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Managing Foremen Proactively Through Incentivizing – Part 1: Effective Leadership

Business Topics
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Author: Adam DeLamielleure
Territory Manager from Michigan

When it comes to running a business, nothing is quite as important as the way you manage your employees. No matter what kind of business you run, the best managers know how to encourage, guide, and incentivize their workers. Of course, it may be more obvious how to lead in an office environment. Being able to climb up the corporate ladder is, in and of itself, an incentive. As the owner of a landscape contracting business, you have to get a little more creative in the way you proactively manage and incentivize your employees. Luckily, effective leadership can be taught! I learned this lesson myself and I’m excited to share this experience over the course of this three part series.

Learning the Hard Way

When I was a twenty-three year old foreman for a landscaping contractor, I learned first hand the importance of proper incentivizing. One day at work, as I slipped a tree into its hole, my boss suddenly stormed towards me, his face turning red. I immediately stopped what I was doing and listened as he spat a stream of expletives at me for, apparently, doing something wrong. This was his misguided way of correcting me as well as, I assume, an attempt to motivate me.

This encounter failed to encourage me and, if anything, contributed to my short tenure with his company. I was a good foreman and worked hard. I didn’t deserve to be treated that way and I let him know as I was leaving.

We have all experienced different leadership styles and inevitably, one particular method tends to leave a lasting impression. Usually, this method is negative and bullish. My former boss liked to maintain a sense of control and, like a bully, surrounded himself with minions who enforced his “my way or the highway” attitude. Sadly, I made the same mistake of emulating this leadership style myself a few years later when I was an employer. I tried this counterproductive method of “motivation” with an employee. He was doing his best but his best didn’t align with my standards. I let him know this in the harshest way possible. Thankfully, he let me know my attitude wasn’t appreciated and suddenly, I remembered the day I was in his shoes. I learned an important managerial lesson that day: the first model of leadership presented to you does not need to be the method you use yourself. Instead, you can learn from your former employers’ mistakes and be a better manager than they were to you.

Based on my experiences, I can say that a reactionary leadership style, such as the one I experienced, is unproductive and harmful. Instead, employ a proactive managerial method. The best kind of motivation comes from rewarding good work instead of screaming whenever work is less than perfect. People who are already working hard to do a good job look for support and acknowledgement and thrive when those methods are used to motivate them. You’ll likely lose your best workers if your style of motivation comes down to yelling and punishing.

A proactive approach can be achieved by using incentives. Whenever the topic of incentives is discussed, most people immediately jump to monetary compensation. In this series, we will start there, simply because it is the most tangible way to incentivize a person. However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that each person is different and will be motivated by different things. There are many non-monetary reasons why employees perform at a high level or stay at a company. In many respects, monetary incentives serve to attract talent and convince existing employees to buy in. Other incentives build company loyalty and get employees to stay.

However you choose to incentivize your employees, make sure that you are consistently utilizing proactive, positive leadership techniques. Consider this three part series a guide for how to lead by example, effectively and intelligently.

In Part Two of this series we will explore the use of monetary incentives.

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