In his latest contribution to PMM, Andy Savva, The Garage Inspector, draws on his leadership experience to explain what makes a good leader in the workplace.
I want the focus of this month’s article to be around the subject of leadership and the lessons that I have learnt both from running my own garage businesses and from visiting many of my garage customers as The Garage Inspector.
From an early age, I learnt that if I wanted to achieve something, I had to look to myself, so I followed the principle of helping myself, as opposed to asking for help. I have taken some inspiration from military leaders, especially Field Marshal Viscount Slim, who was able to transform the seemingly defeated British Fourteenth Army into a formidable fighting force in Burma during the Second World War. Obviously, the parallels can only be pushed so far when relating running a garage to commanding an army, but many of Slim’s experiences have struck a chord with me and influenced my mind-set.
Although this may sound far-fetched, the similarities are there; generals command thousands of people in a fast-paced environment in which clarity of purpose and process is critical. What is more, there is rarely time for management niceties in the military; you need to be short, sharp and to the point. This simplicity and focus is something I like and respect.
Having worked across the country, I have noticed how basic, simple truths about life – not just business – have been forgotten or are dismissed as ‘too obvious to matter’ by those who mistake simple for simplistic. We have allowed ourselves to think that because the world in which we live is complicated, the solutions to our problems must also be complicated. You cannot run a business without making mistakes; I have certainly made my fair share! The trick is to learn from these mistakes so that they don’t prove to be fatal.
The best leaders make a difference; they motivate their people to perform well, and achieve the required results on a daily basis and in the long term. These visionaries understand what is required – as do their teams. They are focused, and they have the energy required to succeed.
It’s all about delivering and making things happen – for customers, for team members, for your garage. This is not simply a matter of implementing grand strategies or pursuing long-term visions. Instead, it is a matter of daily operations; it’s the ‘little’ things that leaders do and think on a minute-by-minute basis that have such an impact on the teams they manage.
Every choice a leader makes, even what time they start work, will be observed and have a subsequent impact on the team’s motivation. This is even the case when it comes to deciding what to do first thing in the morning, whether it’s picking up the phone, checking your email, reading a newspaper, grabbing a coffee or walking around speaking to every team member on a personal level; it will have an impact. Poor leaders get these small decisions wrong, whereas the best excel at them.
For those in a leadership position, it’s important to understand that motivated people generally perform to higher standards than demotivated people. I know it’s a cliché, but it must be acknowledged that in order to achieve results, a leader must concentrate on motivation. It’s amazing how many companies and managers ignore this simple premise and suffer the consequences of demotivation.
In the last 15 years or so, I have learnt many valuable management lessons from other people’s mistakes. One of these lessons taught me that to excel in business, you have to invest an excessive amount of time, energy and effort to get your man management style right. This principle has stayed with me throughout the latter part of my automotive and personal life. With the hindsight of wisdom and my experiences with many companies in the automotive sector, I still believe in this principle, and I want you all to believe it, too.
You must learn when to display positive behaviours and attitudes that will maximise the chance of stimulating other people’s positive choices. If your leader/manager shouts loudly at you and rebukes you when something has gone wrong, you have a choice, you can choose to be demotivated (by getting defensive and becoming negative), or you can choose to be motivated (by learning the lessons and applying them).
Equally, the leader, boss or manager has a choice, too. They can choose not to rebuke you and instead choose to counsel you. In doing so, they choose an attitude; they choose whether to hurt you with a rebuke – hoping that this will motivate you to learn – or to demonstrate some positive support with the offer of counselling or coaching – thus also motivating you to learn.
Leaders in all industries make these minute-by-minute behavioural choices on a daily basis, and they can have a big impact on morale. When leaders make effective choices, they achieve the desired results because the people in their teams are motivated to do so. A great leader will tell you that success is achieved because of people, whereas a bad boss will blame exterior factors, such as finance.
As Confucius, a Chinese teacher and philosopher once said, “The gold in your heart is more precious than the gold in your purse.” I have worked relentlessly and have devoted the latter stages of my working life to follow this philosophy in order to allow my colleagues and team members to prosper.