Service managers are some of the busiest people that I encounter as I visit companies, and sometimes, despite their best intentions, all the time and effort they put in every week doesn’t translate to the results they’re looking for. Does that sound familiar to you? If so, let’s explore how this situation may have been created and what you can do to refocus your manager’s efforts.

When I think of the genesis of the service manager role, I find it is often created out of necessity when an owner and a company hits a growth ceiling: This is where one person can no longer keep all the balls in the air themselves. So, the owner looks at his technicians, selects the best performer, and promotes that person to the role of service manager. Since there hasn’t officially been anyone in the role up to this point, there isn’t a whole lot of structure or direction given to the newly appointed technician, other than, “get these guys and gals to perform as well as you.”

Now the tech, who usually has no formal leadership training or management skills, defaults to what he does know — problem solving with his own hands. And down the path of reactionary management he goes, putting out fires and solving problems for people instead of developing them to solve the problems themselves. The focus becomes all about just keeping the wheels turning and having to do everything himself; but as more techs are hired, more time is expended trying to personally solve every problem and react to each situation, until the manager who was put in place to grow the department has now become the limiting factor of the department.

So how do we break the cycle? First, set clear expectations. The service manager’s ultimate responsibility should be to increase the performance of the department and not to try to shore up less-than-ideal performance by doing things themselves. To achieve that responsibility, service managers should be focused on the following four key areas:

  • Tracking and reviewing key performance indicators;
  • Facilitating weekly skill-building training meetings;
  • Meeting with each technician once per week to discuss performance, explore opportunities for improvement, and set goals; and
  • Getting out in the truck to capture the ground truth regarding performance and to strengthen relationships.

Second, as the owner, you have to create an environment which makes that possible. That may mean giving consideration to how many techs a manager can effectively manage and what things may need to be taken off the manager’s plate to be delegated to someone else. I’ve found that when managers are focused on the four key items above, that number typically is between eight to 12 technicians.

Lastly, you must be willing to invest in training for your manager as old habits will be hard for them to break. They’ll need to first see that another management model exists and learn how to make the changes of developing and empowering their team. Send your manager to outside training — Nexstar, for example, offers several resources, such as training classes and personal coaching, to support you and your manager on the journey to more effective leadership.

Publication date: 4/26/2017