Auto Shop Coaching Blog

What Chickens Taught Me About Leadership

Let’s talk about chickens and what they have to do with your auto repair shop. I know, it sounds like a stretch, but hang in there with me. I grew up in a rural area and my family raised chickens. I was always taught that chickens were dumb as rocks, had no social needs, and couldn’t fly more than three feet. All of that was misinformation believed by farmers for centuries.

When I was a little girl, I had a favorite chicken. I would go get my favorite chicken out of the pen that we had at the back of our land, and she would follow me around. My mom told me she just wanted food and nothing else. But even then, I knew there was more to it because she could get all the food she wanted in her pen.

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I later learned that chickens have high levels of cognitive, emotional, and social characteristics – like any wild bird. They remember other chickens, animals, and humans. They recognize that an object still exists when out of sight (think of hiding the ball behind your back). They can do basic arithmetic up to five. They have the capacity for self-control when taught that a better reward will come from it. They communicate with each other with at least 24 different sounds. Chickens have “pecking orders” within their social groups. And yes, like humans, they have emotions.

Here are two tips for how to use chickens as a lesson for great leadership in your shop.

Provide a Safe and Secure Work Environment

To my chicken, I was the leader. What she wanted from me was to feel safe and secure. Following me around meant no other chickens were attacking her for status. It also meant safety from the occasional raccoon and opossum raiders. I always had some snacks for her, so there was food safety, too. In exchange, she would follow me everywhere, plop down near me and let me pet her or pick her up. She also made sure I had fresh eggs for breakfast.

As an automotive repair shop owner, can you say you provide a workplace where everyone feels their job is safe and secure? Do your employees feel like you value them and show it through more than just a good paycheck? Or have you given up on ever having a great team to work with? I hope not.

Change the Way You See Your Team

If you think owning an auto repair and maintenance shop is tough now, there is only one way to change that going forward — change the way you see your team. Great employees are attracted to safe, secure, and engaging environments within which they feel valued and rewarded for their hard work. The shops that will thrive in the future will be the ones that attract and grow great people.

It is not going to be easy, but change must begin with you as their leader. Are you ready to make the necessary changes to be a great leader?

Non-ATI Members: At ATI, we teach shop owners how to how to achieve their dreams by focusing on leadership development and implementing best practices in the shop. Want to learn more? Start with a shop owner event at

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Charlene is an Executive Coach at ATI, a Certified Profit First Professional, a former shop owner, and has been coaching since 2014. Charlene helps clients find the right solutions to their challenges and encourages them to make the changes that result in having the life they dreamed about when they got into business ownership.