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Essential Skills for Your Front-line Supervisor – Part Two

Cotney Consulting Group essential skills part two
January 30, 2023 at 6:00 a.m.

By John Kenney, Cotney Consulting Group.

Once you've nailed your leadership, management and communication skills, here's how to best organize the way you manage your business.

In part one, we discussed how your front-line supervisors are a vital link between senior management and the workforce and the first three essential skills to empowering your front-line supervisors. This section looks at planning, directing, delegating, follow-up, expediting, problem-solving, decision-making, developing, coaching and employee engagement. 


Production planning is how activities are going to be accomplished. Project planning is macroplanning, while production planning is microplanning. Production planning establishes the methods you will use, the assignment of personnel, the movement of material to the workforce and the process of assembling the pieces. Production planning begins well before the project is mobilized on the job site and continues throughout the project until all field operations are closed out and is a must on roofing projects. The crew leaders must be involved in operational planning since they will provide oversight, quality and safety and engage the crew fully with the plan. The goal of production planning should be the reduction of risk that will minimize disruption, increase efficiency and lower costs, resulting in safer operations and more bottom-line project profit.  


When assigning tasks or providing guidance, the crew leader must give the crew clear direction on the goals and objectives. They must provide the necessary information, so the workforce understands the expectations of what they have to do and how to do it — the importance of accomplishing the task safely within the budgeted time. Effective communication is critical when it comes to providing direction. The crew leader must ensure that everyone clearly understands this.  


Delegating is one of the primary functions in management. A capable front-line supervisor must delegate effectively to meet production goals. They must understand the relationship between authority, responsibility and accountability to delegate effectively. They are accountable for the work the crew performs. The crew leader can assign work to anyone in the crew and is responsible for ensuring proper installation within the budgeted time.  

Correct matching of task assignments is a crucial function for the crew leader. The crew leader must know the task requirement and match it to the worker's capability. Mismatching a task assignment will adversely impact the worker's productivity, affect the work's quality, and even cause unsafe working conditions.  

The next step is to ensure the worker effectively performs the task efficiently. The crew leader should watch the worker perform the job to ensure the worker is doing it effectively and efficiently. This means understanding how the worker plans to complete the work as acceptable. If there are any doubts, the crew leader must provide guidance and ensure the worker understands the new suggestions.  

Follow-up and expediting  

Follow-up and expediting are critical functions in roofing project management to ensure the timely production and submission of information and documents; the delivery of materials, equipment and subcontractors. To perform this function effectively, your company must have a written and effective follow-up and expediting process to ensure the proper production flow and eventual timely project completion.  

The ability to look ahead ensures you can address potential problem areas before they occur, reducing the risk of disruptions in your roofing project's progress and reducing the cost of expediting and follow-up activity.  

Problem solving and decision-making 

There is a distinct difference between the two skills. Problem-solving is a method, and decision-making is a process. Problem-solving uses analytical thinking, while decision-making is more of a judgment. After thinking, you take a course of action. Decision-making involves choosing between different courses of action based on the best option of those you are considering. Problem-solving consists in finding the actual cause of the issue. Your focus on problem-solving is to bring the operation or activity to the optimal performance outcome. 

Developing and coaching 

Developing and coaching are among the top three most crucial transformative leadership competencies, but they are not utilized as they should be. Most leaders cite a lack of time or the techniques to do this effectively. To be a high-performing leader, you must learn these practical, direct methods to coach and develop yourself and others.  

These methods include building awareness, building commitment and building practice. You must utilize all three techniques for coaching to have a lasting positive impact. If any of these are missing, the benefits will disappear. 

Employee engagement 

A supervisor has much power over employee engagement. Engaged employees are thoroughly involved and enthusiastic about their work and act in the best interests of your company. When engaged, they achieve high productivity and operational efficiency, which increases profitability. 

Part three will cover motivation, performance, risk and safety, working effectively with the team, active listening, conflict resolution and time management. 

Learn more about Cotney Consulting Group in their directory or visit www.cotneyconsulting.com.

About John Kenney

John Kenney is the Chief Executive Officer at Cotney Consulting Group. Prior to starting Cotney, John had 45 years of experience in the construction industry. John began his career by working as a roofing apprentice at a family business in the Northeast. Because of his skill and hard work, he progressed from roofing laborer to foreman, estimator, chief estimator, Vice President, and Chief Operating Officer with his various companies. John has worked for multiple Top 100 Roofing Contractors and is intimately familiar with all aspects of roofing production, estimating, and operations. In his last role, John was responsible for the daily operations and performance of a large commercial roofing contractor. During his tenure, John ran business units associated with delivering excellent workmanship and unparalleled customer service while ensuring healthy net profits for his company.

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