4 management mistakes to avoid

Two mechanics in a storage room, one of them holds a vehicle part.

Leadership is hard. Whether you’ve got one person under you or a hundred, leadership brings with it a myriad of responsibilities and a whole range of new skills to master.

Often, in the automotive industry in particular, our leaders are self-taught. Tired of working for others, we’ve started our own businesses. We’ve got busy, so we’ve hired a technician. Before long, we’ve found ourselves with a team of people and a range of management headaches and responsibilities our apprenticeship didn’t prepare us for. But whether you’ve learned leadership “on the job” or you’ve trained for it, it’s still easy to make mistakes.

Here are four common management mistakes and how to avoid them.


1. Not encouraging open communication

Open communication channels are your first line of defence against small problems becoming big ones. Everyone in your business, at every level, including yourself, should feel comfortable being open and honest with everyone else about any issues that arise. The last thing you want is an apprentice who’s afraid to ask questions or a technician who tries to hide their mistakes. Make time for your team.

  • Be clear about what you expect from team members both in performance and behaviour.

  • Give staff clear feedback, encouragement, praise and guidance.

  • Ask for staff feedback, listen to it, and make improvements.

  • Share your business goals with your team (and get them on board).

  • Encourage the open discussion of mistakes, without judgement.

2. Not sharing the workload

When it’s your own business, it’s natural to take on a lot of responsibility. But when one person takes the bulk of the burden on their shoulders, that’s when mistakes get made, jobs don’t get finished and standards begin to slide.

  • Identify tasks you can delegate to team members (if no team members are qualified to do the work, provide training to get them up to speed—but DO NOT micromanage them).

  • Look for opportunities to outsource in the name of efficiency (for example, getting a bookkeeper to look after your accounts).

  • Look at delegation as an opportunity to upskill, reward and promote your team.

3. Not planning for the future

True excellence in management means being prepared for every eventuality—because things don’t always run smoothly—and planning for growth.

  • Have one, five and ten-year business plans drawn up, so you know where you’re headed.

  • Ensure you have a fully recorded inventory and all your insurance is up to date, and have contingency plans in place in case key staff members leave or get sick, the power goes out, or a hoist breaks.

  • Have a written succession plan so everyone knows what happens when you retire or in case tragedy strikes.

4. Not leading by example

The standard you set is the standard you accept from your staff. You cannot expect them to perform better or care more than you do yourself. Lead by example.

  • Set boundaries, have clear and clearly communicated core values, and live by them.

  • You set the tone, so show courtesy and respect to everyone in the business: your customers, your suppliers and your industry colleagues.

  • Let your team see you take responsibility for mistakes and make improvements.

  • Have a good attitude and encourage and reward a good attitude in your team.

Running a successful business, let alone one with a culture of excellence, requires great management skills. The great news is these skills can be learned—and it’s never too late to innovate, educate and improve.

This article was published 19/09/2023 and the content is current as at the date of publication.