What is the single biggest impediment to your future growth and success? If your answer is lack of customers, you are wrong. There are plenty of customers out there for what you offer. The fact that there are many businesses offering the same thing you do proves that there are plenty of customers. Consider restaurants. They come and go on every street corner and in every strip mall. Some survive and thrive; others go out of business. Clearly, there are customers. What these failing firms lack is qualified supervisors to run the business properly from open to close. The single biggest impediment to your future success is the lack of people who can lead and manage others.
Sourcing entry-level employees, while a hassle, is nowhere near as hard as finding qualified supervisors. Growth slows when you don’t have supervisors to manage those entry-level employees. Now is the time to re-dedicate yourself to the development of your supervisory employees.
I will never forget the comment a few years ago by the VP of HR of one of the largest concrete contractors in the United States. We were discussing their need to continue investing in leadership development during the downturn in 2009. He said, “During the last downturn, we shut down all leadership development--and when things got better and we needed new foremen and supervisors, we opened the spigot and nothing came out. We weren’t able to bid some work and we didn’t make the money we were supposed to make on some of the work we did get because we didn’t have qualified supervision on the jobs.” So, in ’09, although they were not continuing to invest at pre-downturn levels, they did continue to invest. They are now well-suited to take advantage of the opportunities that come their way as the economy recovers. Are you?
The importance of supervision is obvious when it comes to quality, production and safety. All of these are direct contributors to the bottom line. We also must consider the impact supervisors have as leaders of those entry-level employees. Generation “Y” – those 18 to 34 years old – is already more inclined to jump jobs. Couple that with an economy where many jobs that are available seem entry-level (employees at the lower ages find starting jobs with an average $21,000/year salary), and you have a recipe for turnover. This generation leaves a job every two years. Compare that to a Baby Boomer who stays for approximately seven years. The implications are clear. You are already at risk of losing the very employees you need to build your business for the future. The only chance you have of keeping them is to create an environment in which they are well-led, so they will want to stay. The trump card here is the quality of your supervisors.
This begs the question, “What are you doing to develop yourself so you can be a better leader, and what are you doing to help your supervisors do a better job?” All too often the answer to this is, “Not much.” I recently facilitated a session where the group was bad-mouthing the millennials who didn’t work at the expected level and who often quit because they felt they were being poorly led. This group of project managers had earlier talked about importance of reading the spec book for a new product. I asked the last time any of them had a read a leadership book. None of them could answer. They were very excited to learn about a piece of new material, but not so excited to learn about how to lead the people who would be installing the material. So, are the millennials at fault, or is the supervisor? Of course, it is not an either/or question; it is both/and. But the fix has to start with the supervisors. The quality of leadership is a key factor for the future success of this firm—and yours.
In addition to the obvious role of classroom training, there are other things you can do to develop your supervisors. Ultimately they all come back to sharing your time and your talent with them.
Time -- Hallmark Cards is known the world over for its slogan, “When you care enough to send the very best.” Modified for our needs, we have the truism: “When you care enough to spend time with your people, they become the very best.” Why is giving of your time such a big deal to your employees? Because when you do, they understand that you think they matter and they are important. Clearly, there are many demands on your time, some seemingly more important than your people are. Don’t be fooled. This is Priority One.
Talent – Give them the tips and techniques to do the job better. Help them become more successful at what they do. Now, not only are you spending time with them, but you have something to talk about while you’re doing it! Employees want to do a good job, and when you give them ideas, they appreciate it.
Growth can be exhilarating and profitable. The lack of it can suck the life out of you and the profits out of your business. You must have well-trained supervisors to enable your firm to grow and prosper. Without them, you will not have the success you are capable of. Act today to be ready with qualified supervisors tomorrow.
" ...it was one of the most dynamic and interesting talks I have ever witnessed on general leadership and effective management. I thought it was very interesting to see how you approached the topic from the bottom up -- from the grunt's perspective. This made the topic very easy for me to relate to and gave me ideas on how to develop the leaders I am responsible for."
Noel S. Salac, P.E.
Nebraska Dept. of Roads