Life Coach Uses Different Approaches to Help Auto Body Shop Techs, Owners, Managers

Claudia Morgillo helps body shop professionals succeed in an ever-changing industry.

Claudia Morgillo has multiple titles, including certified professional leadership coach and trainer. She and her husband own six Fix Auto locations in the Ontario, Canada, area, two Novus glass companies and a centralized head office.

As a woman and a leader, what communication and other skills you've developed over the years to be a manager in a male-dominated industry?

I have developed a lot of processing modalities, including learning how to communicate, train and motivate the people that I work with while being a female in this industry. I think as a woman, knowing how to communicate with different people in general is a real plus.

My dad has been in the industry for almost 50 years and he introduced it to me; I followed him around at a young age and later worked alongside him in his jobber business.

At this point, I've been in collision repair for more than 25 years. Thirteen years ago, my husband, Claudio Chiodo, and I purchased our first body shop, and have grown from that point on.

How do you motivate your people? Do you take different approaches with each person?

Four main groups are impacting our industry---Generation Z, ages 7-22 (born between 1997 and 2021); Millennials, ages 23-38 (born between 1981 and 1996); Generation X, ages 39-54 (born between 1965 and 1980); and our Boomers, ages 55-73 (born between 1946 and 1964).

I went back to school and earned a lot of different training and coaching certifications to help and support my teams through the real challenges our industry was facing.

In the end, it comes down to attaining the right skills to motivate people in general. For instance, how do you create buy-in, build comfort and trust, and all those things? So, I went back to learn how to build and use the tools needed for these essential skills and, most notably, the neuroscience behind them.

I became a professional coach and a leadership trainer to motivate all these people individually. Every person requires a different approach, so if you try to treat everyone the same, it will likely fail. I have developed tools that are tried, tested and true. But in the end, it comes down to peoples’ motivations and how they feel appreciated. How do they understand caring, because everybody understands caring differently?

Everybody's going to respond to buy-in in their own way, so how do I create that for them? That's my approach---it's individualized and that's why I went back to school to find out about how I can achieve that for all these people. I've been doing that for more than five years now full-time within my organization and for external clients as well.

I have also been working closely with David Luehr at Elite Body Shop Solutions, as well as different industry leaders, and owners of other shops to help them identify and build their skills and grow into being an MSO or whatever they'd like to do.

What are your three main concerns about the collision repair industry?

Everyone is talking about supply chain issues, hiring and retaining good people, and how to fix today’s sophisticated vehicles. My perspective on this is that it will always come back to people.

Years ago, someone shared an equation with me that said, “Process plus people equals profits.” I thought, what does that really mean?

So, the process part is self-explanatory, right? We're always constantly looking at process building and tweaking processes, but what are people doing about that?

You never get to check the box because it's all about training, retraining and retaining people in this industry. Where are their mindsets for them? Do they want to be retrained and stay in our industry?

So, my concerns will always come back to what we need to do to find, hire and train all of these people and keep them motivated. Because as much as we want to continue moving forward and pursue all of these new advancements being thrown at us, we can't just tell people they need to move forward.

It's about how do we support these people to do these things? That's always my main concern---the people part of it. How do we keep them engaged and interested in training that’s changing with the times and still be motivated without getting exhausted? That is my concern for this industry because everything else seems to fall into place if we can do that.

How can you help shop owners and managers to retain their workers with poaching rampant in some areas of the country?

I tell people it all starts with leadership, including self-leadership. So, we are ideally going out into the world and showing other people what we’d like them to see and know about us, which of course, takes a lot of self awareness to be developed. If we can't lead ourselves, we can’t effectively lead others.

So that’s why I help and support shop owners and managers by showing them how to lead themselves appropriately. People want to work for empowered leaders and learn from them. If you’re leading by example, your people will follow you through good times and bad times.

The main causes of stress are often due to a lack of skills in those areas. For instance, weak time management skills are often a result of poor self-regulation and awareness. In my opinion, productivity is most often affected by gaps in someone’s communication skills.

Those things get in people's way, sometimes regarding attitude and knowing how you show up in the world. How do you turn someone’s perspective around when things are getting hard? Because we all get there eventually, but how we choose to go forward can make or break an entire day for some shops.

So, it's about creating that self-awareness and giving them tools they can put in their toolbox so that when they do get in the thick of it, they will be OK to get through successfully.

Why do some shops excel and others struggle?

I think it pretty much goes into that same sentiment, that some shops struggle because of culture and a lack of self-awareness. I feel it always comes back to culture. You can have all the OEM certifications and DRP relationships you like within your business, but if your team doesn’t know your organization’s “why,” they will sometimes struggle to understand “why” they are doing what they are doing every day, week, month and year alongside you.

That's trouble if they don't know why they're there and the culture isn't being solidified. They know what they're there to do and nothing more; that is where you run into gaps.

I can see that some shops struggle because they don't have the shop’s culture on their radar and don't know what they don't know. So, they don't even know what is not working because they don't even know what to look for.

Ideally, we need to ask some basic questions. How do we communicate with each other? How do we want to communicate with each other going forward? Why do “we” choose to repair cars as a career? Do we feel like a team? What does our ideal team look and feel like?

These are just some of the possible empowering questions we ask our teams to help support and build better cultures within our organizations.

Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist and Autobody News columnist based in San Francisco.

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