As in any business or trade, in automotive and transmission repair you will always find managers of different calibers. It’s dependent on a number of factors like, for instance:

How important was it to the owner of the business to have a top-notch manager run it for him or her? While some would feel that the manager is the face of the business, the one that customers, vendors, and employees see and therefore need to believe in; others might think they are simply a go-between, just another rung in the ladder.

Was it enough of a concern to the owner to be very careful during the hiring process? One of the weakest points of most small business owners is in their lack of ability to screen and then hire the right personnel. Wearing so many different hats, owners tend to fill positions more out of desperation than out of concern that a candidate has all the important attributes they want or need. When a spot opens up or a new position is created they rush to fill it, often hiring the first or second warm body that comes through the door.

Was there adequate training provided for the manager so that person would function in the owner’s image? Managers should be extensions of owners, bringing the owner’s concepts and rules of how the business should be conducted to actual implementation; but how can a manager do that if he or she hasn’t been painstakingly trained themselves? Owners who use slipshod hiring and training practices need to think back to when they first started the business and how careful they were in running it and working in it themselves to create what it is today, and then put a great deal of time and effort into hiring and training the person or people they want to run it for them- otherwise it won’t be run in their image; it will be run in the image of the manager they hire and differently with the next one and the one after that until the business no longer reflects the owner’s initial vision.

Does the owner monitor the manager by measuring effectiveness in sales, production and dealing with the everyday running of the business and then work with the manager on a regular basis to help him or her improve and maintain the high standards necessary for on-going success? Too many owners have destroyed their businesses by turning over the reins to someone who they think is competent and walking away because they were tired from doing it too long themselves or because they wanted to pursue other interests. Their big mistake is in forgetting what brought them their success in the first place and semi-abandoning it by allowing someone else to take over who they haven’t put the appropriate time and effort into.

I believe, as I have no doubt mentioned before, in Grandma’s old adage; “The fish stinks from the head back.” In other words, the business will be run, good or bad, by the way the owner wants it and by the amount of time and effort he or she is willing to put into it. If the owner demands perfection and follows through to be sure he or she gets it then it will happen, but if the owner doesn’t care enough neither will the employees at all levels and the business will be mediocre at best.

The difference between a good and great manager is not only the responsibility of the owner. It also depends on the ability and desire of the manager. How badly does this person want to be the best? While some people would accept mediocre as a base or standard others would consider it a fail. I think the owner of a small business had better consider it a fail if he or she doesn’t want the business to falter or die. Going halfway never really gets the job done. People who run businesses or segments of them have a responsibility to the owner who put trust in them, and the employees and customers who rely heavily on their decision-making. If they want to be managers they need to be all in and do the job as if they were the business owner.

The attitude managers have toward the business, the owner, the employees and the customers plays a major role in how they will perform. If they have the ability and are happy in their environment they likely will do a better job. If, on the other hand, they are at odds with the owner and aren’t happy with their working conditions or compensation it usually shows. It’s hard to hide.

I’ve always felt that I could teach someone anything I know if they have the ability, attitude, and the desire to learn. If any of those three are missing it becomes much harder; not impossible, but would require a lot more training and monitoring. Then too, if they can’t fully understand or accept the concept being taught they can easily become frustrated and no longer want to face the challenge; so the ability to read people, to see whether or not they are learning and accepting what they are being taught is a trait great managers must develop.

One key in creating the great managers we need is to hire people for those positions who really want them. Too often, in an effort to promote from within, owners take an employee out of a production job that they are very good at and try to fit them into a managerial role that they don’t really want and haven’t had the background or training to do successfully. More money and benefits may entice the employee to accept the position but forcing this job on someone whose heart may not be totally into it is not usually a formula for success. Remember too that when you move this person up you also lose a good production employee who must be replaced and that isn’t always easy to do.

All owners want great managers but they need to understand that in order to get them they have to work with good, intelligent and caring people who want the job. In my experience it’s always been better to move someone into a managerial role that has asked for it than a production employee who you tap on the shoulder and push into the job.

We can create good managers but the great ones take it several steps further on their own. They develop certain traits through education, experience, and trial and error that make them outstanding.

Great managers, for example, shape their environment and that of their team. They recognize this is not accidental, that team culture is not random.

They understand that it's their job to create a super-productive environment for the team, one that all the members can get behind and enjoy. This process is active and deliberate.

Different managers choose different themes for the environment they create as follows:

Positive. Help the team keep a positive view on what they are doing and why.

Purposeful. Know what it is all for; this makes the work and effort worthwhile.

Ambitious. Have something to work for and toward.

Supportive. Create a supportive environment.

Professional. Help the team do the best possible job, in the right way.

Honest. Be honest with each other about what's good and bad, what's working and what isn't.

Mature. They allow no bullying, inappropriate aggression, shouting, patronizing, condescending, game playing, name-calling, belittling, or playing favorites.

The best managers are gifted at creating for their people a sense of self-confidence and accomplishment that gives them a platform, and from this platform of self-belief and achievement comes more success and greater performance. The trick is that managers are always looking for the next thing for their people, the next challenge or the new skill, which will move them ahead a little each time. They see that their people must be achieving and overachieving on their own in order to create greatness for the team, and they know that the way to get to this state is to build an environment where their people do better and do more than they expected or understood that they could.

Great managers don’t take credit for their achievements. They don’t say, “I did this or that.” They always credit the team. They somehow know that if the team performs well it’s a direct reflection on their managerial ability and they will be noticed for it. The greatest managers want their people to achieve and do more because it builds their self-respect and career, ensures their employability, and helps with their sense of satisfaction and mastery. Fundamentally, it is the right thing to offer an employee, the chance to learn more and achieve more as a result of working for them.

Great managers understand the power of amplification. By virtue of being a manager, their words and actions are amplified. Every pronouncement they make may be repeated, every action emulated, and every expectation reflected in the work of their team so they think before they speak, choosing their words carefully so as to boost the team’s spirit, not encumber it.

Great managers are fueled by the passion to make others successful. Because of this passion they expect individuals to live up to the opportunity that comes with working for them. They want self-motivated employees who take responsibility for their actions and want to be the best; to perform, deliver, learn, grow, and to have an impact and make a difference. That’s what makes these managers great.