This is a short podcast episode where I deliver some education or at least opinion and perspective on leadership, operations and safety performance based on things I have seen or experienced or perhaps read or learned through dialogue with colleagues.

In this episode I want to talk about the subject of front line supervisors operational workarounds or where operational teams will modify procedures to meet the goals of the organization,

 Earlier in the week I was at the ASSE PDC in Atlanta. Had a great time, met some great people. In the course of discussing our CRM-PRO-LSW training workshops I found out that a lot of organizations select their first line supervisors out of their worker/technician ranks. I largely knew this to be true, but I wanted to listed to the perspectives of folks in different organizations to find out some of their challenges and struggles in creating effective teams with outstanding front line supervisors.

What is the role of the supervisor? To SUPERVISE. It isn’t necessarily to be a “task master,” but to use the words of Bill Brown from Episode 3, they should “Lead, Teach, Coach and Council.” But how can they do those things if they haven’t been trained? What can you do to help your front line supervisors to become better team leaders so they supervise their teams and bring out the best in their workers?

After, all, isn’t that one of the most important roles of the supervisor? I think their role is to bring out the best in their teams so they can collectively accomplish their production goals safety and in accordance with their quality and reliability goals. 

The copyrighted material below is taken from V-Speed’s CRM-PRO-LSW training module on leadership:

“What are some of the qualities you should promote in your supervisors?

  • Takes ownership of functional areas and team
    • Processes and tasks
    • Doesn’t look the other way when a problem ID’d
    • Doesn’t wait for someone else to take action if able   to solve at his/her level
    • Owns problem until resolved or brought to someone else’s attention if unable to resolve at his/her level
  • Coaching approach to develop team
    • Asking guiding questions, providing suggestions to help team members become better decision-makers

Who should you look for when seeking out technicians to promote to supervisory roles and what qualities should you look for?

  • Integrity
  • Stopping work in the face of pressure when the environment is too hazardous
  • Standing up to the pressure of supervisors when they know conditions are unsafe
  • Identifies system problems and solutions rather than laying blame
  • Willingness to interject opinion even when nobody else is speaking up (groupthink) 

Developing Supervisory skills

  • Allow employees who show the right potential leadership opportunities
    • Create the right environment and opportunities, yet put controls in place to mitigate shortcomings
    • May need to allow graceful failure sometimes for learning opportunities to work
  • Coaching future leaders to see system problems rather than simply blaming people
  • Debriefing culture/lessons-learned focus and tools
  • Build safety leadership into your culture”

What do you think? What is the role of the front line supervisor and how should he or she be trained? What is the role of the top level leader and upper manager in shaping the conditions so front line supervisors can do their job effectively?