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Now is Not the Time to be Set in Our Ways

After the past year, the aftermarket must push against the tendency to fight change now more than ever

Many years ago, my eighth-grade teacher Sister Bernadine told me that she wanted to speak to me after class. Of course, I wondered how much trouble I was in! After all my classmates left the room she asked me to sit next to her desk.

“John, I like that you ask questions in class and that you’re a very curious student,” and then she went on to say, “Remember, real learning takes place in the questions. Always stay curious and learn — promise me that you will honor my request.”

“Of course,” I had replied, and because of that, still to this day, I remain as such. 

John Passante

To those of us who work in the automotive aftermarket and ask how will the industry change after the experience of the last 18 months, there are a number of considerations. Will we be able to bring a different perspective to the workplace? Will we have a greater appreciation for ourselves, co-workers, customers, vendors and channel partners? Will we work to maintain a positive attitude? 

All those all can be answered by looking at our curiosity. When we are curious we make better choices, improve company performance, and adapt to changing market conditions, pressure and stress. Discouragement will fall by the wayside and innovations become the result of our curiosity. Curiosity helps us think more deeply, it makes us ask the question “Why not?” and lights the fires of creativity. 

Curiosity builds relationships and makes all of us better, as well as more collaborative with our colleagues. It enhances all jobs, and has a positive effect — because it lends us to generate alternatives, and allows new ideas to be found.

New ideas can be fun! I am curious to see if individuals are more open-minded; if they display a willingness to learn; and share what they have learned in the past 18 months, and not shy away from asking questions. Are they able to stay curious? 

Now is not the time to be set in our ways — we are all here to push against the tendency to fight change. Curiosity is the desire to obtain knowledge. Take a moment to think about this, as our future depends on it. We are happier when we remain curious. It motivates us and excites us; it helps us grow both professionally and personally. When we are curious, we tend to listen better. 

Question yourself and ask, “Have I learned to listen better in the last 18 months? Do I have more empathy? Am I more human? Can I acknowledge that I am not perfect, and recognize neither are my associates?”

If you can answer those questions honestly and remain curious, you will come to the realization that it is OK if you are still working on them and will eventually find your own answers. Curiosity is good for our brains, it stimulates us. Curiosity is a form of exercise for the brain and helps keep it in shape. 

Is your organization curious? Are you looking at your life and your industry through different lenses? Use those new lenses to view challenges as opportunities and seek a deeper understanding of others as well as yourself.

A curious mindset makes work and life more interesting and makes us better leaders, not to mention helps keep us younger! Curiosity is the main reason we have advances in science and medicine — and yes, the aftermarket. 

Our mission is to use our curiosity and experiences of the past 18 months to become better leaders and strive to be more approachable and open minded. Curiosity is a strength that guides us like a compass to wisdom and knowledge, as well as its capacity to foster a passion for learning.

Our children are living examples of the power of curiosity and can teach us the way. Curiosity can and does reduce conflict. As we all endured the past year, it encourages us to share our concerns and rely on each other more. 

Albert Einstein said, “ I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious.” In the new normal, being curious has helped us become better problem solvers. It is safe to say that 2020 taught us a lesson in humility, we know that we do not have all the answers and need each other now more than ever.

This is the time for leaders to allay the fears and concerns of employees, clients, and suppliers. To be upfront and curious about how people feel, take the time to learn more about those around you. Today, more than ever, relationships should be the number one priority. 

Company cultures need to be more agile. Building flexibility into all facets of your business is an advantage during challenging and changing times. Remember to swear by the power of teamwork, in the truest sense of the word.

In final analysis “People are the answer,” business and life are a team sport. Let all of us stay curious together and leave a positive mark on our industry. 


Dr. John Passante is president and CEO of The Organizational Development Group, Inc. He has more than 35 years experience in human resources, sales and marketing, and organizational development. Passante’s book, “The Human Side, High Touch Leadership in a High Touch World,” is available for $19.50. Checks can be sent to: The Organizational Development Group. 10 Anoka Ave., Barrington, RI. 02806. There is no charge for postage.

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