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Performing at your peak: embracing self-improvement

 

In the construction materials industry, it is not unusual for one to put the needs and demands of the business or organisation above one’s own aspirations. As Peter Ambrose explains, for a business to succeed, it is equally important that quarry managers do not overlook the development and growth of themselves and their workforce.

So, it’s the end of the month and as a leader of a business or a team you are reviewing your results for the month. Some of these results might cover such things as growth, costs, profit, productivity, asset utilisation, sales and stock, just to name a few. You pull up reports and analyse trends, you provide explanations on variances both good and bad. After many hours you finally hit the send button to your manager’s inbox and await their call for more information. Now you’re already looking to this new month’s forecast. Sound familiar?

At what point did you spend the same amount of time and effort reviewing your or your team’s performance for the month? What are the key performance indicators (KPIs) that you have set yourself and what would your monthly result report look like? Did you have a successful month? Did you grow? Was your performance better than the last month and how would you know? You see, as leaders, just like your businesses, you need to be delivering leadership that is high performance in order to achieve high performance outcomes. Sadly, for most of us, we are so focused on the needs of our organisation that we neglect to spend time improving our own performance. You see, you are an asset for your organisation that needs to be maintained and perform no different to your quarry equipment!

OPTIMAL PERFORMANCE PLAN

If your plant were not performing at its peak with slow output or generally inefficient, what would you do? My guess is you would maybe do some form of monitoring or measurement taking or perhaps try a few tweaks or adjustments. Ultimately you might call in the experts to advise you on how to get the most from your equipment. For you to be successful, you need to be striving for your optimal performance zone.

Optimal performance must start with purpose and a plan. What is your purpose and what does your career map look like? Do you have a plan and are you on track to achieving your goals? Firstly, I would recommend beginning with nurturing your physical, mental and emotional energy. Your overall wellbeing across all these areas is key to leading optimally. You will know some things that are impacting these while others may need some professional help. Diet, sleep and exercise are key to supporting overall well-being. Take the time to understand where you can improve in these areas as this will lead to more energy, clearer perspective and greater results.

There are many tools and resources to utilise to understand what your inherent strengths and areas for development are. Being aware of your natural strengths is important, as these are likely to be well embedded in your DNA and always there to be relied upon. It is a good feeing knowing what you are naturally strong in and have the confidence to know that these strengths are always present and available to use, no matter the situation. 

Your development needs are more complex and have greater consequences if you are not aware of them. I call these blind spots for that very reason, as you may not be able to see them. These development areas need to be acknowledged and a real focus applied to overcoming them. You may wish to complete a 360-degree feedback type of assessment to gather the perspective of others to further help you understand where you currently are. Some simple initial target areas may be personal effectiveness, meeting facilitation, quality of decision-making, just to name a few. Again, there is a multitude of resources available to assist you in preparing your own development plan. You must take the time to reflect on your performance (weekly/fortnightly) to note when things went well and of course when they could have gone better. Personally, I like to use a small notebook – I call it a reflection journal – to make regular notes on my performance so I can keep track of my issues/progress and to keep me from slipping back to old habits.

Now you are taking the time to improve your performance, you are ready to go to the next step. Just like you, your teams need to operate at their fullest potential.  What is the culture at your site? Whatever the answer, it is a direct reflection of your leadership because as the leader you set the standard and tone for your team. My experience is a good workplace culture equates to higher safety awareness, a genuine care for others, higher overall engagement and improved performance.

By focusing solely on organisational priorities, managers often do not spend enough time setting key performance indicators for themselves.

TEAM FOCUS

You have taken the leap to improve who you are, now it is time to focus on your team. Do you know their stories, and do they know yours? Take the time to sit regularly one on one to really get to know them and for them to know you. Don’t talk about targets or KPIs, just openly talk about yourselves, your hobbies, your history or even your safety journey, etc. Just taking the time to listen and talk openly will be greatly received and levels of respect and trust will grow enormously. Remember to listen intently and don’t take anything with you that will distract you such as your phone or laptop.

Do your teams know they are valued, what you need from them, is there recognition when things go well and feedback when they do not? Just like you, we all get energised when we do well and it is recognised. 

The other benefit of knowing your team on a more personal level is you will also notice when things aren’t right and perhaps just a little off. It could be a different way they look or are acting, and you just may pick up on some additional needs they could use your help with. We all have issues outside of work and with many of the quarry roles performed in isolation (machine operators, truck drivers, etc), these issues can become overwhelming. It could be resolved with a chat, a role or shift change or referral to your employee assistance program. 

Of course, not all sites are perfect and will invariably contain one or more outliers. These people are detractors from where you want to get to at your business in performance and culture. You should take the time to reset your expectations and look to intensify your coaching and mentoring. Sometimes you will not always get alignment and will need to have some crucial conversations.

OK, so you are now on track to self-improvement and your team is stronger and more cohesive. Things are going well and it is time to fill a vacancy perhaps and this means someone new to the site. You may intend to seek an experienced candidate or maybe someone new to the industry. Either way the last thing you need is all this great work to be undone by employing someone who may not fit the culture. 

Think about the organisational fit of candidates and what traits you want to attract to balance the culture. You should employ people for compatibility, safety awareness and then train for competency. Another point to consider is diversity. Have you positioned the role considering gender, cultural and generational diversity? Workplace diversity can improve teams, bring innovation and build a reputation as an employer of choice. Many of us work for companies with head office staff. Sometimes these staff rarely can be part of the site operations. Is there an opportunity to tap into these resources and for you to provide the ability for your employees to shift between sites?

I encourage you to really focus the needs of you, your team and your organisation. You can afford to focus on one at the expense of the others. You need to find the right level of balance that will be dictated by where you, your team and the organisational cycle currently are.  Being the best you can be will make you a better leader and therefore lead a more committed and engaged workforce. You will reap the benefits of productivity, improved safety and build an improved personal brand that will see you maximise your career potential.•

Peter Ambrose is a consultant with more than 30 years of senior management experience in the construction materials sector, and a facilitator of the IQA’s Supervising for Safety course. Email: peter.ambrose@executivecentral.com.au

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