wo days before Matt began his new supervisory position, he started second-guessing himself. He wondered, “How do I know if I’ve got what it takes to be a leader?”
Matt knew his dad was the person to talk to as he’s been a supervisor in another plant for 30 years. It was Saturday morning, so Matt knew his dad would be home, sitting on the front porch, sipping his coffee and doing his crossword puzzle. Matt hopped in his car, picked up a bag of donuts on the way, and drove to his father’s house.
“Hey, dad!” Matt said, walking onto the porch. “Got a minute?”
“Matt!” his father said. “Course I do. Pull up a chair. I’ll get you a cup of coffee.”
As they drank their coffee and munched on donuts, Matt finally got around to asking his father, “Dad, I start my new job as supervisor on Monday, and I can’t help wondering how I can be equal to the job.”
He was surprised at what his dad told him.
“Don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made, son.”
“Mistakes? What kind of mistakes?” Matt asked, taking another bite of his jelly roll.
“I want you to learn those for yourself. I’m going to give you a questionnaire that I designed years ago. It’s been a daily reminder of just how many mistakes I had been making. Maybe it’ll help you, too.”
Here’s that questionnaire, followed by suggestions for developing effective leadership skills.
1. Do your workers consider you to be intimidating?
While this type of leadership may get the job done, your workers will likely feel bitter toward you. Effective leaders create good followers. Be someone your workers can relate to, look up to, go to for answers, respect — and the workers will want to follow your lead.
2. Are you open to suggestions, even if they differ from your own?
It takes a strong leader to listen to and be open to suggestions, even if they differ from your own. Realize that no one person has all the answers and that’s OK. After considering other suggestions, then make your decision, giving credit where credit is due.
3. Do you think a worker who questions one of your plans of action is being disrespectful?
What would you rather have, a worker who doesn’t approach you at all, but may talk about you behind your back, or one who talks to you privately, possibly steering you in a better direction? Be approachable. At the very least, a worker will walk away with a better understanding and acceptance of your plan.
4. Do you act as a mentor to your workers, discovering what skills they use best, and encouraging them to excel in those areas?
Skilled leaders have a keen sense of people’s abilities, and they assign workers to areas where they will excel. In turn, workers feel confident that their supervisor has their best interests in mind, and they work willingly toward meeting company goals. This results in a win-win situation.
How did Matt do?
He completed the questionnaire, and after he read the suggestions of effective leadership skills, he leaned back in his chair and said, “OK, dad, I missed almost all of them. How’d you get so smart?”
His father laughed. “The hard way, Matt. When I first started as a supervisor, I went about it all wrong. The only way I could maintain control was by loud noise.”
“Sort of like when I’d mess up at home?” Matt asked.
“Exactly,” Matt’s dad said. “On my first performance review, my boss told me that a worker had complained about me. I knew my skills needed help, so I asked my boss, ‘How can I become a better leader?’ Then I took it one step further. I actually asked the workers to give me some feedback as to what they’d like in a leader.”
Matt’s father shook his head and went on. “I wouldn’t recommend this unless you’re ready for it, son. Still, the information I got from my boss and the feedback I got from the workers is what I put into the questionnaire. Valuable stuff.”
“It sure is,” Matt said. “What else did you learn?”
“Mostly that it’s as important to be people-oriented as it is to be goal-oriented. Know your workers by their names, constantly build enthusiasm, and praise hard work. Let workers know you’re on their side. Promote safety, not just because you’re their supervisor, but because you care about them.”
“Sounds like good suggestions,” Matt said. “Anything else that you can think of?”
“Yes,” Matt’s dad continued. “Watch how you say things. Make sure your tone isn’t derogatory. Effective communication is tough, and so is listening, but believe me, they’re worthwhile leadership skills. And in high-pressure situations, act rather than react. It’s these kinds of qualities along with meeting company goals that empower a leader — and make a difference.”
“Were those changes hard to make?” Matt asked.
“Yeah, they were,” Matt’s dad said, “but they were changes for the better — at work and even at home.”
“I remember when things got better at home,” Matt said. ” Any other advice?”
“Know that everyone makes mistakes and it’s what we do about them that matters,” his father said, “and keep doing what you’re doing — collecting information. I still do.”
Matt’s dad took one last sip of coffee and added, “You’ ll be a fine leader, son. Compared to my first years as a supervisor, you’re already light-year