Wolseley PRO Pipeline Blog
One of the biggest challenges contractors face is managing their crews. Done right, most of your days are manageable, However, if done poorly, your days become one of constant fire fighting. The difference between having more good days than bad usually comes down to communication and leadership skills.
Granted, in a perfect world, everyone would go about doing their job with little input from you and everything would be completed as expected, on time and on budget. But that’s not reality.
Many owners are under the mistaken belief that they shouldn’t have to tell their staff to do something. Statements like ”they should know better” or “if I have to tell them, I don’t need them”, are heard all too often.
A big part of being a leader is communicating expectations. Many owners lament the need to waste time explaining what needs to be done. What they don't realize is that by explaining what is expected, will lead to increased profits; jobs are completed on time, on budget and with reduced call-backs.
So to help owners maximize their leadership effectiveness, the following is a list of five things you can do to get the most out of your crews.
- Hire right – Many of your problems disappear if you hire the right people. Just because someone has the right “tickets” is only one piece of puzzle. Attitude, work ethic, appearance, problem-solving skills, communication skills and being detail oriented are some of the traits you should be looking for when hiring a new team member.
Although finding qualified trades people is becoming ever more difficult, you should never accept just whoever shows up. You need to identify the minimum acceptable traits you’re willing to live with and walk away from any candidate that doesn’t qualify. The headaches and costs associated with a bad hire are not worth it.
So, while you are looking, don’t overload your existing crew and only accept as much business as you can handle.
- Set expectations - This starts with you and consistency is the key. You need to be clear in your own mind before you can effectively communicate your expectations and be specific.
Want to maximize your efforts? Then share why you want it done your way. Individuals are more inclined to accept direction if they know why. If done consistently, you’re setting the performance standards that become ingrained in your organization that everybody understands and follows.
- Daily briefings – Having a quick morning meeting ensures everybody is on the same page. These briefings allow you to review the previous day’s activities and reinforce the current day’s expectations. It also saves you repeating yourself to each individual.
Another benefit to daily briefings is that you may uncover potential problems before they become an issue I.E. equipment failure, delivery delays, etc.
Can’t meet in person every day? Use the conference calling function on your mobile phone to get the day started by doing your briefing remotely.
- Listen – You don’t have all the answers. Be open to feedback and encourage your crews to share their concerns and discuss problems as they arise. By challenging them to provide solutions, they just might surprise you.
Whether or not you accept their solution, acknowledge why it will or why it won’t work. Don’t just dismiss it. The purpose here is to create problem solvers.
- Be visible – Management by Walking Around (MBWA) was a term coined by management guru Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence. The advantages of MBWA, is that it makes you visible to your team and your customers. It shows that you care about them and the work they are doing as well as providing you with an opportunity do your quality checks.
As an added bonus, it gives you the opportunity to interact with your team in real time situations. In turn, these exchanges become teaching moments that allow you to share your expertise and vision.
You should also use this time to catch people doing something right and to acknowledge it. According to a Gallup analysis “..employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they'll quit in the next year.” When you consider how hard it is to find good people, what does it take to say, “Great Job”?
None of these ideas are new. They are time tested and proven. When practiced regularly, you’ll end up controlling of your day, instead of being controlled by your day.
Remember, the key to effective leadership is making sure that your crews know what you expect of them. Because in the absence of leadership or direction, people make up their own rules.
Greg Weatherdon is a business advisor to HVAC & Plumbing contractors, author of Get More LIFE Out of Your Business and producer of The Small Business Minute Podcast available on all major platforms including iTunes, Google Podcasts and Spotify. Visit www.gregweatherdon.com for more information.
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