Four Essential Strategies to Help Build a High-Performing Team

team at the top of a mountain

Years back, conventional thinking said to separate your home life from your career. The phrase, “Leave your problems at the doorstep” was often communicated by managers and business owners. However, the reality is that this mindset is nearly impossible to achieve. Another unfortunate reality is that many managers and shop owners today still hold on to this potentially damaging philosophy.  

Let’s examine a real-life situation. A technician wakes up early and discovers that his three-year-old daughter is sick again. She’s been fighting a chronic breathing issue and recently spent two nights in the hospital. He speaks with his wife, and they decide that their daughter needs to see a specialist. They hope that it’s not anything serious, but the anxiety and stress settle deep in their hearts and in their minds.  

Let me ask you, when this technician arrives at work, can he dismiss these feelings? Is there an emotional switch he can turn off that allows him to fully focus on his work that day? We all know that this is not possible. But allow me to put it another way, do you want someone working for you who can easily turn off their emotions, and not worry about their sick child?  

In a perfect world, your employees will come to work each day with the enthusiasm and the passion to perform at a high level. Success through teamwork, where everyone is fully committed to the mission and vision of the company, is what every shop owner should strive for. However, there will always be one component to this strategy that shop owners need to consider, and that is that every employee has a life outside their career.  

So, how do auto shop owners promote an employee work/life balance while building a well-honed team performing consistently at high levels? They achieve this by understanding their role as the company leader, and by respecting and recognizing the personal needs of each employee. In this blog, I will give you four essential strategies to help build a high-performing team by applying the essential skills of compassion, empathy, and building relationships.  


Motivate and Inspire Through Compassion and Respect

Being an effective leader has many definitions. However, the goal of any leader is to find how to motivate and inspire others. Effective leaders don’t demand that employees buy-in to their ways of doing things, that’s called compliance. True leaders strive for believe-in, where employees trust and follow their leader because they are aligned with the goals, vision, and mission of the company.  

Effective leaders understand that everyone has a life beyond their job. Getting to know more about the personal needs of your employees shows that you, their leader, have respect for others. Showing respect earns respect in return. True leaders also have compassion and develop empathy for others, a key component in building a strong team environment.  

People will experience ups and downs in their life. Every day will not be a walk in the park. When shop owners seek to understand the personal needs of their employees, everyone takes notice of this. This sends a message that the boss isn’t only interested in the bottom line, but a leader who puts people before profit.  

Remember, as a shop owner, you don’t want buy-in from your employees, you want believe-in. When employees believe in you, they become more loyal. Compliance is not lasting, believe-in is.


Build Relationships with Your Employees

People often say that a boss or a manager can’t be friends with their employees. I disagree. A strong working relationship is one of the foundational building blocks of a strong workplace culture. This does not mean that shop owners need to spend time on the weekends or holidays with their employees. But it does mean that the wall that many bosses put between them, and their employees, is not healthy in the long term.  

Being friendly and building relationships shows employees that you are a person too, and not just their boss. Sharing experiences, especially those outside the business, builds a bond and allows you and your employees to cultivate a strong team concept. This concept will also help align the goals of your employees with company goals, a powerful motivator.  



MBWA is an acronym for “Management By Walking Around”. It’s a concept that was written about in a book by Tom Peters, titled “In Search of Excellence.”  It simply means that the shop owner or manager must get out of their office, walk the facility floor, and engage in meaningful conversations with the employees. Those conversations may include business-related discussions, but more importantly, the purpose of MBWA is to engage in conversations that have nothing to do with business or their specific job role. For example, when walking on the shop floor, stop and ask technicians and service advisors about their weekend, or if they have plans for the upcoming weekend or holiday. This tells your team that you value them as a person too, and not just as an employee. 


Look for Clues

When you build strong relationships with your employees and engage in conversations other than business-related issues, you will be able to pick up clues when something isn’t right. An employee’s body language and facial expressions will give you valuable insight. Look for these clues. Approach your employees and let them know that you sense that something is wrong. Many employees may not open up to you, and that’s ok. Showing empathy shows you respect them and their personal space. 

Most employees want to do their job well, and they know that whatever is going on in their personal life, may be affecting their ability to perform their work at the level they know they can. When employees realize that you understand this, and you give them the space to work through the issue, this will help the process, lower stress, and you will gain an increased level of loyalty from your entire team.



The key thing to remember here is that while people may have difficult days that may affect their performance, how you react as the leader is a key component of how that employee reacts to their position and responsibilities. Your empathy and understanding will have a positive impact on how they bounce back after the crisis is over. Understanding the personal needs of the individual will also spread to other employees, building a strong team spirit. You will find that the other employees will bump up their game to maintain overall performance and production levels.  

At Elite, one of our core principles is “Never putting money ahead of people.” This essential core belief is integrated at every level of what we do, from our service advisor training, business management training, peer groups, and the way we coach shop owners. Putting people before profit does not sacrifice success, it promotes greater success by instilling a culture of shared values and team spirit.  


Headshot of Joe Marconi

About the authorJoe Marconi – With over four decades of industry expertise, Joe is a seasoned professional whose accomplishments include owning and operating one of America’s most successful auto repair companies. A graduate of the Automotive Management Institute, Joe is a recipient of the CARQUEST Excellence Award, served on industry panels, and played a role in developing the ASE Engine Performance Certification test. As a former columnist for Ratchet & Wrench Magazine and co-founder of, Joe has been a keynote speaker at the Ratchet and Wrench Conference. After selling his automotive company in 2021, Joe now dedicates his time to giving back to the industry as a Top Shop 360 Business Development Coach with Elite Worldwide and serves on the board of directors for the Service Stations Dealers of Great New York. Joe, a Bronx native now residing in Patterson, New York, enjoys family time, community involvement, and pursuits such as tennis, golf, and woodworking.

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