Planning for Success
Training the Next Generation of LeadersKris Hirschmann, Writer
In the roofing industry, workers tend to move up to foreman or superintendent because of their expertise on the job. Promoting people for their experience and work ethic can be a clear path to management within an organization. The bad news is the ability to swing a hammer does not necessarily translate into “boss” talent. Leadership, communication and management skills are necessary for anyone in a position of authority.
For most roofers, these skills are not innate. They must be taught. This duty falls to the current generation of roofing contractors, who must identify and groom candidates for future promotion. By consciously training the next generation of leaders, the industry remains vital, effective, and efficient, now and in the future.
Don’t Jump The Gun
Jim Johnson, head coach at ContractorCoachPRO, believes that the biggest mistake people make is promoting talented workers to leadership positions without sufficient preparation.
“Do not jump the gun and give them more responsibility than they are skilled at or capable of doing,” he says. “Groom them slowly. Create what we call a champion situation — something small that they can own. And if they prove good at that, OK, then you can give them a little more, then a little more. By the time you go, ‘Hey, all right, time to be manager,’ they already know the job.”
Johnson also suggests that leadership roles should be carefully delineated to avoid situations where new managers operate without guidelines.
“Have a well-written job description with expectations and performance levels,” he says. “Otherwise, they have to figure everything out on their own. There’s nobody helping them through it.”
The Six Pillars Of Leadership
Arriving at the point of launching a new leader is a process that ContractorCoachPRO sums up as “the six Es:”
Leaders must be able to engage employees with their vision.
“They have this vision of what will be, and the only way they can sell people on it is if they believe in it,” Johnson says. “That is beneficial not only for the employees, but for the company as well.”
To engage others regularly, Johnson says, he sets reminders on his phone. When it is time to engage, he actively seeks someone who needs encouragement and gives them what they need at that moment.
“We expect our leaders to be readers and learners and to educate not just themselves, but others,” Johnson says.
The biggest part of education, according to Johnson, is reinforcement.
“Leaders think because they say something one time, people have got it. But there’s no follow through. Three weeks from now, will the people still remember? Maybe not. Education with reinforcement is needed for effective training and buy-in.”
Once leaders have buy-in, they have to spur activity, and a key way of doing this is to set a good example.
“Are they out there doing whatever they have to do in the way they’re supposed to? Do their values align with the company’s values? Are they expecting employees to live up to these values?”
By setting a good example, Johnson says, leaders teach up-and-coming employees important lessons about management skills.
Setting a good example isn’t enough. Leaders have to actively encourage employees to live up to their potential — and this, Johnson says, is where the magic starts to come in.
“You see people reaching out, caring about people, coaching people, doing the things they need to do. You start to get results and, as a result, your people start to gain confidence.”
At this point, your future leaders are feeling encouraged and confident. Now is the moment to empower them by giving them more responsibility.
“You start to give them a task without a whole lot of guidance,” Johnson says. “They now have the capacity and the skill set to do that thing, and you trust them. Success leads them to trust themselves as well.”
With mutual trust now established, the current leader can and should expect good performance, but continue to provide guidance as needed.
“When I have given something to new leaders to do, I would expect that they do it, and do it very well,” he says. “But I will keep coaching them until they can.”
Before long, both the current and future leader will have confidence in their expectations being met.
A Safety Net
All of the training in the world cannot stop mistakes from happening. Johnson emphasizes that new leaders will goof, and that has to be expected.
“It’s OK to not hit the nail on the head the first try every single time,” he says. "It’s invaluable to the growth of that leader to realize that they can take a risk.”
With this safety net in place, newbies can adopt a leadership mindset — and that, Johnson says, is the ultimate key to success.
“You have to believe you have the ability, then you have to live it, and then it becomes habit.”
And when leadership skills become habitual, the new generation is prepared and ready for success.