Shop Leader Must Build Trust to Have a Team

May 1, 2000
To illustrate his educational session on "How to Build a Productive Shop Team," Beau Hamilton tapped into World War II and the symbiotic relationship

To illustrate his educational session on "How to Build a Productive Shop Team," Beau Hamilton tapped into World War II and the symbiotic relationship between George Patton and Omar Bradley.

Patton had the right-brain quality of emotion. As Hamilton noted,"His troops would have followed him into the jaws of hell." But Hamilton believes Patton's success was due to Bradley and his left-brain quality of logistics that ensured Patton did not succumb in the manner of German General Erwin Rommel, who suffered a lack of supplies in the onslaught of Allied air power at Normandy.

"It takes a left-brain logistician type of person to make sure everything is there, because the people persons, your sales managers, are going to outrun your supply line," said Hamilton, president of Hamilton Consulting Inc in Kirkland, Washington. "You need balance between sales and operation. Bradley could not have done what Patton did. People would not have followed Bradley. But I think it wouldn't have worked if Bradley hadn't been there."

Hamilton said it is nice to think of a business in terms of a flow chart, but that is ignoring the harsh reality.

"I've never seen a flow chart do any work," he said. "No matter how great your graphics are or how much color and software you have, I've never seen a flow chart get off that piece of paper or off that computer screen and repair a vehicle or put on a snowplow.

"Once you introduce people and personalities into the formula, even the most common-sense management theory goes right down the toilet. As soon as we introduce pride, ego, 'What's in it for me?', 'He's getting paid more than I am,' 'I deserve that promotion,' 'This isn't fair,' 'They don't appreciate me for all the hard work I do,' the flow chart has a lot less significance."

The Rules of Teamwork He said the rules for successful teamwork are mutual trust and respect between all team members; cooperation and collaboration at all levels and between all departments; a feeling of ownership and involvement and being part of the team; recognition and appreciation for doing a good job; open and honest communication; being committed to continuous improvement; and being flexible and forgiving.

What happens if there is teamwork? Excellence, speed, service, innovation, flexibility, and profitability.

Hamilton said a business will never have teamwork if there is distrust. He asked the attendees whether they divulge everything to people they don't trust. The reaction was an overwhelmingly no.

"So how in the world can you have a team if you don't have open, honest communication with people?" he asked. "You can't."

His message to owners: "It's your job to get people to trust each other. If you're an owner, the most important team members are the managers. If there's any chaos, frustration, tension, lack of trust, or pointing fingers between the management team that reports directly to you, you will never have teamwork between your departments."

His message to employees: "You can't change the direction of the wind, but you can change the sails. Your choice as an employee is to adjust the sails."

Hamilton drew on advice offered by influential management author Ken Blanchard in his book, "The One-Minute Manager," which has sold over seven million copies. The basic theme: A one-minute manager achieves positive results with a minimum amount of time and effort by being communicative and consistent.

So if he sees an employee doing something he doesn't like, he asks for his interpretation and then presents the ramifications to the company. "You're holding up the mirror," Hamilton said. "It's effective in human relationships because they get it."

Motivate and Delegate Hamilton said an effective leader begins by making sure the rules and expectations are clear. And then it is the leader's job to "push, pull, laugh, cry, motivate, delegate and do whatever you have to do to make that person successful."

While the manager is asking, "What can my employee do to add value?" the employee is asking, "Why am I better off working for him/her?"

Hamilton said it is critical to push away from the desk and invest time in a relationship with employees, nurturing their development. He used the analogy of a high-school football coach who exhorted his players to be on the field at 4 pm and be prepared for a rigorous practice that would be the springboard to a state title. And oh, by the way ---

"Guys, I just wish I could be with you today, but I've got paperwork to do and administrative matters to discuss with the athletic director."

Hamilton said managers need to hold employees accountable, but the performance has to be evaluated based only on expectations that were agreed upon when they were hired.

"Why do most of us avoid performance reviews?" he asked. "Because they have precious little to do with reality. They become a piece of paper that has to be in a filefor government regulations. If you haven't been truthful with employees for the first 364 days, don't be truthful with them during a performance review. That's how you end up on the wrong end of a lawsuit. Employees should never learn anything new in a performance review."

Avoid Micromanaging Hamilton said a manager needs to be in control without dictating, because if you "tell people what to do, when to do it and how to do it, you are a micromanager."

"You should say to that sales person, 'What's your plan for increasing sales next week?' Or, 'Let me see your two-week plan,' " he said. "You need to help coach people.

"I get upset when I hear people say, 'Leadership is a soft skill. Putting on a snow blade is a hard skill.' There's a slogan: 'Employees are our best resource.' We don't really believe it. But they're the only asset you can lead. You can't lead a forklift. You can drive it yourself. Don't confuse doing something with leading."

A friend of Hamilton's owns a Seattle restaurant and has extended a written promise that patrons will have a "pleasurable dining experience." They will be greeted courteously and enjoy their meal and any problem will be resolved.

Hamilton said the owner of a shop needs to do the same thing.

"Revisit your promise about what you stand for, what your company stands for, and why you're doing this," he said. "Revisit the resolve you had: 'When I own this company, we're going to do things differently. I'm going to bring integrity and quality.' You made the promise to your family members, vendors, customers, and community. Revisit it. It will bring the dreams and passion back into your business."

About the Author

Rick Weber | Associate Editor

Rick Weber has been an associate editor for Trailer/Body Builders since February 2000. A national award-winning sportswriter, he covered the Miami Dolphins for the Fort Myers News-Press following service with publications in California and Australia. He is a graduate of Penn State University.