Do You Practice Values-Based Leadership?
Make sure you and your staff are on the same page
Unless you have managed to come through the last few years unaffected by the economy, you probably have asked yourself this question at least a few times: “Am I doing everything within my power to enable this business to prosper?”
Evaluating on a regular basis how well we are staying true to the purpose, values and mission of our business is a worthwhile exercise. It is also an exercise that helps keep us on a steady track to business growth.
Most successful shop owners are committed to operating in a values-based environment. I have been fortunate to do business with one such shop owner for a number of years: John Vallely, the owner of McLean Auto Repair in Elgin, Ill. And in the course of writing this article, I also came across some terrific examples of great practices by others in the association.
Devoting a few minutes on a regular basis (maybe even daily) to look at our values and our leadership style can pay off in a highly competitive marketplace. This exercise can also help determine if the values we profess to have are currently in play in the workplace.
Here are a few sample questions to get the process going:
Laurie Moore of Larry’s AutoWorks in Mountain View, Calif., offered this when I inquired about values in the workplace: “Our team works together to set standards that are in alignment with our values and we train each other so that our approach and presentation is consistent with those values. In this way our customers can trust us to deliver a consistent product in their best interest.”
One example Mike LeVasseur of Keenan Autobody, Clifton Heights, Pa., offered demonstrates how attitude is catching: “By example, our staff knows we are a giving company by all the charity work we do. Most everyone really wants to be involved. This is spreading our values.”
2. Do I treat everyone with dignity and respect?
3. Did I practice justice today?
Your shop’s mission statement, code of conduct, and/or code of ethics are important because they consistently guide your people. They are also crucial in developing long-term relationships with your customers.
What this looks like in the workplace is as unique as each business and here are two examples:
Larry’s AutoWorks’ mission statement is the result of its team working together to develop it: “Our team is committed to continuously improving the standards of excellence in automotive service. We achieve this through a partnership based on trust, integrity, communication and concern for our environment.”
Another approach from LeVasseur: “Before any employee begins – no matter what their
Seeking input from employees when you are developing the mission statement and code of conduct is a great way to get buy-in from your people. Having a process in place to make sure everyone understands what is expected keeps everyone accountable for his or her actions.
The key point with any approach to codes of conduct or codes of ethics is that the more thorough the understanding of what is expected, the less room there is for ambiguity – and that makes life a little easier for leaders if and when a problem arises. As I frequently mention in my presentations to clients: “Decrease the odds of hearing the ‘I didn’t know’ response by making sure everyone in the organization knows what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.”
Is any process foolproof? Probably not, but we still need to consistently keep the goal in mind. Moore offered this on training: “We train our team on the processes and then coach them when we see deviations. We endeavor to lead by example and understand that we also miss once in a while. But this approach positively affects our bottom line by building a positive reputation and image in the community that attracts high-quality customers who share our values.”
Finally, I challenge leaders to periodically ask themselves this set of questions:
As we see every day in media reports, organizations with codes of ethics firmly in place and with highly qualified leaders are not immune to problems. But the best defense against embarrassing and costly problems for our business remains the consistent and frequent practice of the values we profess. Who is in the best position to ensure this? Those in leadership positions in the workplace!
Editor's Note: This article is one of several management articles that will be contributed to AutoInc. this year by Automotive Management Institute (AMI) instructors. In 2012, AMI's knowledgeable instructors will continue covering a variety of topics designed to educate and train today's service and repair professional in AutoInc. To learn more about AMI, its courses and instructors, visit www.AMIonline.org. AMI administers the distinguished Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) program.
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