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Habits of Highly Effective Facilities

Most leaders and business owners have their own personal habits that keep them sharp with new ideas, and have guided their success. These can be getting up early, exercising daily, setting daily goals, using the Pareto principal, analyzing numbers daily, mentoring or being mentored, improving skills, and more. This hefty list should carry a leader personally through hard times, and into next the level of success, expansion, or diversification. Any leader who is highly motivated to succeed usually will, even despite failures along the way. For these leaders, failure is used as a light that illuminates the need to change direction or modify the course. Persistence pays off.

In theory, though, personal success is easier to manage, because you have only yourself to motivate. When it involves 5 or 10 or 100 people on your team, the motivational work gets a little harder. In any business, including automotive recycling facilities, there are policies and procedures that direct efficiency. Otherwise, there would be no parts on the shelves to sell. But sometimes that isn’t enough to impact the business to drive towards its goals.

Are Highly Effective Habits All About Procedures?
The golden rule of standard operating procedures is: Anything that needs to be done more than twice needs to be documented. For these to be most effective, they need an organizational chart, detailed instructions and checklists with measurable results.
• The organizational chart is used to define job responsibilities and chain of command. Accountability is created with this step, and it helps you delegate to the right person.
• The key to detailed instructions is ease of use, which means plain language and ordered steps that everyone can understand. If it’s not clear, your people will not use it, and then they create their own way to do things.
• Checklists with measurable results have the power to reduce mistakes. It also helps the learning curve when training a new person to a new job, in order to get the same results of the prior employees who did the work.

Why bother with this documentation? If you promote or loose a key employee, you have material to train a new employee for that job. You also ensure the safety of everyone involved in your operation, because you will no doubt be including safety measures and precautions into your written documentation.

“I am very process-oriented,” says Dan Snyder, Snyder’s Used Auto and Truck Parts. “I would like to be even more. That is the key. When everyone has a job description, which should be realistic, and you can see what is the perfect person in your eyes to do the job, it makes putting people in the right positions more effective. We have don’t have every process documented, but we strive for it.”

“Then we train for the job, and look at processes to make sure they are accurate. And then we retrain or discipline, as needed.” Snyder says that his growing 30-year-old business is always evaluating to make sure everything is working at highest efficiencies. “In a large organization like ours, you can’t put your finger on everything. We run by good metrics and with good people.”

“I think when you make decisions on the fly, you end up with your organization running like that. For months or years, you don’t look at it. Once you revisit it, you discover things are being done the wrong way, and weren’t trained,” Snyder says. That takes time and money when it could have been done the right way in the first place with proper planning. “The larger you are, the more locations you have, takes good training and processes.”

Written processes and procedures are not for notebooks on shelves. In on-site training, they should be living documents that are used for training, retraining, and now more than ever, rethinking new ways to accomplish tasks as technology advances alter the auto dismantling and recycling of advanced technology cars.

“Leaders need the ability to zoom-in and zoom-out: zoom-in to get into the core of an issue and zoom-out to see the larger picture. It’s essential to have this focus so that when looking at a problem (or an opportunity, as I like to call them), to understand the strategic imperatives of business and which processes need to change to make an improvement,” says Debashis Sarkar, a process excellence expert. “You need to be able to quickly see how the details of individual processes connect up with the big-picture of the business.”

The Culture Club

In Inc. magazine, John Rampton, the author of Different Motivations for Different Generations of Workers, explains what motivates each generation. If you have a Traditionalist around, they will most likely be the owner who has never retired, born between 1928-1945. They are loyal and hardworking, with the “honest day’s work for honest day’s pay” mentality. They work hard and build.

The Boomers, 1946-1964, are the ME generation, Rampton says. They hold the power positions, and they like it that way. Give them a role with a title that has “responsibility, perks, praise, and challenge” and you have them working their goal-oriented mission to grow their segment of the business.

Gen X are born between 1965 and 1980, and they are entrepreneurs. As the latchkey kids of those driven parents of generations mentioned prior, they like to work solo and need no supervision. They value their time off, flex time, bonuses, and promotions based on competence, not years worked.

And then you have Millennials – the #trending generation. Born after 1980, they are the most misunderstood generation, yet they don’t think they are hard to get. Motivation lies for them in “social rewards, mentorship, and constant feedback,” says Rampton. “Other ways to motivate this generation is through experiential rewards and badges such as those earned in gaming and opportunities for personal growth. They also expect structure, clear directions, and transparency. What’s most intriguing about Gen Zers is that 53 percent prefer face-to-face communication.”

So there is your workforce. No doubt you have a mix of at least three of these generations in the facility. Catering to one generation over the other leads to an unhappy group of employees. So, what does the habits of highly effective facilities look like with this blend?

Competitive Advantage
Now that we understand our team members, what do you do? A recent article by Hallie Crawford in the U.S. News and World Report says, “Throw the stereotypes out the window. … Instead, it’s important to evaluate each employee based on their own merit and be mindful of doing so. Too often we succumb to stereotypes without realizing it. So pay attention to the assumptions you’re making about each of your employees, one by one.”

“Play to their strengths,” she continues. “While avoiding stereotypes, it is true that every generation has its own skill set. When pairing teams or assigning projects, make sure everyone is able to do something that they are good at.” She says, “To effectively evaluate your employees, take the time to get to know them.”
Ultimately, just like a coach, the role of the leader of a highly effective facility is to fit the right job, project or role with the right team member, despite generational or other presumptions. Even creating co-mentoring relationships between generations, where younger and older employees work together as a team and each learns from the other, helps develops both generations.

The habits of highly effective facilities create a culture that allows individual achievement and personal accountability, yet promotes teamwork and unification. The fine line between individual and team is getting blurred as generations mix in the workplace. But the blend of mindsets of each generation should be used to cultivate overall success.

In a blog commentary on, Scott Steinberg, author of Make Change Work for You, says, “Continuous change is the new norm.” But how do leaders navigate these turbulent times? He suggests empowering your employees to suggest and make changes, meaning you have to have to be open to changes. “Create a culture of trust and encourage employees to speak up,” says Steinberg. “Leading organizations empower workers and reward them for bringing potential opportunities and challenges to their attention. Front-line employees are often an enterprise’s most informed audience — to create and sustain competitive advantage, provide them the tools they need to translate ideas into action.”

With your trust and encouragement comes empowerment, Steinberg advises. “Be open to change. Leaders expect employees to stay abreast of changing business environments — and intelligently and flexibly respond to them. To this extent, workers are given the freedom to take small, smart risks that have the potential to help the organization better serve its customers … so long as these risks are intelligent, productive, and cost-affordable.” If the business is diversified and risk is spread across the organization, any small failure or misstep won’t hurt the whole of the business.

Other suggestions he offers are to always be rethinking business practices as a company. “Is, ‘it’s the way it has always been done,’ still the best way to do it?” he asks. Look to the future, and plan for it, instead of watching your competitor and keeping pace with them. Involve your team in this practice, by cultivating collaboration across the company flow chart, where people at all levels have a voice. Adding continued learning to the mix, and your team will be the generators for the new ideas that will drive your company forward.

Micro-Manager vs. Effective Manager

In the automotive recycling facility, Greg Condon of Condon’s Auto Parts, Westminster, MD, says that “the workplace is full of well-intentioned employees that are more educated the ever before, but are stuck behind a wall of poor management.” He warns that your style of management either produces highly effective results from leadership, or can be a business killer.

“A micro-manager can stifle innovation, productivity and happiness. An effective manager does the exact opposite,” he notes. “This topic comes up many times at work. The challenge is being accused by the employee of acting as micro-manager when approaching them about job performance.”

“My definition of a micro-manager is someone that will ensure every single detail is completed in a manner that aligns perfectly with how THEY would have completed the job,” says Condon. “My definition of an effective manager is someone who defines a goal and a timeline, and allows their employees the freedom to complete the tasks inside of the boundaries set and by a predetermined completion date.”

While the likely end result of either style is a completed job, done well and on time, there are highly ineffective issues that will result with the micro-management. “The micro-manager will be limited to the amount of jobs that can be completed, will constantly be hiring new employees, and there will be a ceiling that the business will reach that they will not be able to surpass,” says Condon. “While an effective manager can lead many teams at once with much greater productivity, they will have a team of engaged and happy employees and will accomplish much more then they imagined.”

“As your organization gets bigger,” he says, “a manager needs to morph from a person that completes a variety of tasks, to a person that facilitates others to complete those tasks while holding them accountable. Even the most efficient person can only complete so many jobs in one day, we need to delegate.”

Two power questions to consider to make delegation a habit are:
1. Who else can do this?
2. Who else can do parts of this?

“Delegation is a hard concept for most small business managers/owners to accept because they know they could probably complete each task more efficiently than the employee that was ultimately assigned to the task. Effective managers will understand that getting 10 people to complete 10 tasks at 80 percent efficiency of the best possible person is better than that one person completing just 1 or 2 of those tasks,” says Condon. But breaking the habit of micro-management is as hard for the employee as it is for the manager. “Many employees are accustomed to being led by a micro manager, so they will assume that you will be controlling the situation closely.”

“Make sure they understand that you are not controlling every aspect of the job, but that you want to make sure that your goals are aligned to get the outcome the company needs. The key to being effective is defining each person’s role, as well as a completion time and desired outcome. Without the guidance of what the manager needs, even the best employee will rarely ever live up to an undefined expectation,” he says.

“When they come to you with ideas, listen, engage, and consider them. If they have already been tried and failed, explain why and thank them for the input. If they haven’t been tried, put them into your idea bank and work in implementing them. This is how you will empower and engage the innovation, thinking and personal satisfaction of the team you have assembled around you.”

Empowering for Effective Habits
In order to empower more leaders at Y-Yard Auto & Truck, Inc. in Effingham, IL, Kelly Roepke, President, says the facility has developed a leadership team. “We have been working with building an ‘executive committee’ here at the Y-Yard to focus on strengthening the internal system. With the help of a local consultant, course material from the ‘Pacific Institute’, the book The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni, and following a Level 10 Meeting format, we have been rebuilding a stronger platform for our business future.”

The Y-Yard executive committee holds bi-weekly meetings in order to rewrite their Mission and Vision statement. “We also determined five core values that should be used and identified when we hire employees, when we complete our employee evaluations, and when measuring department metrics.” The over 40-year-old second generation business is using this model to transition the business to an empowering management style.

The Pacific Institute instructs, “Organizational culture is the set of shared values, beliefs, and customary ways of thinking that shape and guide the behavior of an organization’s members. In order to grow to any vision, first you must understand where you are.” They identify current cultural information for leadership to move to future success including the following integral areas: Your Current Culture – what is “expected” of members in the organization or, more technically, the behavioral norms and expectations associated with your organization; Your Ideal Culture – what “should be” expected from members in the organization, to create the best possible (i.e., most effective) organization; and Levers for Change – what can be done to move your culture from its current state to your ideal state.

Patrick Lencioni, in The Advantage, works to help organizations achieve two highly effective habits: being a) smart and b) healthy. He states, “Organizational health will surpass all other disciplines in business as the greatest opportunity for improvement and competitive advantage.” He believes that most companies ignore the “health” side of the organizational equation and focus mainly on the “smart” side. Change starts at the top, with the CEO, and trickles down to build a cohesive team. Lencioni believes there are five highly effective healthy habits that must exist for a cohesive team:
• Build Trust
• Mastering Conflict
• Achieving Commitment
• Embracing Accountability
• Focusing on Results

His system puts a lot of emphasis on clarity, which is a function of good communication with accountability. Any highly effective facility is one that communicates well. With clarity, he says, comes an alignment to goals and objectives that can move the company forward. Clarity is a reduction in distractions, with key information repeated often (Lencioni says great leaders act as “Chief Reminding Officers”) and reinforced.

The Pacific Institute says, “Over 70% of organizational cultures are defensive, specifically passive defensive. This percentage goes higher if you’re in large or legacy organizations. If you’re looking to improve performance, the necessity of seeing and addressing the whole company ecosystem becomes paramount.”

Beyond Goals
Most leaders, when looking at themselves, make personal goals. Then they get a second sheet of paper and make goals for their business. A more effective habit for a facility, and one that is more motivating for employees, is instead to make the goals serve a greater purpose. Instead of checking off, increase sales, check, eliminate stock that doesn’t sell, check, set your sights on a purpose that will inspire your employees (not just you) to do meet goals.

For instance, “One particularly comprehensive one from 2002, for example, published by Richard Ellsworth of the Drucker School of Management, found that companies whose organizational purpose is to ‘deliver value to customers’ were significantly more profitable over a 10-year period than those whose overall aim was to provide returns for their shareholders,” cites Carole Khalife in Entrepreneur magazine. “Studies like this one actually show quite clearly the difference between ‘purpose’ and a ‘purpose that matters to your employees.’ They remind us that goals such as increasing sales, reducing staff turnover, or cutting costs should always be underpinned by the driving purpose of your business – which management should take the time to properly define.”

Having processes, procedures, and protocols are certainly habits that will empower your team to work without undue stress and with maximum efficiency. But don’t let the processes run over the people. Richard Branson said, “Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business.” He knows a thing or two about building a successful enterprise.

Ultimately, automotive recycling businesses are in the people business. Selling genuine used auto parts are the byproduct of motivating people. Highly effective facilities, in Virgin Airline’s words, “Supporting our people across all aspects of life to help them be their best selves.” What that looks like to each facility is different. But the outcome is facilitating people to their best selves, in order to become a facility dedicated to reaching its full potential.

“And we should ask ourselves through all of this why the majority of companies somehow eventually lose their discipline for implementing best practices (if they ever had it in the first place),” asks Khalife. “Why is it so hard to maintain? Are we so caught up in the tasks that we forget to work on the infrastructure?”

“Whatever the reason, we do seem to be making things harder on ourselves,” she says. “Yes, business is brutally challenging and always will be. There are so many factors out of our control. But if we don’t work to make a difference on the above points – should any be missing at our companies – then we are literally settling. And that’s not such a great idea when it comes to the competitive environments in which we all work.” n

Caryn Smith is the editor of Automotive Recycling magazine and has been covering the industry for over 20 years.