It’s the Manager

Written by Dave Rothacker

“…People leave managers, not companies.” – First, Break All The Rules, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, 1999

First, Break All The Rules is based on research conducted by the Gallup Organization. Starting in the early 1970s and continuing for over twenty years, they interviewed or surveyed one-million employees and eighty-thousand managers.

Gallup never took its foot off the accelerator. Today, the organization has more data and insights on the attitudes and behavior of employees, customers, students, and citizens than any other organization in the world. 

Based on all of that research and experience, Gallup’s Chairman and CEO, Jim Clifton and its Chief Scientist Jim Harter, released the book It’s The Manager, this year. 

“Of all the codes Gallup has been asked to crack dating back eighty years to our founder, George Gallup, the single most profound, distinct and clarifying finding – ever – is probably this one: 70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager.”

For twenty years, I’ve been saying that First, Break All The Rules is the best book on management I’ve ever read. Today, while still relevant, it’s number two. My number one book is It’s The Manager!


HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical and Remodeling Industries

We take our best-performing technician, plumber, electrician, and or installer out of the truck and make them a manager. “Here’s the key to the building. Here are your business cards. Good luck.” Other than the fact that your top-producing coworker is no longer in the field, what could possibly go wrong?


Management is evolving. Are you?

Let’s travel back in time to the 1950s. You just landed a job with Fred’s Furnaces. Fred spent time and money training you on the installation and care of gravity furnaces. You blossom into a superior craftsman. Technology changes over the years, however, and you don’t keep up. How effective can you be?

The same is true for management. One of today’s gravity furnaces is the dreaded, archaic, and mind-numbing coworker annual review. Are you still doing those?


What has changed?

The workforce is changing. In addition to Generation Y (millennials), we now have Generation Z, those born after 1997, graduating from college and joining the workforce. Although I am a Baby Boomer, I share many of the Gen-Y beliefs, and they were my beliefs before Gen-Yers were born. For this reason and others, I am not fond of grouping ideals, beliefs, and behaviors by age and applying a label to them. 

Gallup describes Generations Y and Z as the drivers of change. I am going to call it the new workforce. 


It Starts with the CEO / Owner

If you’re interested in jettisoning gravity furnace management culture from your business and embracing 21st-century management culture, the change in beliefs must start with you the CEO / owner. 

The next level involves changing manager’s beliefs and then finally how these managers develop their coworkers.


Gallup has discovered these six major changes: 

  • The new workforce will not just work for a paycheck, they want a purpose
  • They no longer pursue job satisfaction, they are pursuing development
  • The new workforce does not want bosses. They want coaches
  • They do not want annual reviews, they want ongoing conversations
  • The new workforce doesn’t want a manager who fixates on their weaknesses
  • They do not view it as their job, it’s their life


The authors break this change down under these main topics:

Strategy – Inspirational messages are important. But they’ll have no significant impact unless leaders build a strategy to bring multiple teams together and make great decisions.

Culture – Your organization’s culture has a direct measurable impact on performance.

Employment Brand – With social media and instant communication your organization’s reputation travels much more quickly now than in the past.

Boss to Coach – A culture of high employee development is the most productive environment for both your business and your employees.

The Future of Work – Diversity, digitization, mobile technology, remote work, artificial intelligence, and the demand for workplace flexibility blazon in change.


Leading With Strengths

For years Gallup has been teaching companies to lead with their strengths. Back in 2001, they published Now, Discover Your Strengths, a book that describes 34 strength themes. They’ve continued to hone their message and program. Today it’s known as CliftonStrengths, in honor of Donald O. Clifton, a psychologist, the godfather of the strengths assessment movement and one of the authors of Now, Discover Your Strengths

It’s the Manager authors devote a section of the book to identifying and elaborating on each of the 34 themes. They provide tips for leading with the theme and tips for leading others who are strong in that theme.

There is an access code, located in the back of the book, to take a free CliftonStrengths assessment. 

One of our local banks in Tampa, which is one of the nation’s largest full-service providers of consumer and commercial banking, is using the Gallup methodologies and in particular, leading with strengths. Each employee has a laminated strengths card on their desk for their coworkers to see and perhaps as conversation starters for their customers.  


It’s a Reference Manual

It’s the Manager is not designed to be read cover to cover. Simply review the book’s topics, which I list above, and choose the one that’s cutting off your oxygen and making your face blue. The brevity and conciseness of each chapter allows the reader a quick understanding and provides an actionable direction. 

 People are leaving managers. Hopefully, they’re not yours!


Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service to see if there are Success Days in your area!

The IAQ Silver Bullet or Not

Written by Steve Mores

I recently spoke with a contractor who asked what appeared to be a simple question: “Don’t you guys have a ‘question sheet’ that I can give my techs to ask homeowners and generate interest in IAQ products?”

Well, yes, we have specific questions to ask, but it’s not that simple. We don’t have a “question sheet”, but we train on how and when to get into the IAQ conversation with a homeowner. I’m not sure if I would create this sheet without the technician understanding when, how, and why to ask the questions. Asking IAQ inquiry questions at the wrong time could work against them. It is critical first to train technicians on the anatomy of a service/maintenance call that walks them through a process from where they park their truck and why through to the final paperwork.

Since my field of expertise is IAQ, I am going to address this from an HVAC IAQ perspective. These concepts and processes can be applied to water treatment and other accessory sales as well.

Most of the companies we have trained and worked with over the past 30 years have a similar process that the technician follows during the call. So, I won’t detail it here, but a brief outline goes something like this:

  • Call preparation checklist
  • Park your truck appropriately
  • Meet and greet
  • Thermostat conversation with a transitional question to the maintenance or diagnostic stage
  • Discoveries and homeowner involvement
  • Options for the fix, repair, or replace
  • Final approval from the homeowner and paperwork
  • Replace the part, install the accessory, and/or set the replacement lead

Yes, this varies from contractor to contractor (technician to technician), but that’s the basics. Now the question becomes, “When do I bring up IAQ and how do I generate interest?” This is where many technicians struggle. They understand the technology, for the most part, yet they typically don’t know how to take technical IAQ information and relay it to the homeowner in layman’s terms. Getting too technical will confuse the homeowner, and confused consumers won’t buy. When you bring up IAQ at the wrong time during the call, it puts the homeowner in the defensive mode of “You’re always trying to sell me something!”

It is key to your technicians’ success to train them on “how and when” to bring up IAQ challenges and solutions during the anatomy of a service/maintenance call. And it starts when the technician has evidence of a challenge. This visual evidence is best done when they pull out the blower wheel, wipe a couple of fins with an IAQ swab (baby wipe), and then ask the questions that lead to interest:

“Would it be OK if I showed you a better filter than the one you are currently using to prevent this from happening again?”

The EPA and other studies report that 1/20 of an inch of dust on a cooling or heating coil reduces its efficiency by 21%. A technician must understand that the coil doesn’t have to be caked with dirt and dust to reduce its efficiency. A light dusting will have a substantial effect that can be explained to the homeowner in layman’s terms while showing the visual evidence and explaining the studies.

Most technicians do not like to sell. Yet, they want to service the customer and fix things. Through proper technical IAQ training, a technician understands what the IAQ product is, how it works, and why we promote IAQ. It builds confidence for the technician and value for the homeowner, which gives them a reason to buy. Understanding what the product is and how it works is important so that a technician believes in the product. Promoting the why is an important value building tool that gives the homeowner that reason to buy.

So, if there is dirt/dust accumulation in the HVAC system, WHAT’S BROKEN? The filter is broken! So, train them on how not to “sell” air cleaners and UV systems, but how to FIX the problem with IAQ product solutions. When you train a technician on these studies, identify visual challenges, and involve the homeowner, it satisfies their need to fix things, while not forcing them to sell. The dividends paid here are increased average tickets while promoting IAQ solutions that fulfill the homeowner’s desire to protect their equipment and their family’s health.

Yes, IAQ product solutions can improve allergy symptoms, prevent asthma attacks, and control other health ailments as well. But that’s not what you should lead with, nor is it what a technician is comfortable discussing. Start with the equipment concerns first to fit into the initial reason for the call and stay in the technician’s comfort zone, and then ask the question:

“Who in your family suffers from allergies or asthma?”

When you ask this question before any shown challenges during the diagnostic or maintenance stage, it puts the technician in selling mode while the homeowner wonders why they would ask this in the first place. Once evidence is discovered that the filter is not doing what it is supposed to do (prevent dirt and dust inside the system), then it’s appropriate to ask the allergy/asthma question. The same dust in the system is also airborne and can be the cause of these health challenges. Then the tech can transition into the discussion of germs and gases that are in the air with UV light product solutions.

While this may not have been the silver bullet that you were looking for, I can tell you that after training thousands of technicians, the best IAQ sellers are not salesy folks at all. They just follow a process and take the fix it approach.

If you want your technicians to successfully promote IAQ product solutions, have them become a FIX IT STAR by following the process that the highest performing technicians hold themselves accountable to. This process can be summed up with this acronym: F.I.X.I.T. S.T.A.R.S. It follows the process and sequence of working the call.

F – Find the challenge (dirty blower wheel, coils, secondary heat exchanger, ducts)

S – Show them the problem

I – Involve the homeowner

       T – Tell them what you’re seeing and how it affects the equipment and their health

X – Explain to them through EPA and other third party quotes how this is verified

A – Ask questions at the right time during this process

I – Improve system performance and health effects with IAQ package options

       R – Review the information with the homeowner

T – Transition into the four product option packages with a fifth option which is, they can do nothing.

S – Solution options are presented to the homeowner so they can choose the one that best fits their budget and needs (or opts to do nothing)

Train your technicians on the technical aspects of IAQ products, teach them how and when to communicate IAQ, teach the WHY, and then hold them accountable to this process. These ARE your silver bullets.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These group of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service to see if there are Success Days in your area!