What Employees Get Right: Become Better at Pointing Out the Positives
It’s easy writing articles about what’s wrong with the tire and service industry. It comes naturally to most folks — picking out what others are doing wrong. We are all guilty of it. You walk out into the shop and what are you looking for? Rags or parts boxes on the floor, the car that isn’t pulled in yet, the tech without his safety glasses.
Interestingly, we are preconditioned from about age six to look for the wrong. It all starts in first grade. You take a test, and what is pointed out to you? All the questions you answered wrong. This goes on for 12 years! It’s a subconscious process, so we don’t even think about it. Negative comments just come out of our mouths as naturally as breathing.
However, the consequences of being a nag to your employees is great. When you walk out into the shop, they tend to tense up, waiting for the list of things they should or shouldn’t be doing.
We all need to get better at pointing out the positives. Making a big deal about when an employee does something right, or even better goes “above and beyond” to take care of a customer or help a fellow employee.
The science behind pointing out the positive is pretty solid as it’s been studied for over a century. The findings are fairly universal: Negative comments by a boss have two times the impact of positive ones. This means that an employee feels the pain of being reprimanded twice as hard as when you applaud their efforts. So even if you offer 50% positive comments and 50% negative comments, your employees will still feel you are more negative than positive (they will feel you are 75% negative and 25% positive). And let’s face it, usually that’s our starting point, which makes matters worse.
I want to challenge the industry to take this year and point out what gets done right. Say it out loud and be specific. My challenge to you is to take a whole week and only point out the positive things your employees do, and keep the negative to yourself. The only exception would be something safety related. I double dog dare everyone reading this to take the one-week challenge. If you accept the challenge, it won’t take but a half day for an employee to say something along the lines of, “You OK, boss?” or, “Who are you, what have you done with our boss?”
It’s a remarkable thing, positivity. If you give it a chance, I promise you, you will feel a difference in the shop, in the mood, and in the behaviors of your employees. People naturally respond to positive reinforcement and when it’s given to them, they are very likely to repeat that exact same behavior over again, seeking out the good feelings they felt when given the applause. People also naturally avoid negative comments, so if you have employees who don’t tell the truth or sometimes hide things like making mistakes, that’s a telltale sign there is too much nagging going on in the shop.
So, make a brief list of all the things you see day-in and day-out that you could reinforce with your employees. Some are heroic, and some are simple gestures. I’m not advocating you reward an employee for a simple kind gesture (like getting a customer a cup of coffee) with a $200 gift certificate. No, the action doesn’t warrant it. But immediately after they do that, couldn’t you say, “Hey, I saw you go over and give that customer a cup of coffee on this cold day. Thank you for doing that.”? That’s all it takes. So on to the list:
Employees get cars done on time. They fill out inspections correctly. They say please and thank you to customers and each other. They recognize a customer in distress and leap into action to take that pain away (like getting a flat repair in quickly because that customer is late for work). Employees teach other employees how to do other jobs without you asking them to do it. They stay late to finish four tires and an alignment for an out-of-town customer. They successfully diffuse some pretty tense situations on a regular basis. They juggle multiple customers, the phone and emails from you about yesterday’s GP all in the span of five minutes and don’t break a sweat.
There are a million things our employees do right every day, and we don’t always take the extra step to point it out and say thank you. And we should. I triple dog dare you to take the challenge. ■