Monroe Porter is the president of PROOF Management Consultants, a company specializing in business consulting for contractors. He is also founder of PROSULT Networking Groups developed to help noncompeting contractors, and his business management column is a mainstay of Roofing Contractor.
He’ll be on hand conducting seminars at this year’s International Roofing Expo, including one titled “Growing and Developing Supervisors” on Feb. 4 from 9:45 a.m.-11:15 a.m.
Porter shared some tips on developing supervisors with us in advance of his seminar. “Everyone complains about poor employees and the lack of good supervisors, but what are you doing about it?” he asked. “Being a good supervisor requires an entirely different set of skills than being a good worker. A frequently cited management study notes that a worker spends 85 percent of his or her time using technical skills and 15 percent time using people skills. When promoted to supervisor, these skills reverse but most companies do little to help with this transition. While a supervisor has to be able to reference technical skills, his or her real job is to communicate and make sure others use such skills. A supervisor’s role goes from being the star craftsman to making stars of the craftspeople who work in their crew. Such transitions are not always easy. Some of the world’s greatest professional athletes have failed miserably as coaches.”
Porter detailed the basic guidelines for helping supervisors grow and excel in their jobs:
- Do more communication on the front end. When coaching and developing people, timing has a lot to do with how well you will be received. Try to do more upfront training before the job or a task starts. No matter how hard you try, talking about what was done incorrectly comes across as criticism and employees are usually defensive. Rather use a pre-job meeting to ask how they would do something and then compare their response with how you would do it. The two of you can then discuss the differences without getting into what the worker did wrong because the work has yet to be performed.
- Pre-job planning is the No. 1 way to train people. Too many owners and project managers talk about what is going wrong on the job today rather than trying to manage what is imminent. It probably starts with a courteous, “How are things going?” and all of a sudden today’s problems are the one and only issue. The predicament we find ourselves in is today’s issues may have been avoided or planned around had the problem been tackled sooner. Instead of talking about today, try to focus on what is going to happen next week. Is the work area ready, are other trades in the way, is all the material available, etc.? Managing with this proactive approach helps your people think more like you and get ahead of the curve. I remember many years ago I was working with a seasoned laborer who was setting concrete forms. He was installing forms so close to the outside dirt wall that they would be very difficult if not impossible to get the form out once the concrete was poured. His reply was we would worry about that tomorrow; today we were forming and pouring concrete, and we were pulling forms tomorrow. It is sad but true that many construction workers are short-term oriented. Only with a lot of training and reprogramming can we hope to help them think differently.
- Hire people you can train to be supervisors. If everyone you hire is a warm-body type of laborer, it is a good bet that most of your people will never become supervisors. One of my roofing contractor customers said he thought that was his problem. He asked some very easy questions, such as if a square was three bundles of shingles, how many bundles would it take to make 200 squares? Guess what - most of his workers only scored 50 percent or less on a 10 question quiz. If you need supervisors, hiring people at a slightly higher starting rate and moving them upward through the organization makes sense. It just may require some rethinking on your part to ensure you are hiring people who have that potential.
For more information on this and other educational sessions avaialble at the IRE, visit www.theroofingexpo.com.
For more information about Monroe Porter and PROOF Management Consultants, call 800-864-0284 or visit www.proofman.com.