April 8 2020 11:15 AM

Help your management team develop the skills to lead your company.


A few years back, one of my green industry clients recognized that one of their head foremen, Bill Moore, had an extremely high retention rate with his work crews. They regularly showed up for work on time and were extremely productive with a minimal amount of drama. When necessary, his teams would pitch in and help other crews who had fallen behind.

Compared to most of the other foremen, Moore was head and shoulders above the rest. When we analyzed his leadership style, we observed, among other factors, a number of specific qualities that stood out. First, he was a man of few words, and he genuinely walked the talk. He modeled the hard work he expected out of each one of his crew members. He made sure, on a regular basis, that the equipment he and his crews used was always maintained and in top working order.

Moore possessed another indispensable quality; he was firm but fair. His demeanor was one of respect to all he met, and he received in return. He had a presence about him that people admired. Moore was the type of person you did not want to disappoint. His assistant crew leaders knew they could count on him for guidance and direction on how to do their jobs in the best possible way. Many on his team looked to him as a fatherly figure. Plain and simple, he possessed the personal skill of leadership.

Recent research conducted in 2019 by DDI, a leading global consulting firm, reports that 57% of employees quit because of their boss or supervisor. Why does this happen? Does it happen in your company? If so, how often? When you or one of your management team members are lacking in leadership skills, your employees know it. When they sense their boss or supervisor cannot lead effectively, they start to look for greener pastures. In other words, good employees will leave a poor leader.

Have you ever done an inventory of the skills your leadership team needs in order to excel in their positions? That question begs a second question. How can you properly gauge a leader’s performance if you don’t have the right yardstick by which to measure it?

One of the assessment tools I use with my green industry clients helps them identify the top 25 competencies or skills their leaders should possess. Depending on the position, some skills are more important than others. After we identify which skills are necessary for a particular leadership position, we assess the competencies of the foreman or leader. Based on the results of that report, we design a learning and coaching strategy to assist that individual to develop those skills. Let’s talk about some of those competencies and the impact they can have on that person’s ability to perform.

Leadership qualities

One of the skills necessary for any leader is interpersonal capabilities. This competency can be defined as effectively communicating, building rapport and relating well to all kinds of people. Here are some of the ingredients of this skill:

  • Demonstrates a sincere interest in others.
  • Treats all people with respect, courtesy and consideration.
  • Respects differences in the attitudes and perspectives of others.
  • Handles any situation gracefully by using nonverbal communication, in-depth questioning and listening skills.

The DDI report shows that when it comes to interpersonal skills, we must recognize that they are not “soft skills,” but rather a critical part of leadership skills.

How many of your managers or foremen possess interpersonal capabilities? Two better questions might be: Which ones don’t? How is it affecting their performance?

Another skill necessary for any leader is conflict management. This competency can be defined as understanding, addressing and resolving conflict constructively. Here are some of the ingredients of this skill:

  • Readily identifies and addresses issues, concerns or conflicts.
  • Recognizes opportunities for positive outcomes in conflict situations.
  • Listens to gain understanding of an issue from different perspectives.
  • Settles differences without damaging relationships.

Conflict management can be used externally with clients and vendors, and it can be used internally with employees and other leaders within your organization. When your managers or foremen possess this competency, it can go a long way to creating the right kind of work culture where people want to work for your company.

Another skill necessary for any leader is employee development/coaching. This competency can be defined as facilitating, supporting and contributing to the professional growth of others. Here are some of the ingredients of this skill:

  • Inspires confidence in others’ ability to grow professionally.
  • Encourages initiative and improvement.
  • Gives new and challenging work assignments.
  • Acknowledges and praises improvements.

Often in the green industry, the workforce is composed of individuals who have not yet developed their work skills or personal work habits. New employees might come from a difficult family background, be fresh out of school or join from an unrelated industry and have some bad habits that require coaching. Make sure your foremen develop skills to handle conflict in the workplace.

Let’s go back to our star-performing head foreman Bill Moore. Here was a man who could work with and coach his assistant foremen and his teams, no matter what their background. He knew how to relate to the individuals who worked for him. He had the ability to connect, teach, coach and bring out the best in his people. His crews served as models for the rest of the company.

The final skill we will talk about is problem solving. This competency can be described as defining, analyzing and diagnosing key components of a problem to formulate a solution. Here are some of the ingredients of this skill:

  • Anticipates, identifies and resolves problems or obstacles.
  • Utilizes logical processes to analyze and solve problems.
  • Identifies the multiple components of problems and their relationships.
  • Understands and defines the problem before jumping to a solution.

What is so critical about this skill of problem-solving is that it is a “must have” competency. Every business owner or manager knows to expect problems. Successful oil magnate J. Paul Getty once said, “Don’t be surprised by trouble.” This is a great reminder of the reality of running a business or a department. Remember, you pay your leaders to solve problems. If this is an area where they need assistance, make sure they get help and learn how to solve those problems.

Here are five final questions to ponder:

1. How many leaders do you have working for you that are similar to Bill Moore?

2. What are the key leadership skills you need your foremen and managers to possess?

3. What can you do to raise the leadership skills of your foremen and managers?

4. How could it impact your employee retention rate?

5. How could it impact your bottom line?

Use these questions to determine where to focus your training and empower your team to be efficient leaders in your company.

Tom Borg is a team performance and customer experience expert who works with green industry organizations and their leadership teams to help them connect, communicate and work together better without all the drama through his consulting, training, coaching, leadership instruments and job benchmarking tools. To ask him a question, please call 734.404.5909, email tom@tomborg.com or visit his website at: www.tomborgconsulting.com.