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Recommended Reads For Building Future Leaders

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You’ve heard it before. Leaders are readers.

Bill Gates is disciplined in his practice of reading at least 50 books per year, Elon Musk is reported to have grown up reading two books each day, and Warren Buffett famously spends nearly 80 percent of his day reading.

Leaders have a desire to learn and a curiosity for fresh perspectives, but true leaders doesn’t just take the time to absorb new ideas. They make a point to share what they’ve learned. After all, what good is all that intel you’ve gathered if it’s stuck in a silo?

Whether building a formal book club, gifting a dog-eared copy, or implementing a full leadership program, Ratchet+Wrench checked in with four shop leaders who are not only dedicated readers, but are building reading and reflection into their day to day shop culture. Here they share their favorite leadership-focused and the takeaways inspiring future leaders within their ranks.

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery
By Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

After reading The Road Back to You, Joe Valind, owner of  Auto Safety Center in West Bend, Wis., was intrigued. He’d discovered the book at an industry conference and was surprised at how well it had him pegged.

The book breaks readers down into nine different personality types, from perfectionist to peacemaker, clearly defining the virtues and motivating influences behind each type to help readers better understand their individual strengths and weaknesses and the unique factors that motivate other personality types. 

“It gives you a clear language for understanding the drivers behind your personality and how that impacts the way you relate to the world,” he says. “I was shocked at how much I took away when it comes to self awareness and understanding my crew.”

He’s now bought the book for several members of his team, including his shop foreman, who Valind says was eager to understand more about himself and better communicate with his peers.

“This book is all about self-discovery, but that discovery only makes you more aware of how you connect with other people,” he says.
Valind says the book’s helped his foreman build assurance as a leader on the team.

“It’s given him this confidence to embrace his strengths and step up with the group,” Valind says. “It clicked and he feels like he understands how to meet them on their level which is critical as a leader.”

How to Win Friends & Influence People
By Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie’s renowned title is not a new read for most repair shop owners, and certainly not for Andy Daniels, AAM, president of Frank's Automotive Repair in Tulare, Calif.

The industry veteran has read the book at least 12 times and tends to circle back to it with his team on a biannual basis for two simple reasons.

“It’s filled with reminders we need to hear on a daily basis in this business and every time I read it I take something new away from it,” he says.

“Different sections click in a new way based on what’s going on in my life or something we’re experiencing with the shop.”

The most vital lesson he’s taken away over the years? Give honest and sincere appreciation.

“That’s a no-brainer when it comes to customer service, but it’s something that gets lost in the shuffle while you’re getting cars in and out,” he says.

Taking the time to praise work done well, however small the task, helps strengthen the relationships between him and his team as well as each other, he says. It’s something he’s witnessed out on the shop floor often, especially after the team’s revisited the read.

“In a jam-packed day, when one of our best techs is taking the time to compliment the new guy (even if mistakes have been made) he’s building a dynamic where he feels valued and respected, which is exactly what you need to lead.”

The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential
By John C. Maxwell

At Curt’s Auto Repair in Phoenix, Ariz., John. C Maxwell’s most popular title has essentially become required reading. “Generally I’ll make more personal recommendations for everyone, but 5 Levels is one I ask the entire team to read,” says owner Curt L. Rock. “It’s actually a book I’ve used to help shape our shop’s core culture.”

The book breaks Maxwell’s core principles out into five clear benchmarks for building a well-rounded leader—not just  a boss—that helps challenge, develop and inspire those around them, and how to maximize impact along the way.

Rock has built the shop’s culture around Maxwell’s fifth level: pinnacle. Leaders at this level invest in the success of others, create opportunity and seek to lift the entire organization day-in and day-out. Rock says everyone on the team works together toward this goal, using Maxwell’s book to create a common mindset and shared examples to refer back to. 

“That fifth level is all about constantly pushing that little bit to go the extra mile and it’s contagious. Throughout the day we all take time to take initiative, speak up, hop in to help out on something,” he says, noting that the more each person on the team steps up, the more it seems to inspire the rest.

“It’s really helped create leaders across the board as we all work to do better than we are at what we’re doing.”

Great by Choice
By James C. Collins and Morten T Hansen

When COVID-19 hit, Jim Hayes, general manager for Pacific Motor Service in Monterey, Calif., called an audible.

The shop’s leadership training program was scheduled to read a different book, but Hayes brought Great by Choice to the top of the list to match the team’s reading material to the moment.

The book distills nine years of research to analyze companies that thrived through extremely chaotic and disruptive events. An understanding that uncertainty is unavoidable in any business is its central tenet.

After Hayes and the shop’s leadership team first read the book years ago, they adjusted their shop processes to strategize for the inevitability of a crippling event, drawing from principles like “fanatic discipline” and “productive paranoia” to guide their planning.

“Whether it’s a fire, hurricane, pandemic, or war, there are always going to be unforeseen circumstances that can impact the business,” says Hayes. “We wanted our team to see that a lot of times leadership comes down to planning and looking ahead, and give them an idea of how we’d done that.”
The team read and discussed the book as lockdowns were put in place, hospitals filled and local businesses were forced to furlough or lay off employees.

“The shop was able to stay open with relatively little impact to the team, and we got to show them what we’ve been working for over the years in real time,” says Hayes.

Discussion around the book not only gave the team a common language and deeper understanding of the business’s core goals, but inspired staff to search for ways they can contribute in their own roles.

“It got us all on the same page and now that they know and understand the playbook, they’re starting to talk and think through ways they can help complete those plays.”

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