Jeff is a supervisor that wanted to have a good relationship with his team. They had lots of experience, knew how to do their job in a professional manner most of the time so Jeff didn’t feel that he had to keep a tight eye on the team. He didn’t want to be known as the micro manager and really couldn’t because he lacked the expertise of actually doing the job although he had plenty of knowledge of the processes. They were left to their own as far as departure with their loads, how they conducted the run as a whole, and how many days they stayed on the road. It sounds like a great deal for most companies and the job of supervising the team should roll along fairly easily. In the beginning things worked great until upper management decided to shift things around and brought in a new supervisor. This new supervisor did have actual experience in the job of delivering product to their customers and with that knowledge started to notice problems in the team’s performance. As the new supervisor tried to correct the problems the team started to fall apart. For too long everyone had their own schedule and way they liked to do things so when changes started to occur it created chaos with many of the team members.
This happens in many organizations and is usually a result of giving too much power to team members or a supervisor or boss without the knowledge needed to properly lead the team. By giving the team freedom to do their own thing you set a culture that lacks structure and control. Once this type of program has started it is very hard to change this later on down the road. The problem is usually more apparent in large organizations where there are many levels of management and different teams focusing on different types of projects or processes. If this goes on for too long it will be virtually impossible to repair in the future. So how do you change the situation if this exists at your company?
The first piece of the puzzle is to evaluate your position as a whole. Do you know what your team does to get the deliveries done? Have you experienced a run first hand, carried the boxes into the customer to find out how tired a person can get? What problems are the team members experiencing on the road, that to me is the most effective way of gaining respect from your team and getting to know them. Once you have done that and by the way that should be an ongoing process, take a look at how the deliveries are structured, do team members have the proper equipment, enough time, and enough resources? With this knowledge you are now in a position to create new structure and processes based upon actual experience. You may have to rein in some of the freedoms the team had before and that may be hard for the team to take so just hold your stance, because letting it go will not help you down the road. Remember to make the changes you have to have the reason why a change should be made, the experience to know how it will affect the team, and the process to move the team forward. Too many supervisors put new processes in place, but don’t have the experience in the operation to understand how the change affects the operational team. This causes problems in the ranks making the change hard to accept. Being a team leader means not only managing the team, but supporting the team, and you can only do that through experience and knowledge.
About the Author
Bruce Outridge is a leadership and business consultant for operational staff and the people who lead them. He is well known in the transportation industry. Program details can be viewed on his website at www.outridge.ca