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4 Steps + 60 Days = Fahrenheit 451

By Chris Clovis

Chris Clovis Blog“A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man's mind.” — Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

“If you want to make enemies, try to change something.” — Woodrow Wilson

60 Days. That’s the minimum period a new activity must be repeated in order to become habit. Eating vegetables, jogging, quitting smoking, whatever — if one is to attempt behavioral change, that change must be forced for at least two months to stick.

When training and developing people, your greatest obstacle is the adult’s relentless dependency on its existing modus operandi — the manner in which they’ve always approached a task. We all solve problems based on personal experience and what we’ve learned over time. This acquired history becomes the quick-response blueprint our minds use when asked to accomplish something.

Think of an adult’s modus operandi as their personal “Chilton’s Guide” — a well-worn shop manual of solutions with dog-eared pages that an experienced mechanic uses to instantly find answers and instructions when faced with a task. Like a good mechanic, employees all have their very own “Chilton’s,” which they draw upon quickly and efficiently.

Here’s the problem: what if every mechanic on earth wrote his or her own unique shop manuals? Your repair facility would have technicians relying solely upon individual notebooks rather than manufacturer specifications and instructions.

Those personal “Chilton’s Guides” are what your team is using, being unable to access any other source.

Not only does this cause friction — as one manual conflicts with another — but it prevents any improvement. If your goal is to develop employees who constantly improve — to become better and smarter — personal “Chilton’s Guides” must be burned. Employees must be compelled into new methods and strategies, forced for at least sixty days. That is the bare minimum required to change adult behavior.

How often have you committed your store to a strategic change after attending a powerful seminar or reading a great article? You launched that exciting initiative, swearing your store would adopt new methodology and really change. It starts out strong — meetings are held; methods adopted; protocols announced. Then after a time, it fades as more “pressing” issues conflict with the plan. Meetings get pushed back; reports don’t get updated; and the whole idea slowly disappears until forgotten. This same pattern repeats in every company, large and small. Why is it so hard to affect lasting change?

Even when adults say they want change, most often they really don’t. We are all heavily invested in how we do things, committed the status quo, as part of our personal value system. When we really do want change, it’s extremely tough. To paraphrase Mike Tyson, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. As daily fires erupt, we immediately revert to our modus operandi, or our “Chilton’s Guide,” for solutions. This pushes us to react and respond in the manner we’re used to, with no change in activity, tactics, or behavior.

So how do we burn the personal “Chilton’s Guides”?

  1. Money: It’s near impossible to affect long-term behavioral change without financial consequence. Just demanding can create short-term impact, but employees must see financial benefit to leave their comfort zone and commit. Build your compensation plans around the activity you want, based on merit pay, in order to get results.
  2. Example: Paying someone to change their approach and activity should be enough, right? Unfortunately, no. By simply changing comp plans, you’ll get employees who conduct their jobs the same, just complain more. The merit pay will be something that “happens to them” rather than something within their control. To change behavior you must first set an example. Your team must see the change in you and the behavior you demonstrate before they will attempt it themselves.
  3. Expectations: Once you’ve set your team’s merit pay based upon the activity you want, set expectations. Inspect what you expect, holding your employees accountable for the actions you require and the tactics you’ve set. Measure, observe, reward, encourage and report. Your folks must understand what is expected of them and how you will measure it. The moment you stop holding your people accountable, they will immediately revert to their old behavior, opening up their personal “Chilton’s Guides” again.
  4. Discipline: Without discipline, you will never affect change. Executing a new strategy, method, or protocol takes unstoppable determination, driven home each day, until it becomes engrained in your business’ culture. This discipline starts at the top. If you want to start sales meetings every Monday, you’d better hold one every single Monday, no matter how busy you get, how sick your kid is, or how challenging to religiously maintain. Your team is waiting for that new idea to fade away; they’ve learned that if they just wait a while, you’ll slack off, and things will go back to the way it’s always been. Once they acknowledge that new programs will be relentlessly pursued without fail, they will realize they must change too.

During your next 20-group meeting, when the brilliant idea that could really impact your store hits you, remember the challenge of changing adult behavior. Don’t roll out anything unless you’re prepared for the effort required. Pick your battles, and decide what changes are worth the money, example, expectation and discipline. Then don’t make a move until you’re ready to burn those “Chilton’s.” Bottom line: You must be more invested in the change than your team is invested in the status quo.

Leave the “Chilton’s Guides” where they belong — on the shelf of your service department. Burn the ones in your employees’ heads. After 60 days, feel free to put down the flamethrower.

Ride On,


Chris Clovis has had the honor and pleasure of 25 years in the Powersports Industry, currently serving as vice-president of Eaglerider Motorcycle Sales [www.eaglerider.com]. Although a mediocre mechanic, Chris has a lifelong respect for the real “Chilton’s” shop manuals. Chris’ opinions are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of his employer or clients. Chris lives in Los Angeles with his family. Visit www.chrisclovis.com for more information.

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