The most effective supervisor encountered by one of the authors of this textbook was named Kenny, and he was maintenance supervisor in a chemical plant of an international corporation.* The author was called in as a consultant because the plant was suffering from the results of the ineffective, autocratic leadership of a former plant manager. Such leadership at the top adversely affected all levels, resulting in low morale and losses from plant operations. In gathering data about the plant through interviews, questionnaires, and observations, the consultant discovered one maintenance crew, unlike the rest of the departments in the plant, had very high morale and productivity. Kenny was its supervisor. In the interview with Kenny, the consultant discovered Kenny was a young man in his early thirties who had a two-year associate’s degree from a community college. The consultant was impressed with his positive attitude, especially in view of the overall low plant morale and productivity. Kenny said the plant was one of the finest places he’d ever worked and the maintenance people had more know-how than any other group with which he had been associated. Kenny’s perception of his crew was they did twice as much work as other crews, everyone worked together, and participative management did work with them. The consultant was curious about why pressure and criticism from the old, autocratic manager seemed not to have had any effect on Kenny’s crew. The crew gave the consultant the answer. They explained Kenny had the ability to act as a buffer between upper management and the crew. He would get higher management’s primary objectives and points across without upsetting his people. As one crew member described it: The maintenance supervisors will come back from a “donkey barbecue”session with higher management where they are raising hell about shoddy work, taking too long at coffee breaks, etc. Other supervisors are shook up for a week and give their staff hell. But Kenny is cool, calm, and collected. He will call us together and report that nine items were discussed at the meeting, including shoddy work, but that doesn’t apply to our crew. Then he will cover the two or three items that are relevant to our getting the job done.
Unfortunately, Kenny did have a real concern at the time of the consultant’s interview. He was being transferred from the highest-producing crew to the lowest producing one. In fact, the latter was known as the “Hell’s Angels”crew. The crew members were a renegade group who constantly fought with production people as well as with one another. The previous supervisor had been terminated because he could not cope with them. After Kenny was assigned to the new crew, he had to make a decision on the leadership strategies he would use in dealing with them. His initial diagnosis was the crew had the ability to do the work but lacked the willingness because of a poor attitude. Through discussion with members of the”Hell’s Angels”crew, the consultant learned that on the first day on the job, Kenny called a meeting, shut the door, and conducted a”bull session”that lasted over two hours. Among other things, he told them about his philosophy and the way he liked to operate. He especially stressed he was going to be fair and treat everyone equally. The crew members were allowed to gripe and complain as long as they talked about matters in the plant, while Kenny played a listening role without arguing with them. In the course of the session, Kenny expressed his expectations of the crew. They, in turn, told him they would do it his way for two weeks to see if he”practiced what he preached.” As you may have surmised by now, Kenny’s leadership made the difference. Before the year was out, his new crew was the most productive in the plant. Clues to his success may be found in the following comments made about him by his old crew, his new crew (the former”Hell’s Angels”group), the plant’s production manager, and Kenny’s boss, the plant’s maintenance manager.** It should be noted that both the production manager and the maintenance manager are relatively new to their positions and are not part of the former “autocratic management system.”As you read these comments, review what you have learned in the preceding chapters and summarize the principles, points, and concepts from the text that Kenny puts into practice as a leader. *The company would not permit use of its name. **Except for minor editing, the comments are presented as they were made to Donald Mosley.
MAINTENANCE MANAGER, KENNY’S BOSS
•He’s very knowledgeable in the maintenance area.
•He has considerable self-confidence.
•He interacts with people in the plant more than other supervisors do and works well with people from other departments.
•He has the ability to motivate his crew and gets along well with them.
•He functions well as a leader in one-on-one situations and in conducting crew meetings. For example, in both cases he lets people know how they stand and provides them with feedback, and together they discuss ways of improving performance.
•He is better organized than most supervisors, and there is less confusion in his department than elsewhere in the company.
•He doesn’t give the production people any hassle. He doesn’t ask a lot of questions about why production wants it done. Instead, he tells the production people what needs to be done and why. •He’s a team player, and he wants to get the job done.
•He’s good with people—a great leader—and his crew work well together.
•He’s conscientious—he does his job, does it right, and wants others to do the same.
•He goes out into the plant with his people, and he’s there with them when they need help and advice. •His crew doesn’t give planners and coordinators a lot of static about what they put into a memo. KENNY’S OLD CREW •He’s fair. •He has a good attitude and a positive outlook.
•He’s concerned about and looks out for the welfare of his people.
•He keeps crew problems within the crew and doesn’t run to upper management with every little detail.
•He has a broad-based knowledge of our work; people feel confident about his decisions.
•He’s a good intermediary between upper management and the crew.
•He gets points across without getting the crew upset.
•When things are tight, he doesn’t mind helping his men with the actual work.
•He has a level personality—he doesn’t show much emotion.
•He’s very supportive of his crew.
KENNY’S NEW CREW (THE FORMER”HELL’S ANGELS”)
•He treats us fairly and equally.
•He takes up for the crew and his men.
•He doesn’t threaten you and doesn’t come back after a bad job and nit-pick and tell you what you did wrong. He takes a positive approach to solving problems.
•He can be trusted.
•He helps you with your personal problems.
•He’s competent at what he does and relates the competency to us.
•He places his employees really well. We’re not all like oranges—some are like apples—but he places us where we can do our best.
•He lets us work at our own pace—actually makes us want to work harder.
•He never appears to get angry; he’s always the same—cool, calm, and collected.
•He’s helpful on the job. He’s there, but he’s not there—doesn’t hang over you, telling you what to do and how to do it. Instead, he wants results but lets us get them our own way.
•He seems to enjoy work and being around us.
•He listens to anything we have to say.
1.How do you explain Kenny’s acceptance by so many other people and the respect they have for him?
Can all supervisors operate the way Kenny does- and be effective? Explain your answers.
2.Given Kenny’s effectiveness in his present job, would you recommend promoting him into high levels of management? Explain?
3.Review the characteristics of servant, adaptive, and transformational leadership in the book. Which characteristics apply to Kenny?
4.If Kenny were to set up a team, how would he proceed?