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No matter the industry, in all my years of experience working across organizations, from the hourly workforce to the executive team, I have always found the most difficult job to be frontline supervision. Frontline supervisors have tremendous pressure from all directions. Their responsibilities are many and their decision making power and control is limited. To add to their challenges, frontline supervisors often have limited experience managing people. Many are promoted to supervision, not because of people management skills, but because of technical expertise. While technical expertise is important, it doesn’t help them with the most challenging part of their job—managing the men and women who work for them.
Ironically, it’s the frontline supervisor who has the most influence on the performance of the people who actually produce the products and/or deliver the service. This is particularly true in safety. Frontline supervisors are the linchpins of safety. They bring all the pieces of safety management together. They are responsible for executing the vision and values at the frontline, ensuring procedures are complied with, implementing a myriad of safety decisions and ultimately ensuring that the workforce is safe. Their role requires them to motivate and engage frontline employees to participate fully in safety and yet they rarely have adequate training or coaching in how to do it.
Engagement requires good leadership skills. The old-style command and control management that is too often the model for supervision simply will not foster engagement. Here are 5 ways frontline supervisors can improve their leadership skills and engage their direct reports in safety improvement:
Frontline supervisors who are skilled at building engagement earn the respect and commitment from their team, improve overall performance and keep workers safe on the job.
For more on developing frontline supervision skills, read A Supervisor’s Guide to (Safety) Leadership.
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