The move to manager

The move to manager

If a laborer isn’t having success after a promotion to a managerial role, try these tips.

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August 28, 2019

By Cyndi (Crother) Laurin, Ph.D.

Do you know someone very talented at their work and promoted to management without receiving any guidance or training? Maybe you’ve promoted a worker who really shined above the rest yet seemed to struggle with the transition. It’s not so different from playing baseball and coaching baseball. The best player on the team doesn’t always make the best coach. However, with some really simple tools, you can help your workers transition to manager in a much less stressful and more rewarding manner for everyone.

Often times, in predominantly labor-based industries, such as landscaping, people get promoted to manager because of their efforts, work ethic, or because they’re the best at what they do. While these promotions generally come with a boost in pay and other perks, many new managers find the transition challenging and downright overwhelming. The stress of managing people, customers, and inventory doesn’t end at the end of the shift…it often causes sleep and anxiety issues through the night.

Brandon Varney, owner of Pristine Green located in Phoenix says, “I could have never imagined how much stress it would be to transition from doing the majority of the work to managing a landscape team. Once after returning from a weekend vacation, I was bombarded with messages from customers saying their yards were not serviced. Apparently, our team lead was out sick and didn’t let clients know he wouldn’t be able to get the team out. No weekend away was worth the stress of having to recover accounts and get caught up.”

Why is this? At the most fundamental level, the skills someone has leading to a promotion are not the same skills that will serve them as manager. Think back to before you became a manager. As a laborer, work was very process oriented. You followed the process, and the work got done. As a manager, it’s not as clear cut. At any given time, you’re dealing with people not showing up, poor workmanship, or turnover. If your team is ship shape, a good chunk of your time may be spent managing customer complaints or resolving scheduling or inventory issues.  

What’s generally missing is a process to manage people. Without one, many default to how they were parented. If your parent was a yeller, under pressure you’re going to yell at your employees. If your parent was a pushover, under pressure you’ll give in to your employees. Neither is effective because parenting is not managing.

So what does work?

  1. Effective management is the practice of regular observation and providing clear, specific feedback in real time. When you see or hear your employee do something right (even if it is part of what is expected of him or her), let them know. Behavioral science says people receive critical feedback from their manager much better when balanced with specific, positive feedback. Rather than saying, “Nice job,” let your worker know exactly what they did that you want to see more of.  What about undesired or ineffective behavior? Nothing shuts an employee down faster than being yelled at or demeaned in front of their peers. Rather than parent them, you need to first make sure the employee is very clear on what the expected behavior is.
  2. Next, state the specific, observed behavior needing adjustment followed by letting the employee know the ripple effect of the behavior. Finish the conversation by making the behavioral expectation very clear. It’s much less costly to give a worker the opportunity to get it right before cutting them loose and starting over again.
  3. Another best practice is to conduct a daily huddle. This is a great way to get your crew on the same page by sharing the plan for the day and eliciting feedback on resources they need or any other obstacle that could prevent accomplishing the day’s goal. As manager, this becomes your to-do list to ensure your crew has every possibility of staying on track and meeting goals or deadlines. Pristine Green uses a daily group message because they are not all in the same location. Varney says, “It’s really benefitted our landscape team by alerting them of items needing care due to change in seasons or a new strategy we’re incorporating. The team has a better understanding of what is expected, and our customers benefit from better looking yards.”

Your job as manager is to remove obstacles and provide tools and resources so your crew can effectively do their job. In essence, you must be committed to their success. This is especially true in industries where the labor shortage is a huge concern. We all know turnover is expected, but when good employees are walking out the door, so do your profits. Combine this with the statistic that nearly two-thirds of all workers leave their job due to quality of the day-to-day relationship with their direct supervisor. This means it’s up to you to create an environment where they want to stay.

The author is Founder of Guide to Greatness, a consulting company based in Arizona.