Management activities focus on coordinating and developing resources to produce a desired result. Leadership activities focus on influencing people in a way that inspires them to become better versions of themselves.

I experienced this for the first time while working at Barker’s Mobile, a full service gas and auto repair station in Speedway, Indiana. Terri Barker was the owner.

My first day on the job, Barker put his manager’s hat on and told me how he expected me to behave, what he expected me to do, taught me to do it, and defined what results he expected from my efforts.

My schedule was to clean the bathrooms, sweep the bays, take out the trash, and sweep the lot by 4:30 (after school).

Then, attend to the full service gas pump island. Ask, “How can I help you?” with a smile on my face, fuel the vehicles, and wash the windshields. Check the oil, tire pressure, wiper blades, headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, and air filters. Offer to replace, clean, or repair anything needing attention; collect for services rendered; and wish them a “Great day.”

At 7:30 p.m., I was to take inventory of the oil, headlights, taillights, turn signal lights, tires, and wiper blades. Then, complete the daily inventory report and put it on his desk. Next, close out the cash drawer and deposit the locked cash bag into the safe. By 8:30 p.m., we would lock up the shop. He even allowed me to build out my 1970 ½ Chevy Camaro after hours.

Barker would start his day by reviewing how much product was sold compared to deposits. This was his way of determining if we were doing our job.

Two weeks into the job, he put a $20 bill in my locker with a note that said, “Keep up the good work.” In 1980, that was a lot of money for a 16-year-old kid.

One day, I came into work not feeling well, so I went through the day doing as little as possible. The next day, I got away with doing even less. No one seemed to care; no one said anything to me, so I thought it was OK.

A few days later, I found a note in my locker asking me to meet Barker in his office.

When I walked into his office, Barker put his leadership hat on. He stood up, shook my hand, and started asking questions. “How is school? Everything OK at home? Are you going to try out for the football team this spring?” He seemed genuinely interested in me.

After he was satisfied that I was OK, the conversation turned toward performance at work. He pointed out that 50 vehicles went through my pump and none of them had any add-on services — no oil; headlights, brake lights, or turn signal lights; tires; air filters; or tuneups.

I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say. Barker just stared at me without saying a word, waiting for me to answer his question. Fifteen seconds of silence felt like 15 minutes. I finally found the courage to say I hadn’t been feeling well. I promised it wouldn’t happen again.

Two weeks later, I found another $20 in my locker with a note that said, “Keep up the good work.” Those accolades kept coming for the entire time I worked at Barker’s Mobile as long as results exceeded expectations.

What a great example of the delicate balance between managing and leading an individual.

As a manager, Barker taught me how to perform a well-defined process and held me accountable to complete each task in a fashion that delivered a predictable result. That’s what good managers do.

As a leader, he made me think about my behavior and influenced me to become a better person and, as a result, a better employee. He also recognized and appreciated a job well done, never taking anything for granted. That’s what great leaders do.  In any company, but home services businesses in particular, leadership sets the tone for success and accountability in every job role from the top down. 

To learn more about improving your leadership skills, download a free training package courtesy of EGIA:

Publication date: 4/30/2018

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