Auto Shop Coaching Blog

Are You Getting Thrown Under the Bus?

“The starting point of success is taking ownership of your failures.”

If you Googled the phrase, “To throw under the bus,” an image of my six-year-old son Eric would appear!

He’s infamous in the Twiggs household for throwing his older sister Erin under the bus! If I ask, “Eric, why haven’t you gone to sleep yet?” His reply, “Its Erin’s fault, she keeps talking to me!”

“Eric, why is your play area dirty?” “Daddy, its Erin’s fault! She won’t help me clean up!” “Eric, why haven’t you started on your homework yet?” “Erin’s fault Daddy! She’s distracting me!” 

I’m convinced that one day I’ll come home and catch my son wearing a bus driver hat and gloves, ready to drive the bus he keeps throwing his sister under!

Is there anyone at your shop (or in your mirror) who’s wearing a bus driver hat and gloves?

According to ATI Fundamental #16, the key is to “Practice Blameless Problem-Solving.” You can’t practice blameless problem solving and throw someone under the bus at the same time!

Ideas to grow your businessShop culture has a big impact on production, success, and the bottom-line. Discover valuable tips and strategies to build a winning culture in your shop in ATI’s free webinar.

Are You Getting Thrown Under the Bus at Your Shop?

The following scenarios will help you to decide:

  • You ask your service manager why sales are down, and she says it’s because you need to do more marketing to get her more cars.
  • You ask your service advisor why he didn’t implement the labor matrix, and he says it’s because you are running his customers away with your pricing.
  • You ask your technician why the courtesy check is missing from the pouch, and he says it’s because you won’t sell everything he finds, so he doesn’t see the need.

The loud engine sound you just heard as you were reading this, is coming from the bus you got thrown under!

Keep reading to discover what you can do to create a culture of blameless problem-solving at your shop. But first, we need to understand what makes a great team.

What Makes a Great Team?

Members of great teams don’t throw each other under the bus. They practice blameless problem-solving. So, what makes a great team?

To answer the question, Google conducted a study known as Project Aristotle. The goal of the project was to define what makes a team at Google great. Teams across the organization were studied and here’s what they found:

The key determinant of success on great teams was an environment of psychological safety. 

In this type of environment, the team members trust each other to the point where they feel comfortable owning up to a problem, asking a question, or suggesting a new idea, without the fear of negative consequences.

Do you have a great team at your shop? Keep reading to discover a simple step you can take to create an environment of psychological safety.

Don’t Start with Why

Simon Sinek wrote a great book titled Start With Why. If I were to write a book on the topic of psychological safety, it would be titled Don’t Start with Why!

When there’s a problem at your shop, and you ask a question that starts with “why” it puts the person on the defensive.

They fear they will face a negative consequence if they own up to the problem. Instead of starting with why, begin your questions with the words what, when, or how.

For example, asking your service manager, “Why are your sales down?” may motivate her to throw you under the bus to protect herself.

Instead try, “what do you think is causing your sales to be lower than last year?”

Don’t ask your service advisor, “why haven’t you implemented the labor matrix?” Instead, ask “when will you implement the labor matrix?”

After completing an RO Audit, don’t ask your technician “Why aren’t you completing the courtesy checks?” Ask, “How are you doing with completing those courtesy checks?”

Asking the “what, when, and how” questions will get them to take more ownership of the problem because they’ll feel less threatened by the consequences.


So, there you have it. When I ask my son questions that start with why he’s more likely to play the blame game.

If I ask him a question that starts with what, when, or how, he’s more likely to practice blameless problem-solving.

I will practice blameless problem solving, by changing my style of questioning instead of just blaming my son for the problem.

What do you need to change to create an environment of psychological safety at your shop?

For more tips on how to bring customers to your shop and plan your shop’s comeback, check out our free webinar.

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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.