- Are you frustrated because your crew leaders are not getting you the necessary paperwork at the end of a job?
- Do you get too many phone calls during the day with random issues ranging from “so and so was late again,” to “can you bring us the extension ladder?”
- Is your Accounts Receivables out of control because the crew leaders aren’t getting a check?
These issues are more in your control than you realize and simply require clear communication of expectations.
More often than not, we are getting our crew leaders and foremen from our ranks. This usually means that they are great workers and hard working. This does not always mean that they are experienced leaders. They are usually interested in the position because it comes with more money and who doesn’t want a raise?! But what they don’t often realize and what you as a business owner should be telling them, is that along with the raise comes a series of expectations.
- Time management becomes more than just how quickly can a room be painted or a piece of property graded for sod placement. It becomes tracking the arrival and efficiency of your team, ordering supplies appropriately, allowing for time to track your hours on current projects as well as planning for pending projects. It means having a day planner and keeping it with you at all times, tracking issues as they arise and looking to see, every day what has been done and what needs to be done tomorrow. It means, finishing up 30 minutes earlier than anyone else to look at and assemble paperwork, to call a customer to collect the check, to arrange for a walk through at another property. It actually means less time on the tools and more time on the computer!
- Communication with the team. Too often crew leaders limit their conversations to “get this finished and move to this next.” What should be happening is regular, consistent, specific and timely feedback. For example, “the truck is clean and well organized, thank you” “you did a great job glazing that window” “we got more road finished than yesterday because of your focus, thank you.” This allows for the hard conversations to occur without a person having not heard anything from their direct supervisor but bad things. And crew leaders should be giving this critical feedback, not calling the boss and saying “this guy has to be fired!” Give your team permission to and expect them to address poor behavior. Tardiness should not be something you hear about when it is listed in conjunction with everything else somebody has done wrong.
- Make mistakes, but learn from them. New leaders, even those who have prior experience, will make mistakes. Make sure you are making it clear that you understand that and are prepared to deal with it, but that is should be as part of a learning curve. When a crew leader calls with an issue, ask it back: “what do you think should happen?” Give them a chance to offer a solution before jumping in to save the day. Doing so gives them latitude to problem-solve in the future and report situations that have been solved rather than presenting you with a series of problems. Ultimately, this means fewer phone calls/interruptions to your day.
- Everybody has different strengths; work with them, not against them. New leaders often go into leadership with the idea that everyone needs to be treated the same. This can’t be done in the field; crew leaders are often tasked with training new people and managing the ones who have been with the company for years. Give them permission to expect different things from different people. While simple in words, this may be a very complex idea for a new leader. We are often taught rules are rules and yes, we want jobs to adhere to production rates, but consider the strengths of the team and assign tasks accordingly.
Making sure that your crew leaders and foremen are equipped to do their jobs well goes beyond being good at the job they used to do and training to get them accustomed to the job you expect them to do.
All the Best,
– Kathryn Freeman