Yes, you get to wear yet another hat! Most of your crew are probably highly motivated self-starters. Some people however, if left to themselves, will not rise very far above average. This is where the role of a coach can be a critical factor in tipping the scales of winning or losing. It may sound like it’s piling on one more task to your already over-filled plate, but often a few minutes or even just an encouraging word can have a big impact.
One very important role of an excellent coach is to set goals for your staff. People need to know what is expected of them. This also has the added benefit of helping you to evaluate their performance. Goals should not only be general, as in your mission statement, but they also need to be specific to the project or task at hand and should be set each day.
Something as simple as “OK Chris, I would like to see you get these six rooms sprayed out by the end of the day. Do you think you can do that?” This approach gives your team the opportunity to “buy in” to the plan, and gives them a sense of ownership; also pride when they achieve their goals.
When they do, you should be sure to acknowledge their accomplishment. This has a very positive effect. Another aspect regarding feedback to your crew is that it should be specific. “Hey, good job today Sue.” is certainly positive. However, if you add “I really like the way you used that 30 gallon trash can to spray out of. I think that was way faster than continually switching out 5 gallon buckets.” Sue knows you were paying attention to the fact that she came up with a time-saving idea.
That kind of praise has a deeper impact. As I mentioned, the other aspect of setting goals comes into play when they are not met. This gives you the opportunity, as coach, to get with your crew and figure out why. “Did something or someone slow you down?” “Was there an equipment problem, or maybe a product issue?” This way you can make your team part of the process of formulating a “recovery plan”, to get things back on track.
Included in every excellent coach’s tool box should be a Mentoring program. Investing time in your staff to develop their skills will pay dividends to your company’s success. You personally need to mentor your foremen and superintendents. They in turn should have a well-defined mentoring plan to share their years of experience with their journeymen and apprentices. This ultimately has the effect of increasing everyone’s skill level, which benefits you.
I often have been met with resistance when trying to implement a mentoring program. I’ve heard things like “I’m not a babysitter.” The other argument is usually that they don’t have time. Here is where you get to practice your coaching skills by convincing them that it can be something as simple as taking 5 minutes to show an apprentice the correct brush technique to speed up their cut-in production time.
The other issue that is often at the heart of resistance is that the foreman is afraid that if they take time to teach, they won’t make their production goals and will look bad to you. You need, as coach, to empower them to take “reasonable” windows of opportunity to demonstrate better brush, spraying, masking techniques, or whatever. Everyone wins if you have a strong mentoring program. The other added benefit from a mentoring type work environment is that it sends the clear message to your employees that there is opportunity for growth and advancement by working for you.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, the sense of being valued and of having the opportunity for advancement is even more important to people than how much money they make. Being an excellent coach can also build stronger relationships and respect, often leading to higher productivity and quality from your crews, and less employee turnover.
Also, always remember: “Praise in public, but criticize in private.”, and treat everyone with respect.