By Tom Wittman - Apr 1, 2018

As seen on:

Leadership and management, while quite different, go hand in hand.

Management activities focus on coordinating and developing resources to produce a desired result.

Leadership activities focus on influencing people in a way that inspires them to become better versions of themselves.

I experienced this for the first time while working at Barker's Mobile, a full service gas and auto repair station in Speedway, Indiana. Terri Barker was the owner.

First day on the job, Terri put his Manager’s Hat on and told me how he expected me to behave, what he expected me to do, taught me to do it and defined what results he expected from my efforts.

My schedule was to clean the bathrooms, sweep the bays, take out the trash and sweep the lot by 4:30 (after school).

Then, attend to the full service gas pump island. Ask, “how can I help you?” with a smile on my face, fuel the vehicles and wash the windshields. Check the oil, tire pressure, wiper blades, headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals and air filters. Offer to replace, clean or repair anything needing attention, collect for services rendered and wish them a “Great day.”

At 7:30 pm I was to take inventory of the quarts of oil, headlights, taillights, turn signal lights, tires and wiper blades. Then, complete the daily inventory report and put it on his desk. Next, close out the cash drawer and deposit the locked cash bag into the safe. By 8:30 we would “lock up the shop.” He even allowed me to build out my 1970 ½ Chevy Camaro after hours…

Terri would start his day by reviewing how much product was sold compared to deposits. This was his way of determining if we were doing our job.

Two weeks into the job, Terri put a 20-dollar bill in my locker with a note that said, “Keep up the good work.” In 1980, that was a lot of money for a 16-year-old kid!

One day, I came into work not feeling well so I went through the day doing as little as possible. The next day, I got away with doing even less. No one seemed to care; No one said anything to me and as such I thought it was ok … so I continued to just get through the day.

A few days later I found a note in my locker from Terri asking me to meet him in his office at 5:30.

When I walked into his office, Terri put his Leadership Hat on. He stood up, shook my hand and started asking questions about me: How is school? Everything ok at home? Are you going to try out for the football team this spring? He seemed genuinely interested in me…

After he was satisfied that I was ok, the conversation turned towards performance at work.

“Tom, I’m confused. We pumped roughly 1,000 gallons of gasoline from your full service island. That equates to about 50 vehicles during your shift.

“How is it that none of those vehicle needed oil, headlights, brake or turn signal lights? Oil changes or tires? Air filters or a tune-up?”

I was speechless. Didn't know what to say. Terri just stared at me without saying a word, waiting for me to answer his question. Fifteen seconds of silence felt like 15 minutes. I finally found the courage to say, “Sir, I haven’t been feeling well for a couple of days and forgot to do those other things.”

Terri replied, “Well, what do we need to do about this?”

Once again, I was forced to say something about my behavior… “It won’t happen again. I’ll get back to doing what I need to do.”

Then Terri asked me a really tough question: “What can you tell me right now that would make me believe that your telling me the truth?”

I was petrified. What could I say?

Finally, I realized that there was nothing I could say. So I replied, “Well, I guess I’ll just have to make sure it won’t happen again.”

Then Terri said, “You understand the consequences, right?”

“Yes, sir,” I replied.

“Tom, I like you. You are a good young man. Let’s get back to work.”

Two weeks later, I found another $20in my locker with a note that said, “Keep up the good work.” Those $20 bills kept coming every two weeks for the time I worked at Barker’s Mobile as long as results exceeded expectations.

What a great example of the delicate balance between managing and leading.

As a manager, Terri taught me how to perform a well-defined process and held me accountable to complete each task in a fashion that delivered a predictable result (daily). That's what good managers do.

As a leader, Terri made me think about my behavior and influenced me to become a better employee. He also recognized and appreciated a job well done. That's what great Leaders do. They focus on influencing people in a way that inspires them to become better versions of themselves.


Tom Wittman

Owner – HVAC Coaching Corner, President – Pro Comfort

Tom Wittman has been an HVAC Speaker, Instructor, and hands-on/on-site implementation specialist for over 16 years. He has helped countless HVAC professionals transition from the “daily grind”, to designing a life and HVAC Business that is consistent, predictable and scalable.

Tom has held many positions in the HVAC Industry; from Installer and Service Technician, to Comfort Advisor and Sales & Service Manager. As a General Manager of a large HVAC company, Tom lead his team to transition the business from 80% RNC to 70% Residential replacement, and improved net profitability from mid-range single digits to solid double-digits, all within three years.

With an HVAC bachelor’s degree and a residential and commercial contracting license under his belt, Tom keeps his eye on the industry by partially maintaining ownership of several select organizations. This insures that what he teaches and advises is relevant, practical and actually works.