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3 Tips on Being an Effective Leader

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Dave Toole’s corporate title is the President and CEO of Toole’s Garage, but he prefers to think of himself as the visionary of his company.

“I’ve empowered people to hold the reins, which allow to me to be the visionary of the company,” Toole says. “It freed up my time to do something that I love doing, and that’s creating and building.”

Toole started Toole’s Garage in San Carlos, Calif., in September of 2009 as a one-man operation. Over the next 10 years, he’s built the company up to a 12-employee establishment that makes $3 million in sales per year.

Now that Toole’s team helps run the shop, he has plenty of time to focus on the company’s growth, future locations, and everything else that being an industry visionary entails. If you want to upgrade from being just a boss to your company’s visionary, Toole has advice on how to make that a reality.

Here are Toole’s tips on how to be a more effective leader.

1. Empower your employees to ask for help.

Toole’s methods as a leader revolve around finding out how he can help his employees, rather than direct them or instruct them on exactly what to do.

“I would be considered a servant leader,” Toole explains. “My style is always to find out how I can help them, which helps them be open.”

Toole’s Garage has an open door, open contact policy when it comes to his team to create a welcoming environment. Toole tries to treat his employees like a family rather than just coworkers and encourages them to reach out when issues arise.

2. Accept that problems are a part of daily life.

“Difficult decisions happen every day,” Toole says. “It doesn’t matter how well-oiled your machine is. We’re dealing with the general public, we’re dealing with automotive stuff. It’s a given.”

If a problem comes across Toole’s desk, he knows that it’s already outside the scope and capacity of his team leads to deal with on their own. Though every problem is an internal struggle for him initially, he always sits down with his team leads and gets everyone’s ideas on how to deal with the problem at hand.

They brainstorm, and find out if anyone has an idea of how to fix the problem. If no one does, they hash it out until they find something to run with. Toole says that the frequency of issues in a business is outside the business’s control, which is why you need to be solutions-oriented in your mindset.

3. View your business as a team sport.

Toole defines the culture of his shop as a high performance team and a family, where both practices are equally important.

“That starts from the hiring process,” Tool explains. “We hire for personality almost before skillset. Skillset gets them in the door, personality gets them onto the floor.”

In order to maintain positive attitudes in his employees and help them enjoy their work more, Toole coordinates many team events, including cooking the team breakfast every Friday, dubbed by Toole as “Boss’s Breakfast.”

They also have weekly “fundamental meetings” where they talk about the foundation of the business itself. The topics change every week, focusing on anything from tools to garage to family or even just having fun.

“We would call it our honor code,” Toole says. “It’s our mission statement broken out. It’s a positive meeting once a week to stay focused.”

What’s most important to Toole is that the team must function as a whole unit, or it won’t function at all. It’s like playing a team sport—everyone’s successes and losses depend on one other. It’s not an individual game.

As the visionary, Toole implements this strategy of making the team more than just people who work together, but also people who depend and help one another. His garage also refers to managerial positions as ‘team leads’ to foster a more welcoming environment, and the team leads are responsible for small quantities of people.

“We all have to win in order to win,” Toole says. “Everyone has their roles and tasks, but it’s in all of our best interest to take care of each other, because if one task fails, we all fail.”

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