As a technician I have been trained to look for what is wrong and fix it.  As a child growing up in the family of a great technician I learned this lesson early.  Things that we did right were overlooked or “expected” while things that we did wrong were loudly proclaimed and carefully dissected under the guise of making us better people.  Punishments were plentiful and compliments were rare.

I am sure that my parents were trying to help me be a better person and make a positive contribution to society but I believe it had the opposite effect.  I believe that it caused a serious lack of confidence and a defeatist attitude.

At 17 I was chosen to tour the country with a popular music group but I didn’t have the courage to go.  I failed the first 2 times I went to college because I wasn’t mature enough to take accountability for my actions. I blamed the teachers, subjects, my roommates and anything but myself for not studying and learning the material.  I knew that I wasn’t smart enough or good enough and sooner or later the people around me would find out.  I spent my time trying to cover my inadequacies instead of building my strengths.

I dropped out of college to work for my father at the shop.  I was a pretty good technician.  I was money driven so I worked hard, was productive, had few comebacks and made loads of cash (this was the 80’s) but I wasn’t happy.

My early conditioning and tech training leaked through in every aspect of my life.  Nothing was perfect and it should be!  My wife would take care of the kids all day, clean the house and make me dinner yet I would only notice the toys that she forgot to pick up for the tenth time that day.  I expected dinner and a clean house!  I was so clueless that it wasn’t until she told me that she was divorcing me that I had any idea that something was wrong.  I thought that you were supposed to point out what was wrong so that people can fix it and things can be perfect.  I never realized that people do better with compliments and positive.

My story takes a positive turn here.  I saved my marriage and my wife is a saint.  I went to counseling (best $17,000 I ever spent) and came to a realization that I needed to look at the world in a different way. I came to realize a few things; I really was smart, had some unique talents and had everything I needed to be happy, my happiness depended on me and no one else, I didn’t need to be perfect to be good, I didn’t need to point out everything that was wrong because most people already knew what was wrong and they were much harder on themselves (usually) than I could ever be, and, by continually bringing it up I was actually removing their accountability, allowing them to wallow in anger and pity instead of helping them win the game.

How does this apply to the shop?  If a large percentage of shop owners are technicians and technicians are trained to look for what is wrong and fix it then many shop owners are pointing out everything that is wrong and overlooking the good stuff.

In my experience I have seen 3-types of shop owners and managers out there.

  1. The guy/gal that still has the energy to find and point out everything that is not perfect with the business, the staff, and the world.
  • Is focused on others actions
  • Vocally points out everything that is not perfect
  • Is frustrated or angry most of the time
  • Can’t understand why people won’t just do it right (his/her way)
  • Believes that it should and can be perfect
  • Takes it home and lives with it 24/7
  • Gets more and more frustrated with each passing day
  • Keeps bashing his/her head against the same wall
  1. The guy/gal that is worn out
  • Is focused on others actions
  • Has been trying for years to get them to do it right
  • Recognizes everything that is not perfect but no longer vocalizes it directly to employees
  • Can’t understand why people won’t just do it right (his/her way)
  • Is unhappy, angry and frustrated but too tired to fight it
  • Has given up on ever getting it done right
  • Has abdicated management and the shop runs them
  • Doesn’t get what he/she wants but doesn’t know how to fix it
  1. The guy/gal that understands that success is a trip, finds joy in everything that is going right and every step in the right direction and recognizes the individuals and team’s progress.
  • Is focused on results
  • Keeps working towards perfection
  • Recognizes things that are not perfect and works with staff to find solutions
  • Is people oriented and goal focused
  • Knows that individuals will do it their way but doesn’t care if the result is right
  • Has fun helping his/her people learn new things and succeed
  • Is determined to be happy and understands that they control their attitude and actions
  • Gets most of what he/she wants and enjoys the game

As a young Service Advisor I was lucky enough to mentor under a great man, Jim Hunt.  I can remember one discussion where we disagreed about rewarding people for good behavior.  I was adamantly against it because I felt that good behavior was expected, just part of the job.  Jim was for it, he understood that you get more fly’s with honey than vinegar.  I believe he understood more.  Life is short and you should do everything you can to be happy and help others be happy.   Happiness is more about attitude than environment.  It took me many years to learn this.

Attitude is infectious.  It is very easy to bring others around us down and difficult to bring people up once they are down.  It is easy to maintain a good attitude once you have it

A bad attitude:

  • Creates passive aggressive behavior
  • Makes little things BIG
  • Impedes communication
  • Makes others quick to take offense
  • Destroys trust and relationships
  • Makes it hard to get what you want
  • Creates frustration, disappointment and distrust

A good attitude:

  • Increases happiness
  • Makes big things smaller
  • Increases communication and trust
  • Builds relationships
  • Makes it easier to get what you want

In order for us to get what we want it is necessary that we maintain a positive attitude and uplift those around us.  If anyone understands how hard this is, I do.  It is a battle that I fight everyday and some days I lose the battle.  On those days I try and stay away from people and instead look for things I can be happy about or something I can accomplish.  I understand that if it is going to happen it is up to me.

Here are a few things that we can do to improve our attitude and our results?

  • Make sure our communications are clear
  • Be honest about what upsets us
  • Expect the best from your people
  • Get agreements from our staff
  • Measure and manage results
  • Never let your people flounder or drown
  • Don’t wait until the problem is BIG
  • Recognize and reward good behavior
  • Set a good example
  • If you find yourself overwhelmed – stop and regroup
  • Get rid of habitually unhappy people
  • Never show anger or disappointment in public
  • Take the time to find something positive each day

I know that it is not possible to have a great attitude everyday.  Life is full of challenges and surprises.  I also know that I am better able to face those challenges and surprises if I have a positive attitude.  After banging my head against the same wall for years I have come to realize that I cannot control everything that happens to me.  I cannot control those around me.  I can only control my attitude and actions. If I am to be happy it is up to me.

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