Auto Shop Coaching Blog

How to Keep Your Shop From Stressing You Out

“There is never a right time to do the wrong thing.”Lou Holtz

Nobody can do it like Eric!” This was my motto during much of my career as a district manager. My ideal picture of an effective leader was someone with an authoritative approach who had all the answers.

Since I had all the answers, my people would contact me with all their questions regarding how to deal with unhappy customers, without first attempting to resolve the issues themselves.

Being the answer man left me feeling secure, self-confident, and stressed out!

During my first six months as a district manager, I would speak to three store managers a day about shop problems that could have been easily resolved without my input. Then one day, my stress had reached a tipping point.

One of my managers named “Jim,” called me wanting to know how to deal with a customer who wanted to use a ten-dollar coupon three days after it expired. Normally, I would just tell him what to do, but this day was different.

I responded in the following manner: “So Jim, if I were unavailable and you had to make the call, what would you do?” After a moment of stuttering and using filler words he replied, “I would go ahead and honor the coupon!” “Great idea, it sounds like you have this handled!” I replied as I hung up the phone.

This was a life-changing moment because Jim never called me again with a problem that he already had the answer to.

Prior to this exchange, he was calling every day! I applied this approach with the rest of my team and experienced similar results.

I went from fielding three calls a day to one call per week in a thirty-day time period. What changed things for me? Keep reading and you will learn how to keep your shop from stressing you out.

Embrace the Coaching Habit

In Michael Bungay Stanier’s book The Coaching Habit, he refers to someone with the innate need to provide answers as “the advice monster.”

According to Stanier, most leaders have a tendency of jumping in and trying to solve the problem based on what they believe they know. This is problematic for three reasons:

First of all, you don’t always know what the issue is and what’s really going on with the person asking the question. Secondly, the habit of always providing the answers creates a culture of over-dependence. 

And lastly, in a culture of overdependence, you spend your time putting out fires and become disconnected from the work you should be doing.   

The best way to embrace the coaching habit is to consistently ask questions that empower your people to find the right answers.

The following are examples of questions you can use the next time a problem is dropped in your lap: “If I were out of town, and you had to make the decision, what would you decide?” “If you were the shop owner, and had to make the call, what would that be?” “Which way are you leaning on this issue?”

The “leaning question” works well because it allows the employee to answer without the fear of committing to the wrong decision. This question along with the others will help you to embrace the coaching habit, and keep you from showing up to your next Halloween party as the advice monster!

Make a “Don’t Do List”

I have a confession to make. I have a weakness for the Twix candy bar. I visited my local grocery store this past weekend, with every intention of sticking to my diet. When I got to the checkout register, there it was. It was calling my name.

After a moment of stress, I gave in and purchased the candy bar. As I opened the wrapper, I wondered why the grocer would place the candy in the checkout line of all places.

And then it hit me. By the time you arrive at the checkout line, you have made numerous small decisions.

The grocer knows that the more decisions you have to make, the less willpower you will have when making them.

Research done at Columbia University has concluded that having to make numerous small decisions throughout the day, impacts your decision making on the important choices. This is known as decision fatigue.

Are those numerous shop decisions causing you to feel stressed out? The solution is to make a “don’t do list.” Your “don’t do list” would contain those daily tasks that you are currently involved with, that are keeping you disconnected from the work you should be doing.

Take out a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left side, make a list of the tasks that are keeping you disconnected from your real work. Items like making parts runs, bookkeeping, being the “A” technician, shuttle driving, resolving simple complaints, etc.

On the right side, write the name of the person to whom you will be delegating each item. I challenge you to delegate at least three “don’t do’s” within the next thirty days. The delegation will keep you from experiencing decision fatigue.


So, there you have it. Embracing The Coaching Habit and working your “don’t do list,” will keep your shop from stressing you out.

You don’t have to have all the answers to be a Top Shop. You just need to ask the right questions!

P.S. Michael Stanier outlines seven specific types of questions you can ask that will keep the shop from stressing you out. Email and I will send them to you!

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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.