There is a range of reasons why people are promoted to managerial positions across the mining industry. Some say it’s connections, others argue it’s about competence and skills to be able to deliver outcomes safely and productively. One of the key reasons why people are historically successful as a mine boss or supervisor is their ability to objectively assess situations and apply solutions based around technical standards or an understanding of best industry practices. Objective judgment is ultimately critical in your suite of mining boss skills.
The key question we must continually ask ourselves is have we been using this skill to evaluate our own behavior with employees and those we connect with on a daily basis?
Being objective about yourself is particularly tough, especially when you are juggling many balls like safety, productivity, quality, and tight timelines. It’s not uncommon to have a myriad of staffing challenges coupled with sometimes unreasonable production targets or KPIs. Of course, no one wants to be the boss that everyone dreads because eventually, it reflects on the well-being of the company and employee retention rates. So that puts you in a difficult situation.
If you have reached this point in the article, you probably have certain suspicions about your own behavior or certainly someone around you…maybe you just want to become a better manager or supervisor. Whatever the reason, here’s some tips that might just highlight where you need to make a change for the better.
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1. You Are Micromanaging
Delegation is one of the biggest challenges that managers across all industries face. For a mining boss or mining supervisor, delagtion is the foundation of success.
Handing over important tasks isn’t enough. You have to learn how to allow employees to execute them without looking over their shoulders every step of the way. Here are a few clear signs that you are micromanaging:
• You are never happy with deliverables.
• You demand frequent updates about the progress.
• You must approve each small decision.
• You join projects or walk in on meetings without warning.
• You ask to be CC’d on every email.
• You feel extreme pride when correcting small mistakes.
• You need to know where your team members are and what they are working on 24/7.
• You give employees one small project at a time, so they have to contact you for the next small assignment.
• Deep down you believe that you should be completing all the tasks yourself and feel frustrated that you don’t have time for them.
• You have a high staff turnover
“One of the most difficult transitions for leaders to make is the shift from doing to leading. As a new manager, you can get away with holding on to work. Peers and bosses may even admire your willingness to keep “rolling up your sleeves” to execute tactical assignments. But as your responsibilities become more complex, the difference between an effective leader and a super-sized individual contributor with a leader’s title is painfully evident.”Jesse Sostrin from the Harvard Business Review
What can you do about micromanaging?
If you notice yourself micromanaging, you need to stop immediately. It could be tough to loosen the reins at first. So start by physically removing yourself from group chats, emails, and meetings that don’t absolutely require your presence.
Continue by communicating your expectations to the team members. Tell them what they need to achieve rather than what they must do to reach the goal.
Focus more on managing the company culture than managing people. Most importantly, work on your trust issues (1). They are what’s keeping you from fruitful delegation.
It’s important to face the reality that not everyone will do the task the same as you. But what is critically important is that you get the right outcomes to meet production and safety.
2. Your Feedback Is Mostly Negative
When you speak to your team members, you end up criticising their work, talking about what they are doing wrong, describing things they can improve, and so forth. Their safe behavior is all wrong…they’re causing too much wear and tear on the machine. Their fuel usage is not right. Whatever it may be…you’ve got into the habit of focusing on the negative aspects of their behavior.
Whether you are talking one-on-one or reviewing work performance during a meeting, all you do is blame and reprimand them for not doing the task well. It’s never good enough for them.
Such regular criticism is a clear sign of perfectionism gone very very wrong. You may feel as if you are focusing on valuable details and constructive feedback. What you are forgetting about is that you are working with people, not machines…albeit that people may be operating the machines.
Sometimes you wake up at night and say “I wish I just had automated mining equipment to do the job, it would be so much simpler”
Clinical social worker Kimberly Leitch, says that “receiving feedback triggers a stress response from the incoming judgment, which is often coming from someone in a position of authority.”
Delivering negative feedback all the times may constantly result in additional stressors and anxiety on your team and may lead to broke relationships and ultimately, in the worst case scenario, workers compensation claims.
What can you do about improving feedback?
You need to learn how to review your team members’ work while maintaining humanity and compassion. Balance criticism with positive reinforcement. Remember, being overly negative is often counterproductive.
When faced with harsh continuous criticism, the majority of people simply shut down and fail to grasp important information. Convey your confidence in their work. Find something good to comment on. Let people know you value them and appreciate their contribution before rolling out the criticism.
Safety is one of those areas where we often get lost in focusing on the negatives…the non-compliances, the poor behaviors rather than the things we are doing right. While there must be non-negotiables when it comes to critical risks, objectivity in safety solutions can often get better outcomes for the team in the long run.
Remember, there’s often more than one way to skin a cat…and as long as there isn’t deviance from standards and regulations…we can find solutions. Don’t let yourself be drawn into focusing on the negatives.
3. You Lack Flexibility
You believe that since work is the most important thing in your life, the same should be true for your employees. Have you ever skipped a dentist appointment or missed your kid’s footy game because of pressing work issues? Do you expect your team members to do the same? Are you against your team members working remotely because you like to have them nearby?
Making your team members jump through bureaucratic or emotional hoops to get some time off due to an emergency at home is a clear sign of becoming a bad boss.
What can you do about improving flexibility for employees?
Flexibility is the key to high productivity. It’s also one of the top employee retention factors for employees (2).
Understanding this before is critical before making any other steps. Being flexible doesn’t mean losing your grip or control on the situation. It simply allows employees to deal with their problems and become more productive.
Follow clear company guidelines about doctor’s appointments and time off but be flexible when it comes to emergencies particularly those involving family members.
4. You Expect Round-the-Clock Availability
As a mine boss, you take anything that happens to the mine or project personally. This may mean being on-call 24/7 and fixing issues as they arise, even if it’s 2:00 a.m. on Sunday. You expect your team members to do the same. You want them to answer questions during the off-hours, come to work early, stay late, and participate in meetings remotely when they are on vacation.
By doing the above, you are disrespecting your workers’ personal time. This usually leads to dissatisfaction and loss of productivity.
What can you do about expectations?
Lower your communication expectations. You need to remember that once your team members leave the site or the office, they have a right not to answer your calls or emails within seconds.
If your work demands more attention, talk this issue out with your employees. During the off-time, they should have the flexibility of answering your messages in several hours or on the next day rather than immediately.
5. You Avoid Team Building
You don’t know anything about what your employees do besides work. The small talk in the crib hut or at the coffee machine boils down to deadlines and criticism. Your employees don’t know much about you either.
You and your team members don’t do anything together except work. You never go out for drinks or a sports game. You’ve never had an office party or arranged an event. You don’t share interests outside the workplace.
What can you do about improving your team?
Team building (3) is essential for creating a positive company culture and improving overall productivity levels. You need to stop thinking about it as a distraction and start seeing the overwhelming benefits such interactions can have for your business or project.
Make an effort to reward your team members for their hard work by arranging events you participate in together. You can improve your reputation as a boss and learn interesting details about your employees. Team building is often an excellent source of inspiration for improving safety and productivity in the business. It has proven benefits for further work planning.
The Takeaway: Get on the Right Track
It’s never too late to stop being an awful mine boss or supervisor. By paying more attention to your actions and considering the needs of your team, you can start changing your behavior immediately.
I get it that you will always have pressure, KPIs and other productivity targets to meet…but we need to find some humanity in what we do.
Eventually, by listening and displaying some humanity in your job, you may even improve mine safety performance, employee satisfaction along with the company’s bottom line.
Bottom line is don’t be a horrible mine boss or supervisor!