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Motivating Employees Through Recognition

In the last issue of Shop Owner, I talked about the need for receiving feedback from your employees and how important it
is to improving your leadership abilities. Another element of an effective leader is that he or she delivers feedback to employees in the form of recognition.


by Vic Tarasik, owner
Vic’s Precision Automotive

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In the last issue of Shop Owner, I talked about the need for receiving feedback from your employees and how important it is to improving your leadership abilities. Another element of an effective leader is that he or she delivers feedback to employees in the form of recognition.

Mary Kay Ash, one of the greatest female entrepreneurs, and the founder of the very successful Mary Kay, Inc., said this: “There are two things people want more than sex and money — recognition and praise.”

Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, said this: “Appreciate everything your associates do for the business. Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They’re absolutely free and worth a fortune.”

Going Against Our Grain
Handing out praise may seem counterintuitive to most shop owners; many will say “that is what I pay them for.” But I challenge you on this point: How does it feel when a customer picks up his or her vehicle after your shop has performed the work requested and they simply pay for it, collect the keys and walk out the door without even saying thank you? You likely stand there and think about how rude the customer was, and even though you made a substantial profit from the job, you would prefer to work on cars owned by happier, more joyful customers. So how is this relationship between you and the customers any different from you and your employees? Your employees need the same type of thanks and praise we receive from our customers.


A Great Example From a Customer
At Vic’s, we have some great customers, and the customers I want to see and serve most are the happy, appreciative ones. I always make sure we do something extra for them.

One particular set are Mr. and Mrs. Spotswood; they are precious customers and both are from the Northeast. In Texan terms, they know what they want and are not afraid to speak their mind, and are happy when they settle up the charges for a ­completed job. Afterward, Mr. Spotswood always asks who the technician was on the job, then “sneaks” out into the shop to “shake” the hand of the technician and to thank him. Each time he does this, he leaves a little something in the hand of the tech — it might be $5 or as much as a $100 bill. The techs all love working on his vehicle because they know they will be recognized and rewarded, and they’ve told me it’s not the money they enjoy and appreciate as much as the praise they receive from Mr. Spotswood. Mr. Spotswood understands ­Motivation Through ­Recognition.

We Focus on 1%,
Missing the 99%

A friend of mine who owns a shop in Simi Valley, CA, has an interesting perspective on techs who have become shop owners. He says that we were trained as technicians to find the problems a vehicle has and report them to the service advisor. We were also trained to ignore the 99% of what is right with a ­vehicle and zone in on the 1% that is faulty. As a shop owner, we can carry that problem-finding mentality — zoning in on the negative 1% — into our daily routine. All the while not seeing what our employees are doing right. A “recognition” mentality is not something that forms overnight; it requires work and monitoring. I know I personally have to do it all the time, but the benefits of recognition are huge. Let me tell you about one of my employees named Lawney.
A Great Contributor
During one of our team meetings, I was reviewing our inspection forms and reporting worksheets. Near the end of the discussion, I mentioned that if anyone had any questions after the meeting and wanted to see how to properly fill out the forms that they should see Lawney. I then went on to recognize Lawney in front of his peers for a job well done, and said that I was proud to have him as a part of our company. At the end of my comments, I presented Lawney with a small trophy, shook his hand and gave him a hug, and you could see he was touched as tears came to his eyes.

Lawney did not know what to say, but he did manage to get a thank you out as he held back the tears. I took a picture of him out in the shop right after the meeting; the smile on his face says it all (see photo). After this recognition, Lawney had a bounce in his step. He went home that weekend and showed his wife his award, and what he told me Monday was priceless. When his wife asked why he received the award, Lawney told her, ”because I am a good employee!” Lawney continues to be an excellent employee who consistently performs and exceeds my ­expectations.

A Carrot Culture
I have another friend in Littleton, CO, who has really mastered the art of recognition. Brian Bates of Eagle ­Automotive Services firmly believes that if you don’t recognize employees, they will not perform to their highest level. I’ve known Brian for three years and he is a member of my 20 Group. Brian introduced me to a really good book, The Carrot Principle, which can be used as a handbook if you are having difficulty moving forward establishing a recognition culture.
brian bates' five-bay eagle automotive shop and team of happy and productive techs 
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