Increasingly, contractors are realizing that they can no longer just be a leader; they must also be a coach. The new leadership reality for many pavement maintenance owners is that there is a new "JVL," or Joint Venture of Leadership.
The reason for this "JVL" is that the people we now employ are in greater need of receiving leadership. They need someone who clearly understands the direction of the business and who is a coach who can provide the more hands-on efforts.
Traditional Leaders, Coaches
Traditional leadership would point to one person who sets direction, communicates a vision, inspires, and navigates the future and a different person who coaches the "player" or employee on a daily basis. The coach observed performance and provided "just in time" correction or evaluation while embracing the longer-term vision set out by the leader. This is similar to the football linebacker coach: He coaches individual skill technique and decision making under the umbrella of what the head coach has determined are the objectives for the upcoming game.
Admittedly, good leaders probably did some coaching along the way and good coaches have probably provided some leadership. But that split responsibility no longer works because the type of employees you hire has changed drastically, so it is critical that contractors today fulfill both roles as leader and coach.
The New "JVL"
The Joint Venture of Leadership means that individuals in your company need both leadership and coaching skills. As the leader, for example, you set the direction for your organization. This includes setting a revenue goal for the year, determining a new service to provide, or strategically choosing to enter into a market segment. The leader sets direction using information and data that indicates that the decision is good for your company.
Now, with a direction set, you need to coach your workers on moving in that direction. This might include coaching estimators on expanding into a new geographical area, bidding guidelines, and customer profiles. The coaching effort here would continue by instructing crew leaders, and crew members if necessary, on how to provide a new service, what local suppliers they will need to develop relationships with, and even technical training if needed.
It is the leader side that recognizes how estimators and crews are moving to realize the vision for the season; the coaching side intercedes to adjust or correct the same estimators or crews toward the needed efforts.
Joining Coaching/Leadership in One Person
Typically a contractor will lean toward being one or the other - a leader or a coach. If you've always been a bit more visionary and enjoy the growing of the business you'll naturally lean toward being more of a leader. If you have always been a bit more "hands on" and technical in nature then you will tend to spend more time coaching.
Both efforts are needed! Yet, the smaller-sized contractor is faced with doing both. This same contractor is also the customer service representative, the head mechanic, lead salesman, and probably head custodian.
It is very important that if you're in this situation you are assertive in developing a foreman or two to be coaches and to take more of the field responsibilities off of your plate. This allows you to be more of the leader - but until this transition takes place you can find yourself fulfilling both roles.
But don't give up hope. In reality, no matter the size of the business you'll always be a bit of a leader and a coach. But as the business does expand it will not maintain a good growth rate unless you begin to delegate levels of leadership and coaching to others who can free you up to work on bigger and better things for the long-term success of the business.
At the 2011 National Pavement Expo I will be addressing more of the "how tos" behind being both leader and coach. I invite you to join me and to begin working on this part of your effort to be a better leader and coach. The future success of your company will be depending on your efforts!