5 Phrases Great Shop Owners Say To Keep Their Team Engaged

Auto Shop Owners are constantly communicating with their staff to keep the shop running efficiently and effectively. This communication is crucial to the success of shopbut, only if it is performed appropriately. Barking orders, giving directives, inserting negative comments, and providing unempathetic feedback are also communication methods, but they won’t give you the same success rate.   


Anyone is susceptible to getting caught up in the daily hustle and forget the weight and consequences of the words they use, neglect to use, or how they affect the engagement of their employees. 


It’s essential for any shop owner or shop manager to remember this key lesson:


Great leaders don’t lose sight of the power of their words, even long after they have said them. 


While no shop owner is a perfect communicator, there are phrases the best leaders say consistently to their employees to keep them engaged and performing at their best.

1. “I’m not going to be perfect, and I don’t expect you to be either.” 

It’s easy for employees to look up to someone in a leadership positions and fool themselves into believing they are perfect or they have never made a key mistake. However, as anyone who has worked on cars or around cars knows that is impossible in this industry. 

For shop owners or even shop managers to put the truth on the table and say, “I am not going to be perfect, and I don’t expect you to be either,” creates a foundation of empathy and freedom.  If expresses to your techs, mechanics and front desk staff that you are human and you know they are human as well.  Together are going to make some mistakes but we are also going to get it right for our customers. 

When those mistakes happen, we will admit the mistake, learn from it, and then work to not make the same ones in the future.

2. “Thank You.”

Saying “thank you” is simple, and it must be done often because it means a lot to your team. Those two little words are magical; people desperately want to be acknowledged for the work they do.  It is key for ongoing engagement and performance. 

Don’t just take my words for it. A recent study by US psychologists in the journal Psychological Science provides clinical proof of what many of us already knew: Saying “thank you” can positively transform your relationship with others.  

3. “Can you Tell Me How you Have Tried to Solve It?”

One of the most popular requests of auto shop owners from employees is asking for assistance in solving problems in the garage. To increase the engagement of employees, the best shop owners don’t just give them answers they embrace a coaching mindset.   


A coach, by definition, is one who trains and instructs. Coaching comes from the word “carriage,” meaning to take someone from point A to point B.  


One of the best ways to develop others and build their confidence as a professional is to leverage questions and statements to help their team solve their own problems. A simple statement like “can you tell me how you have tried to solve it?” is a fantastic coaching technique to allow others to get their entire point across before a shop owner swoops in to solve it for them.   


Leaders withhold answers as long as possible to give people the space to solve their own problems first.  



Reject your instincts to interject your insight and opinions by using “Can you tell me how you have tried to solve it?” daily. Often people will answer their own questions without you having to be the hero.  

4. “What can I do to help You?”

If “can you tell me how you have tried to solve” is a reactive approach to improving engagement, “what can I do to help you?” is a proactive approach shop owners can take.  If that wasn’t enough, it’s an example of servant leadership. 

The concept behind servant leadership is to flip the traditional hierarchical management model on its head. Instead of your team working for you; you work for them.  Asking your shop staff, “what can I do to help you?” will have demonstrate to them that you aren’t below any job or task that needs to be completed in the shop. 

5. “What are your personal goals?”

Work and careers have changed dramatically in the last 30 years. It was typical for a tech or front desk staff members to stay with one shop for 30+ years, which is now an anomaly. Techs and professional staff members have embraced the idea of movement and side hustles to achieve their professional goals.  


While most shop owners put their heads in the sand or reject this reality, the best leaders do the opposite. They embrace this shift and participate in helping their people achieve their personal goals.   


One of the most powerful questions any leader can ask their team is, “what are your personal goals?” If you want to take it a step further, at the beginning of every year, ask each team member, “What are your goals for this year?” This will help you align your activities and coaching to ensure they achieve them.   


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