Auto Shop Coaching Blog

Getting The Best Performance From Your People

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.John Quincy Adams

A shop owner named “George” was meeting with his General Manager, “Ed.” Normally, they would have their Monday one on one meetings at George’s office, but this particular day was different. George decided that a field trip was in order.

He took Ed out to this gorgeous field. As they walked, George pointed to the blue ocean to their left. As they continued to walk, he directed Ed’s attention to the breathtaking mountains to their right.

He took Ed by surprise when he stopped in the middle of the field to make the following statement: “Ed, if you keep working hard for another five years, everything you see here, all the mountains, all the ocean, and all the land, will one day be mine!”

Here’s what George failed to realize: Your employees do things for their reasons, not yours! Like Ed, they’re wondering, “What’s in it for me?”

I can imagine that on the ride back to the office, George had Frank Sinatra’s classic lyrics, “I did it my way,” playing on his CD player! The problem with singing this tune is that it can lead to disengagement.

A 2012 Gallop study found that only 13% of the surveyed workplace population was actively engaged in their work. 63% reported being disengaged, and 24% reported being actively disengaged!

That’s a total of 87% (63+24) of employees who are dis-engaged on some level.

If your goal is to get the best performance from your people, the first step is to get clear on what that looks like.

The Holy Grail Of Employee Engagement

The “holy grail” of employee engagement is discretionary effort.  This term was coined by Aubrey Daniels in his book, Bringing out the Best In People.” 

He describes discretionary effort as the level of effort that isn’t required but could be given by employees if they were motivated to do so.

Coming to work and leaving at the time posted on the scheduled is required.  But the service manager who comes in early to knock out the paperwork, and stays late to shuttle your customer, is an example of someone giving discretionary effort.

The actively engaged employee is the one who goes the extra mile.  Based on the math from the earlier mentioned study, a shop with eight employees only has one person who is actively engaged. (1/8=13%) The other seven(7/8 =87%) employees are doing just enough to stay employed!

As a customer, would you want someone who’s doing “just enough” to service your Jaguar?  Would you want someone who’s doing the “bare minimum” to work on your Bentley?

Stay with me to discover what you can do to inspire discretionary effort, and get the best performance from your people.

Change Your Focus

I was recently attending a social event with a group of friends from college. Towards the end, we decided to use my phone to take a group photo.

The plan was for someone from another group take the picture, and to then immediately return my phone.

The photographer took our photo as planned and returned my phone to one of my friends in the group.  After several minutes, the first friend passed it to the next friend who took several minutes before passing it on.  What was taking so long?

As the phone was finally getting to me, I realized what was causing the delay.  Each person in the group was looking for their individual face in the crowd.

By looking for themselves in the photo, they were viewing the picture based on their perspective.

Have you ever been guilty of only seeing yourself when you look at your shop?

Here are some ideas to help you change your focus:

  • 360-Degree Survey — Have your employees complete an anonymous 360-degree survey to get their perspective about what shop leadership does well and what needs to be improved.
  • Three Ups/Three Downs – At the end of each meeting, pass out sheets of paper to each attendee. On the front, have them write down three things they like about you/shop, and three things that need improvement.
  • Monthly Goal Poster Review – In most shops, doing a goal poster is merely a compliance exercise. Take the next step by scheduling one day out of every month to review the progress your people are making with their goals. Get their perspective on what you can do to help them progress towards their goal.


So, there you have it. Conducting 360-degree surveysdoing the Three Ups Three downs exercise, and reviewing goal poster progress on a monthly basis, will help you to change your focus.

This change in focus can inspire discretionary effort, and allow you to get the best performance from your people. 

P.S. Email me at to get my latest example of a 360-degree survey that you can use to get their perspective and change your focus!

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Eric, the Accountability Coach, is an Executive Coach at ATI and has coached since 2009. Eric came to ATI having managed over 60 different automotive repair facilities and having supervised over 500 employees at a given time. He loves seeing members progress beyond what they thought was possible and improve their shop to the point where they can leave for weeks at a time and come back to a business that's better than when they left.