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.
3. Surmounting the reluctance to put it in writing
Employee discipline must be the foreman’s most disliked activity. Front line supervisors seem to have a special need for being liked and accepted by their subordinates. They very much dislike the idea of a written disciplinary note. There is an advantage of replacing oral warnings with an informal written warning, in order to get supervisors in the habit of documenting performance issues. Here is how it works:
Certainly, before assuming the worse, foremen need to permit subordinates to explain the reason behind the poor performance. Permitting an employee to explain the reason why she was late does not make the supervisor weak. If the reason was not acceptable, the appropriate disciplinary step can be taken. Listening permits the supervisor to make an intelligent decision.
If the employee does not have a valid excuse, and after discussing the needed improvement, the foreman may say something like, “If the problem doesn’t surface again, this written warning stays just between the two of us. But if not, both this informal written warning as well as a new formal one will be shared with management and go into your records.”
One of the highlights of the seminar was the grower-producer breakfast during the second day. Class participants made and ranked a list of items they wished the owners to know. In return, the owners provided a list of their own, explaining what improvements they would like to see supervisors and foremen make. Here are seven of the most important items shared by each.
What foremen wished owners to know:
1. Praise individuals for a job well done.
2. Have owners take a class on supervisory skills.
3. Give foremen the opportunity to explain when they have made a mistake.
4. Take into consideration the opinions of foremen (regarding general issues as well as discipline of particular employees).
5. Provide foremen with more training on supervisory skills.
6. Reach out to workers in order to determine which foremen are doing a good job.
7. Conduct on-going meetings with foremen.
What owners wished foremen to know:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
2. Don’t say yes when you do not understand.
3. Pass on owner concerns to the employees.
4. Learn to delegate and do not attempt to fix all the problems yourself.
5. Take care of equipment and tools.
6. Do not cover up mistakes (problems with equipment or with people).
7. Loyalty goes both ways. Explain to workers the value of staying with us rather than jumping ship when they find a job that appears to be slightly better paid elsewhere.
For more information contact Billikopf at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 525-6800.