if you chase praise and boast about your successes.
By: Zachary Duncan