How to be a good manager in the automotive industry?

Updated: Oct 17, 2019

Note: this article is not for shy people, I will be cursing a lot. If you are shy, please don’t continue reading.

I’ve decided to write this article to remind myself, in the future whenever I’m responsible for people in my industry, of the best practices I think need to be done from a manager to achieve a great working environment and get work done as it should be.

So my future colleague, if I am your manager someday and you read this, and you find that I’ve violated any of these rules, remind me, please.

This brings me to the first rule

Accept harsh criticism from your team

Of course, I don’t mean you should be insulted but you have to accept the fact that you are a freaking human who makes mistakes and unless you were not confronted with your mistakes, you will keep on doing them.

It’s a good idea to put a file in a shared folder and ask your team to write you a review “anonymously” on what you have done good and what you have done bad in the last period of time. What do you need to improve to be a better person before a better manager? After every month or sprint or whatever period of time where you and your team have accomplished something meaningful, send them a reminder to fill in that review document.

Be proactive and try to fix what you have done wrong

Now, you have gotten your reviews, time to punish the team, right? NOOO, time to analyze what you have done wrong and why and how to fix it. Find root causes and make a summary, ask third party opinion about how to improve, and more importantly, ask this third party person about the point you think it’s not fair and listen to their judgment.

Next time, you ask for the review on top of that, add the summary of the last time and ask your team on a scale from 0 to 10, Did I fix the problem? Did you feel the change? What needs to be done?

Do you know what have you done? You are creating a trust in the system. The system that might be from your perspective that everything is alright. And your ego wouldn’t let you hear your colleague who is looking forward to leaving because something is not comfortable.

Next, if there is something after carefully looking at it and you still think it is not fair, you will need to explain why you think so to the team in the next meeting. And ask them to write their opinion in the review sheet/file if there’s counter-argument.

Listen to that guy who complains all the time

Of course, no one likes to hear complaints. Everyone would like to feel that everything is smooth like butter. But what if this guy who complains all the time and gives you headaches has a point. Don’t let your ego drives him away.

I hear you saying, he only complains because he doesn’t want to do his job, or he only complains because he has nothing better to do. Well, I would tell you, it is your job to help this guy to do his job, if he has something to complain about, then you are part of the problem. And if he has nothing better to do, then that is because you are the freaking problem, you didn’t give him something useful to do, then he has gotten a point there. He is the victim, not you.

Don’t follow the process for the sake of the process

A lot of the managers consider the process as a holy book. Of course, without a process, it will be chaos. But there is a thin line between following the process and use your damn brain. I am also not suggesting to work around things. But keep in mind, if there is a literal process, then I will program a damn computer to do the freaking process and call the day off.

But since there are still a lot of jobs that need humans to operate the process, then the process itself is not perfect to be automated. So whenever that engineer argues, in that particular situation, that the process can not be followed for a number of reasons, then give that guy a chance to be heard, god damn it.

Understand the process, follow the process

Now, you are saying that I am crazy? If so, then you are one of the worst managers, I wish I wouldn’t work with. Or I wish I never had.

This point does not negate the previous one. In fact, it strengthens the idea. How? You need first to understand the idea behind the process, then understand why this particular process will solve this problem, then understand the process detailed steps and then follow the steps.

DO NOT EVER ask an employee to use a checklist before

1- You understand each step in the checklist

2- You understand the reason why this step exists

3- You made sure you transferred this knowledge to the employee who is going to use this checklist

I don’t really understand a manager who asks an employee to perform a task they know nothing about. I am not suggesting that the manager needs to understand every technical detail or am I?!

Know what you are doing

Yes, you need to understand every little detail of what your employees are doing. So how did I say “I am not suggesting that the manager needs to understand every technical detail” in the previous point?

Well, you have to do a few things concerning this predicament. First thing, trust the guy who says this can not be done, at the end of the day, you either show him how to do it or shut the fuck up and listen. Second thing, when you ask for a task, try to set down with the engineers, not supervise, but to learn. You have to learn, you are their manager, you have to set an example that you want to learn, you have to learn to lead, you have to learn to understand, you have to learn to judge. I am not saying you do that the whole day, but you need to set down and learn how to do the task you are asking for. So that later on, when another guy says it can not be done, you would say I can show you how, I bet you’d love to do that. But do not do that in a challenging way. Do that in a mentoring way, you sick bastard. Third thing, no one in the industry understands what needs to be done fully 100%, so don’t beat yourself up, you just have to do your homework and learn again and again.

Learn from your team and lead them

In order to lead, you need to have a vision. And to have a vision you need to have the knowledge. And to have the knowledge you need to have the skill to gather information. Whenever you ask an engineer for a task, you will have to have the vision of how he/she will get started, how to execute the task and how the end result should be.

If you can not have this vision, and you are somebody who asks people to get things done, please do humanity a favor and don’t be a manager.

Again, you don’t need to understand every little detail (yes, I am crazy), but you need to have a vision for every little task (start, middle, end).

Without this vision, it is a disaster. You spend the company money and driving it through a wall. Your team will hate you eventually. This lazy guy will find it an excuse to be lazier. This bully in the team will find it an opportunity to bully more people in the team.

But you ask me, what if I don’t know what needs to be done, you need to learn with the team. You need to learn from the team. You need to create this vision for the task before assigning it.

At the end of the day, you come up with a system to gather information, to build knowledge based on this information and from which you can create a vision. Easy?

Be true to yourself and your team

Often in the automotive industry particularly, you have a product that works, how? No one knows. The team who created it died and left you as a manager without documentation or good documentation. Now, you have a new team, and a customer wants to buy this great product but with a little change. OMG

Now, it is not your problem, it is a higher management problem but it is your job to lead that new team to adjust the product to the customer’s need.

Please, please, I beg you, you have to remember, it is not the team problem either that this product is not documented. Yes, they are getting paid to fix problems. But you need to go to the meeting room each day and tell your team “I am sorry that we are in this kind of position, it is not a problem we created, but it is a problem we need to fix”.

And I literally mean to do that each day. Why? Because of two things. Number one, you will forget about the cause of the problem and start blaming the engineers for every problem, and trust me, you will have plenty of them. Number two, you will create a sense of security to the engineer who is trying to fix some old shit to satisfy a customer and this engineer is afraid to be blamed for someone else fault.

So whenever there is a management problem, you need to admit that to your team. And even apologize for putting them in this kind of situation. More often than you think.

Acknowledge people and appreciate them

You will have to send “thank you” emails with cc’ing higher management every now and then. You will have to acknowledge the effort personally in meetings whenever this person has done good thing. And by thing, I mean little thing. People tend to be loyal to their employer when appreciated, people tend to be productive when considered. Don’t just celebrate the team achievement and think you have appreciated them. You have to be personal.

One more thing, don’t ask your team members to work on the weekend or do overtime while you don’t share that with them. You are the fucking leader. You have to be there first and ask them to help you if they can. Let them show you how to help them. You will have their admiration and ease the time spent at work.

Buy your team FOOD

This might sound silly but trust me it is effective. You will have a much productive team if you buy your team food. Why? Who doesn’t like free food!! When you buy your team food, you are doing the following:

1- You are creating a sense of family which in turn makes people loyal and caring.

2- You are emphasizing the idea of a leader by appreciating these people and their effort.

3- Giving people a moment to disconnect from their machines and actually talk to each other and socialize.

4- It will ease the atmosphere if there was tension between you and someone else in the team

5- It will ease the atmosphere if there was tension between the team individuals hence more productivity

I can go on with more positive points about why you should buy food every now and then to your team, but I guess you got my point.

So next time, buy pizza or ice cream and invite the team to it. Don’t just buy something and put it in between and ask people to come when ready. Ask people to take rest and come join you. But please don’t be a pain in the ass with this kid who doesn’t feel like eating or don’t want to embarrass you with your food choice. Just politely ask everyone to join but do not insist.

An employee problem is your freaking problem

At the end of the day, you don’t deliver shit. You are managing people to deliver something. Yes, it is your responsibility to deliver this product, but who is preparing the delivery, it is that poor engineer.

So if that engineer has a personal problem, it is your freaking problem.

If that engineer has a professional problem, it is your freaking problem.

If you can not solve your team problems, and you only suffice with the product problems, you are a stupid loser and I wish you hell.

If you have that employee who always complains that there is something wrong, and he/she is not happy, it is your problem. And you have to hear them, take an action and get feedback. Doing nothing about it, it will backfire in your face, stupid loser, at the end of the day.

Understand human psychology

Have you ever bought a new smartphone, computer, car, house or anything and you were very excited about at the beginning and then it became normal to use or have each day?

It is the same thing, by the way, when you have a new employee. In the beginning, they are excited. But after a while, they lose interest. They will get paid the same salary for months. So if you can not give a bonus every now and then, give them hope. Give them something to learn. Give them a clear path of growth. Do not give promises that you don’t keep. Let them see clear future with you. If they don’t know where they are going, the very next stop will be the end of their contract with you. People need hope. Make sure you give your team hope for a better clear future.

Be wise, wisdom is the way.

I don’t really understand managers who threaten their employees or escalate them to higher management with stupid cold emails for a missing meeting or not being on time.

You need to understand why this employee is doing a certain behavior. You need to ask yourself a genuine question, how does that behavior affect the workflow? does it actually affect the workflow? Or am I just following a stupid rule without understanding?

If this employee has a reason or simply that is how he/she comfortable and this doesn’t affect the workflow, then let him/her be.

If you came to the conclusion that this behavior will have bad effect on the workflow, you need to talk to this guy, not once, or 2 times or 3 times. But as many times as you need. And you need to do that in a way that doesn’t hurt this person’s pride as much as possible. And be friendly, show how much you care for them, do that many times. Don’t just give up on this person and let your ego tells you “I am the manager here, and this is a stubborn person who doesn’t want to listen”

Let me tell you something I hope you understand. And that is actually why this is the only way to correct someone’s behavior. The moment you threaten or escalate one of the employees, you have lost them forever. And it is just a matter of time until they leave or put you or the company in big trouble.

SO, please be wise.

One last thing, the most valuable asset in any company is the people. You only lose when the number of people who works with you decreases. And you win, when you find ways to hire more people and create a healthy environment.

I can write more and more. Please don’t be a manager from hell, be someone who people are glad to have as a leader. At the end of the day, you don’t know how these people live their lives. You can be either that light that guides them or that one more horrible thing to add on top of the list.

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