Building an All-Star Team

Aug. 1, 2017

Making tough decision is necessary when you're a leader. Figure out what you need out of your staff and then make necessary adjustments to create your ideal team.

In 2011, Steve Sheriff stepped out of his role as service writer and became the service manager at Zimmerman’s Automotive. The role was not an easy one to fill, as owner Judy Zimmerman says that the team at the Mechanicsburg, Pa., shop was disjointed and had a few people that were not “team players.” Sheriff proved he was more than up to the task and brought the team together by making a few changes—including letting one employee go. His team mentality and leadership were two of the reasons that Zimmerman nominated Sheriff for a 2016 Ratchet+Wrench All-Star Award.

“His leadership is refreshing and works for our culture and business,” Zimmerman says.

When Sheriff stepped into his current position, he knew that not every choice he made was going to make him popular, but he also knew what he needed to do to put together the best team possible. Sheriff shares his tips for putting together an all-star team.

Read the Room.

When Sheriff became the service manager, he had already worked at the shop for a number of years and was familiar with the staff. Knowing how your employees feel is an important part of being a leader and Sheriff is sure to always be aware of this.

For example, Sheriff says he noticed his staff complaining about an individual who was very negative. Sheriff handled this by taking the time to speak with him one on one on a number of different occasions.

Know When to Cut ’em Loose.

Sheriff didn’t immediately fire the negative employee. Instead, he made multiple attempts to make it work by explaining how his attitude impacted those around him. At a certain point, however, he knew that change was never going to happen.

“I remember we were discussing employee training and this employee was meeting me with a lot of resistance,” Sheriff says.

That was the moment he knew he had to let him go. Enough was enough.

Identify Key Qualities.

“For me, it’s all about finding someone that wants to be a team player,” Sheriff says.

Since he’s started as service manager in 2011, he’s had to hire a few additional employees. Throughout the interview process, there’s one question that Sheriff tries to get to get answered: Will this candidate work well in a team-centered culture?

“We’ve had good people come in that are talented, but they’d rather work by themselves,” Sheriff explains. “I’d rather have a team environment. If you take time to help someone else, that will come back.”

Fill the Gaps.

During the interview process, Sheriff also likes to get a feel for the particular tasks that the candidate really enjoys.

“Everyone has a variety of abilities,” Sheriff says. “Try to fill in the spots your shop might be lacking.”

For example, if there’s a candidate that’s skilled in a certain repair or is really detail oriented and that’s a skill you’ve noticed is lacking in your shop, that person might be the ideal candidate.

Trust People Who Know.

Sheriff says he relies on people who are familiar with the culture at Zimmerman’s Automotive to recommend people for positions. Sheriff says he works with a tool vendor that has made a couple of great recommendations because he’s familiar with the culture that Sheriff has set up.

Sheriff knows that the culture at Zimmerman’s isn’t for everyone, and that’s OK. He won’t try to force a candidate to fit if it’s not natural. Sheriff can tell pretty quickly whether or not a candidate is the right fit.

Establish a Culture.

Sheriff didn’t just happen upon this team-centric group. Through his leadership, he’s created a culture of trust and teamwork.

Sheriff makes sure to let his employees know that they can come to him with anything they need. He also makes a point to take his staff on team-building excursions. One of their favorite outings is going to shoot clay pigeons.

“We’ll close the shop early and do something fun together,” Sheriff says. “It’s a good morale booster.”

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