Two groups of Spanish-speaking foremen (and other front-line supervisors) participated in management training in which they also had the opportunity to interchange opinions and feelings with their employers. Just like people, groups have personalities, and they were quite diverse. But three critical issues were identified; matters which have the potential of helping foremen become much better at the art and science of supervision.
1. Overcoming the challenge of giving praise
One common thread among the foremen was their great desire to receive more praise—either from direct supervisors or the farm owner. Ironically, these same participants were reticent about giving those who they supervised the praise that they so much desired for themselves.
An effective activity is for foremen to focus on what people do well, and learn how to give sincere, heartfelt praise. A substantial percentage of front line supervisors are not only uncomfortable giving praise, but they also tend to dilute the compliments they offer. This is often done by adding subtle or not so subtle comments that show a lack of confidence in those they are commending.
The act of giving praise does not mean employees have nowhere to improve. On the contrary, subordinates do not respect supervisors who are not willing to point up deficiencies. Workers will pay more attention, however, to the suggestions of supervisors who notice praiseworthy work.
2. Tough façade does not earn respect
Many foremen feel they have to put on a tough façade in order to be respected by their subordinates. Yet, these same foremen shared with the group—or with me personally—how being aggressive with subordinates had caused them to feel badly afterward—and lose respect from those whom they supervised.
Certainly, supervisors can obtain compliance without offending. For instance, in a role play an employee was doing shoddy work. When confronted by the foreman, this worker complained about the poor quality of his equipment. Instead of permitting the employee to get away with poor performance, the foreman listened to and noted the complaint, agreed to get back and deal with that issue, but then re-directed the conversation back to the poor quality job. It was all done without ever offending the worker. The need for change on the part of the worker and the consequences for not doing so were made absolutely clear. To remain effective, the front line supervisor must also follow up on the complaints raised by the employees.