SIRF Roundtables Blog

Frontline Leadership – a critical coachable skill

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How does your company select, develop and train your frontline leaders?

Are the best operators or trades promoted solely based on process skills, machine knowledge, seniority or experience? Or do you also consider and give priority to their leadership skills?

Do you have programs in place to develop the frontline leadership and provide them with skills to make them even more effective?

The frontline leadership roles are so critical to business success that the answers to these questions can have such a big impact. Frontline leaders spend the most time with the true value adders on the shop-floor. They interact with their operators & trades multiple times a day. On the back shifts, they are perhaps the only voice of the company that the operators may hear. Even where some operators have the chance to attend the once a month or once a quarter company review meetings to hear directly from the company leadership, front line leadership are important to explain, reinforce and align the team on a daily basis to the messages given. In effect, they set the true culture of an organisation.

Looking first at selecting frontline leadership, the best outcome is to have someone with excellent both process knowledge and great people and leadership skills. In the case of where you may only be able to select either of one these skill sets, which would you chose? The process knowledge expert or the people leader? What do you think? For mine, the people leader is the preferred selection as they have more chance to bring out the best of the team. A skilful people leader can extract the necessary process knowledge from the team and allow the team to progress and develop as fast as the team can. There are some caveats on this. The people leader needs a basic level of technical or process competence – doesn’t need to be THE expert but needs to be able to ask the right questions of the process expert to help her make the right decisions.

If you have selected a critical person to make that scary jump from being an individual contributor on the team to being the leader, what guidance and training do you give them?

Unfortunately in some organisations, this is a sink or swim approach – the new leader is left to work it out for themselves. They tend to follow the role models that they have seen lead them in the past. All good if great role models exist. In one part of our SIRF the Edge Frontline leadership course, we get the participants from the different companies to break into small groups and discuss the behaviours of the worst bosses they have had. It is always one of the most animated small group discussions that we have – as almost everyone has a passionate story about the behaviour of a bad boss they have experienced. This leads me to conclude that not all role models cast good shadows to follow – other than perhaps allowing new leaders to reflect on what they don’t want to do themselves. This is what we do on that bit of the course: We develop from the discussion a list of bad behaviours, challenge the leaders to think do they display that bad behaviour. We also ask “What is the good behaviour that is the opposite of this bad behaviour? ” and what would they need to change to do more of the good behaviour.

While some leaders appear natural born leaders, I am of the strong opinion that every leader can improve their leadership skills with some effective training. I would also add that the best learning always comes from doing and real leadership skills are only honed by practice. Like tennis or golf, knowing what to do is necessary but what is also important is being able do what is required when it is required. This only comes with regular practice, reflecting on what works and what didn’t and mentally preparing yourself better for the next opportunity to stand up and lead.

If you want to enhance your frontline leadership skills or those of your teams, you should consider the excellent SIRF The Edge Frontline leadership course. It runs 6 days over 3 months and has the advantage of allowing people to interact and learn from their peers from other companies and also see 6 different sites . It also is structured with homework for practice of the skills after each training day. It is also free for SIRF members. We are completing our Melbourne based face to face course in June and in the middle of an on line course but a new on line course will start in August and it is also still possible to join the Perth face to face Edge course

The Edge Brochure

On Line Course starting August 2023 - Click here for details & bookings

It is not too late to join the WA face to face course   - Click here for details & bookings



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