Leader and Trainerby Ted Smith on 03/25/18
Being an electrical superintendent is an extremely difficult and demanding job. You are ultimately responsible for planning your project, communicating that plan to your crews, ensuring your crews have one hundred percent of the tools, information, and materials they need to work safely and efficiently and do all of that while juggling a constantly changing construction environment and schedule. All of that is assuming there are no problems which arise that must be dealt with quickly, which of course there will be.
You need help and the best way to get that help is learning to lean on your crews and develop key people to not only help you but to someday be your replacement.
Start by identifying those members of your crew that demonstrate the willingness to take on responsibility and who are motivated to become a supervisor. Their level of experience is not important, what is important is their desire to learn and advance.
Once you have identified them have a one on one talk with them and let them know that you recognize great potential in them and let them know you want to help them advance. Ask them if they are willing to spend some extra time with you learning to pre-plan, lead and supervise. If they are willing, take them under your wing and become their mentor.
Be careful to not overwhelm them. The trick is to find the balance between pushing their limits and not giving them too much so that they become frustrated.
Here are some tips that I have used in the past with success.
1. When I needed to write an installation plan for a task, I would select one of these team members and ask them to write the installation plan for me. I would give them some tips to get them started and then give them a deadline to get it back to me to review. When reviewing their plan, keep in mind they may not plan it the same you would have but if their plan will work, run with it, and empower them to execute it. Be sure to have them do it completely and correctly. Always keep in mind that practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.
2. When they ask questions, answer their questions with questions that guide them through finding their answer. I learned this from the great teachers throughout history. They all had one thing in common, they rarely just answered questions. They probed and asked questions which required their trainees to think for themselves and find their own answers.
3. Give them responsibility which includes deadlines and expectations and let them know that you believe they can succeed and that you will hold them accountable for that success.
4. Sometimes they will fail. When they do, help them learn from that failure and give them another chance to succeed.
5. Never accept as an excuse from them that they failed because the crew you assigned them failed. Strive to always teach them the axiom my mentors taught me: "When a crew succeeds the crew did an excellent job, when a crew fails the leader failed. "
Leaders very often tend to try and take on everything themselves. The real key to success is to lead from the back, and guide, train and develop those that want to lead to help you lead. This accomplishes two very important things: It takes some of the pressure of you and it also develops the next generation of leaders, after all, none of us can do this forever. We all must train our replacements.
Ted "Smitty" Smith