Leading Your Auto Repair Shop Through the ‘Next Normal’

Last week’s Women in Auto Care Conference kicked off with a bang, thanks to the energy of Sherron Washington. Known as the Marketing Whisperer, she challenged everyone in the room to think about how they lead their auto repair shop.

Next, she offered ways to take it up a notch.

Sherron usually applies her lessons at Trinity Washington University and in her consulting business. However, they can easily apply in a world full of shop management software users.

Leading your auto repair shop through change

Being in charge fills up your days already, right? During times of change, like the past few years and the recovery from them, trying to reassure and rebuild were even tougher.

As Sherron says, “We go through phases. Welcome to the next normal!”

Next, she posed three questions:

  • “Who are three people that have made a difference in your leadership development?”

  • “What traits did they have?”

  • “Did you name yourself?”

If you did not, thank yourself for what you’ve done to develop your skills to become the person you are. Then, take a moment to celebrate how far you have come.

Woman in a white blazer, sitting and laughing

Now that you know how awesome you are, it helps to stay open to pivoting. In Sherron’s world, that means being flexible without giving in on your stance.

You start by identifying what style you use when you lead. You have six to choose from:

  • Visionary – a big thinker

  • Coach – one who delegates

  • Commander – a person who gives orders

  • Affiliate – someone who brings people in when making decisions

  • Democrat – a person who include everyone

  • Pace setter – one who sets goals and focuses on getting things done

Before you try to read between the lines, no type rises above the others. Each one has pros and cons. For example, a delegator shares the workload with others in the auto repair shop; yet this type of person could fail if their staff are not prepared to take on new tasks.

Sherron invited leaders to think about how they use their styles to inspire the people around them. By pairing your style with the ‘wow factor’ that makes you succeed, you make the most of both.

Turn up the charm

The next step boosts your influence so you build teamwork within your circle. By sharing your energy, you extend how far it goes. You start by “showing up and showing off,” Sherron said. “Stop doubting your impact and make an impact where you are.”

She offers these tips so people can see where they can help you:
• Foster trust by collaborating
• Share your vision and goals
• Invest in others’ training and success
• Connect by listening for how to help
• Engage with people with purpose
• Do each of these things often

All of these tactics draw on leading by inspiring, not by bossing people around. Sure, you could use your authority to make people do what you want. However, as you likely know, if you “walk it how you talk it,” you earn more respect.

The best bosses create safe spaces for their workers in every way: with the right tools and the comfort to speak up. You set up spaces like this by greeting people in a friendly way and offering help when needed.

“Go back to the basics,” Sherron advises, “and put humanity first.”

Finally, she suggests that you check in with yourself often to assess how you’re doing. Ask yourself how you can support others once you feel grounded.

“The leadership pivot lies in your ability to magnify your greatness,” Sherron says. “Use your strength of influence. create a to-do list and connect immediately.”

Get the most out of your team

The following day, speaker Tamara Ghandour pushed attendees to embrace innovation, even in times of change. When the world becomes unstable, that is when most people discover how resilient they are and adapt much faster.

In her words, innovation means “to think differently about what’s right in front of us to create an advantage.” First, you need an open mind and a willingness to try new things.

Like Sherron, Tamara has identified a range of personas that show up in all our teams. By drawing on the strengths of each one, you can grow as a group.

IQ styles from March 25 speaker at WiAC

For instance, here are some tips she shared to push you and your team:

  • When you hear a voice in your head, give it a name and question ‘Earl’ directly.
  • Ask ‘what else could be true?’ when only given one choice.
  • When in a tough spot, ask a client to “tell me more” to see more deeply what they want or need.
  • Take five to seven minutes between tasks for your brain to switch gears.
  • Forget ‘think outside the box.’ Instead, rearrange your box to suit your clients better.
  • Likewise, rather than have yes/no questions, ask:
    “How would you do it better?”
    “What else should I include?”
    “What holes do you see and how would you fill them?”

That way, you put the onus back on the other person as you work as one to find a solution.

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