One of the challenges a growing company faces is bringing in someone to fill a new position.
What follows is some of the advice that I gave a remodeling company owner regarding how to make his first production manager more likely to succeed.
Your company has existed for a considerable amount of time with you being the center of its universe. This is neither good nor bad. However, in order to reduce the company's dependence on you—and allow you to focus on what you do best—you've hired a production manager.
When we first brought on a capable production manager, I had to stop being the go-to person for production personnel. The shift was a bit jarring for me, particularly given that I had a lot of practical construction knowledge. However, by continuing to give direction to the lead carpenters, I was putting our production manager in the position of not being able to do the job he/she was hired to do. So we made some changes.
Suppose a lead carpenter had a technical question. First, he had to come up with an answer on his own. Then, he would run it by the other folks he was managing. Following that, if needed, then he would run it by the production manager, even if the production manager had little technical knowledge. Why run it by the production manager?
- The production manager is the lead carpenter's manager. How can the production manager be in charge of the production department if the lead carpenter is not, as needed, routinely running things by the production manager?
- The production manager will build a body of technical knowledge more quickly if he has to think with the lead carpenter about what is the best solution to a problem.
- By working regularly together on such issues, the production manager and the lead carpenter build a good working relationship.
Once the production manager had a
handle on the situation he had access to me, the owner of the company, to discuss the problem and the solution.
We had a very good lead carpenter who had been with the company for a long time. I spoke with him personally about the need for this shift. I explained that it was important for us to work together to make the production manager successful. We adjusted. In fact, our good lead carpenter became the go-to technical knowledge resource for the production manager. You might need to do something similar with your key lead carpenter, given all your history together.
Here are some of the other shifts we made.
Once a week, the production manager would meet with each lead carpenter at his or her respective jobsites. The meeting would typically take place before the client meeting and last around an hour. The agenda for the meeting included reviewing job costing, the overall schedule, the lead carpenter's three week look-ahead, checklist(s) which had been filled out by the lead carpenter, and preparing for the client meeting.
The lead carpenter and the production manager would both be present at the client meeting. Depending on how capable the lead carpenter was he would run the meeting and transcribe minutes. The minutes would be published as soon as possible. I, as the owner, would read the meeting minutes for all jobs so that I had a good sense of what was going on.
Once a week, the production manager and I would meet, typically after the production manager/lead carpenter meetings had all occurred. We would review job costing, look-aheads, and meeting minutes for all of the jobs. We would focus on what needed attention, discussing what was going well and what could use some improvement. We would also talk about any upcoming jobs and when they would be able to be taken on by the production department.
If I was going to visit a job, I had to speak with the production manager to find a convenient time for the visit. I would make sure that the lead carpenter and other production team members knew I appreciated their efforts. Anything of substance about the job I would tell to the production manager, with the express expectation being that he would take any needed items to be discussed to the lead carpenter after I had left.
We had our designer do the hard work of helping clients make selections and laying out all that info in a spreadsheet for the benefit of the production department. I understand from speaking with your new production manager that he is doing much of that work. Consider bringing on a person whose primary focus is selections and documenting them.
Your new production manager is a very results-oriented individual, inclined to interact with people only as needed to achieve results. To earn your staff’s respect, he needs to increase his focus on the people he is managing. This is easier said than done.
I suggest he read Dale Carnegie's book How to Win Friends and Influence People, as it has many good insights regarding building relationships to achieve results. There is a course that Dale Carnegie franchisees deliver called Leadership Training for Managers. We had our production manager take it. He went once a week for several weeks instead of doing it in three days straight. I think spreading it out made it easier for the lessons to sink in.
Getting the other people in the company to know your new production manager better and vice versa is extremely important. I suggest that the company might go out together and do something, maybe bowling. At the very least, your new production manager could bring pizza to a jobsite once a month or the like. The relationship building is essential for the company to be successful with this new team member.
Keep in mind that much of what I wrote about bringing in someone to fill the position of production manager for the first time is relevant to the first time you fill any position. It will be a learning experience for all involved. Accept that.
As a business owner, you create a
better life for yourself and a better company by bringing in others that take
on some of your responsibilities.