Keeping machines operating is relatively simple. They require regular upkeep and maintenance, they need fuel, and they need to be in optimal working condition to bring in the most profit. To keep this gear moving, companies will spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars training their employees on equipment operation and maintenance. But why do they not devote the same resources to those who manage people?
This is a question that Linda and Tery Tennant asked and answered at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017, delving into the importance of understanding how people respond to leadership and how to deliver it in the most ideal way. As Tery put it:
Would you put somebody out on an expensive piece of equipment that they’d never operated before? Of course not. If you think about it, what’s your most valuable asset? People. Just look at your payroll. So now you’re putting people in positions to be responsible for your most valuable asset without formal leadership training. Ask yourself, is that right?
What Can Go Wrong
The symptoms of untrained leadership present themselves quickly. These include:
- Dependence on technical ability
- Fear of delegating
- Fear of leaving the team unsupervised
- Endlessly solving problems instead of addressing root causes
Essentially, an unqualified leader behaves more like a member of the team with disproportionate responsibilities than a boss, and this can lead to a disruptive decline in productivity.
Key ways to break this cycle can come from a leaders’ internal reflection. For example, differences in motivation can play a big role in ineffective leadership, and it remains up to that leader to alter their approach and realize what drives their team. Similarly, leaders need to realize their role is to accomplish takes through their employees, not over or in spite of them. Tery talks about the infamous “workaround,” whereby a hesitant leader avoids addressing performance problems with a certain employee and instead cuts them out of the process entirely. This robs the employee of a learning opportunity and hurts the workflow hierarchy.
Focus on Top Priorities
The goal for a leader is just that: goals. By delegating smaller tasks to employees, leaders are then free to focus on big picture issues and what Linda calls “payoff tasks,” areas that leaders spend 80 percent of their time focusing energy. By honing in on a key group of tasks that do the most for a business (that cannot be delegated), a leader can achieve more effective in their role as a manager of workplace trajectory.
Leaders, as Linda points out, tend to have enormous difficulty with delegating, finding control over smaller tasks a difficult thing to give away. To combat this, delegation plans can help rationalize what feels like a loss of power and certainty. This involves writing which employees would excel at which tasks and how useful the now available time would be to the leader, making the delegation seem as enticing as it should.
Be Tough but Fair
Ultimately, effective leadership comes down to functioning roles, dynamics of communication and power being used properly. Where the power of authority can lead to hesitation, ineffective leaders will often blur the lines of leadership in an attempt to relieve the pressure to lead. Leaders should be friendly, but not “friends” with their employees, to maintain a healthy workplace hierarchy.
Equally as crucial is to be proactive in fostering positive workplace development. Promoting a culture of honest communication is possible through habits like:
- Praising publicly and critiquing privately
- Addressing behavior issues quickly
- Addressing root causes, not surface manifestations
- Holding employees as accountable as they hold their leaders
But Don’t Forget To Be Human
The final key might be the most important: go with the flow. Acknowledging mistakes and continuing to learn from others on how to improve are two major keys to becoming a better boss, according to Forbes.com. Additionally, selflessness and trustworthiness are two top qualities to have, a solid reminder that leaders should feel a desire to serve those they lead. Leading is both simultaneously a step into the future and a glance into the past, always looking to take employees somewhere better but ensuring they are secure and supported.
Leading becomes more about resources than anything else. With the right mentorship, tools and mentality, anyone can assume authority. But it takes dedication and desire to turn a managing position into a fruitful opportunity to lead.
Want More Information?
CONEXPO-CON/AGG’s comprehensive Education Program is the leading source for contractors, business owners, construction material producers and end users to obtain cutting-edge information for today’s challenging economy and business model.
For those unable to attend the education sessions or who would like a copy of what was presented, recordings are available for purchase on a USB drive. There are over 130+ unique sessions from all ten education tracks: Aggregates, Asphalt, Concrete, Earthmoving & Site Development, Cranes, Rigging & Aerial Lift, Safety & Regulation, Technology, Equipment Management & Maintenance, Management: Business Best Practices and Management: Workforce Development.
For more information and to purchase education program recordings, visit education.