The Iron Grip Fallacy

The Iron Grip Fallacy

This article is about two things: management and leadership.

Regardless of the number of people working in your shop, there is one truism you need to keep in the back of your mind, and that is that your company doesn’t work without the staff you employ. They are the lifeblood of your business.

But yet, so many shops slip into a quagmire of problems with their employees because they don’t recognize that it is the number one job of your leadership team to support, train, and elevate their performance.

When shops in this industry start, there is a more or less free form manner that the shop operates. The business may start as a group of friends banding together to make some extra money. But as the company grows, the need for rules and more management is apparent.

Words such as, “What are we going all corporate now?”, are spoken.

Yes. Rules and guidelines matter.

Why? Well, for starters, if you are not crystal clear on the expectations for your employees, they will make up their way of doing things. These rules help form the correct trajectory that you want to run your company. Establish these in a simple employee handbook (If not click here and get my eBook, “Shop Basic Info Pack” and use the easy to modify template)

But those rules only go so far.

Work performance, what tasks are needed, what is a priority, and many other ambiguous points are left to your management team to sort out. Here is where processes and employee training come into play.

How Does Your Management Team Lead?

Have you ever worked at a company for a bad manager? You know, that person that was so incredibly bad at their job that you ended up quitting?

Remember, the number one reason people quit their jobs is due to bad management. People can’t take the bullshit any longer and leave.

Here’s a test that I want you to take for your shop. I call it the “Family Dinner Test”. It’s easy to play.

Close your eyes and imagine a worker or two on your staff. When they go home each day, and their family or friends gather around the dinner table, and someone asks, “So honey, how was your day today?”, I want you to pretend you are them and answer the question.

Is your answer about inspiration, positivity, and optimism?

Or, does it include harsh language and phrases like, “I can’t take this much longer”?

How do you think your company rates with the Family Dinner Test? I’ve been in this industry since 1993. During that time, I’ve spoken to hundreds of shop owners and shop employees from all sizes of shops, and even countries. It is quite often easy to tell who is in either camp.

Who on your team is having some very pointed dinner table conversations about finding a new job? Is that something you want?

Control Is An Illusion

So why do managers slip into these bad habits?

I believe that they are trying to keep control over everything they manage. These actions prove that they think by squeezing down with an iron grip on their staff, they believe they can improve the situation by sheer force of will. This bluster may even advance things for a bit, especially if there aren’t many rules or expectations in place.

But it is a short term canard.

What Should Managers Focus On Instead?

Let’s start by agreeing that the function of a manager is to improve the performance of the staff.

If that’s the case, for each worker, there needs to defined expectations of what success looks like for them in their daily tasks.

Start with clarity. How should the work be performed? What tools or training is needed? How long should it take? Where do you go for answers if you have questions? What are you doing to do next?

The mark of a well-managed team is that they can operate effectively without the manager being there. Reread that sentence and think about that for a moment.

What’s it like in your shop?

I like to think that managers are the head-trainer-in-charge. There number one priority is to advance the learning and understanding of their staff members and get them to the next level. They need to be supportive.

Questions such as, “Is there anything I can do for you to help”, go a long way.

Training, empowerment, and employee motivation are the keys to the kingdom. Not persistent yelling, belittling, arguing, or temper tantrums.

How does the notion of fear creep into the management style of your company?

Problem Employees

I know what you are thinking. But, what about those problem employees? They make mistakes, are late to work, or have other issues. How is that supportive manager helping out with that situation?

For starters, we deal with breaking company rules evenly and fairly. That’s why there is an employee handbook. Also, I’d like to remind you of my favorite Jocko Willink quote, “It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.”

Yes, wholeheartedly. Deal with problem employees that constantly break the rules. The other “A” team employees on your staff will thank you.


That brings us to mistakes. Why do mistakes happen?

When mistakes happen, before starting the blame game I like to do a neutral investigation. Start asking “why” and digging into the situation. You can chalk mistakes usually to these reasons:

  1. Information. Someone made a mistake because of wrong, missing, or incomplete information. This is an opportunity to correct this in your process.
  2. Training. Someone made a mistake because they were not fully trained. They tried to do the task correctly, but they failed because they really didn’t know what they were doing. This is an opportunity to correct this in your training program.
  3. Equipment. Someone made a mistake due to equipment problems. This is an opportunity to correct this with your preventative maintenance program.
  4. Time. Someone made a mistake due to the lack of time to it correctly. Rushing things usually cause this. This is an opportunity to correct this by scheduling tasks better to provide ample time to do anything properly.
  5. Apathy. Someone made a mistake because they simply didn’t care enough to do it right. This is an opportunity to correct this with your hiring practices. Also, why are they still working for you?
  6. Focus. Someone made a mistake because they were not focused on doing the task correctly. This is an opportunity to correct this by eliminating distractions.
  7. Oops. Someone made a mistake, but it is impossible to determine why. This is the hardest to correct. Sometimes mistakes simply happen.

From a management perspective, as you can see their involvement in making sure things happen correctly can prevent reasons one through six.

Error prevention starts with a proactive mindset.

Management Communication

Of all the traits that are important to being a good manager, effective communication skills are at the top of the list.

How you talk to people is often more important than the words that come out of your mouth. The tone of voice matters. Body language matters. Smile more. Frown less.

Of course, people need to know who is in charge. But you don’t have to be a jerk about it. In fact, I would argue that a great manager can lead with humor, positivity, and even a sense of cheerleading.

The words you use are important. How they are conveyed to the staff matters more. Ruling the kingdom with an iron fist only creates more problems than it solves.

Instead, position your leadership mindset to focus on different things.

Opportunity, not mistakes.

Empowerment, not control.

Teaching, not blaming.

Listening, not talking.

If this article hits close to home and you need some help. That’s what I do. Let’s chat and discover how I can help your business with a coaching program tailored to you.

Click this link and book a 30-minute call with me.

“A leader is one that knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John C. Maxwell

“When the best leader’s work is done the people say, “We did it ourselves”. – Lao Tzu

“As a leader, the first person I need to lead is me. The first person I should change is me.” – John C. Maxwell

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