OMS LEAD Testimonial: Etienne Tardif

I was put into a leadership role very early in my career. My first day of supervision was when my GM approached me and said, “We’re shut down. We don’t know for how long; we’re having issues with our cappel on top of our man hoist. Fix it. I need you to be the supervisor.” My first action after that conversation was to figure out what a ‘cappel’ was.

“It’s not about how much experience you have; it’s about leveraging the skills and experience of the people who report to you. “

When I was first given that supervisor role, my work experience consisted of the six months I’d been on the job plus four years teaching English in Japan. It was a crew of 10, with the average age about double my age at the time with over 300 combined years of experience. It was my job as a supervisor to build relationships and draw out the team’s knowledge to make the right decisions as my experience grew.

This story is a typical one for new supervisors.  Often we’re selected to be a supervisor or leader because we were the best at what we do in our previous role in engineering, in the trades, or as an equipment operator. Unfortunately, being effective in those roles doesn’t mean we understand how to be an effective leader, and most often, we’ve never had training in how to deal with people, how to set up processes, set expectations, and all of those elements that make up the toolbox of an effective leader. 

My goal in creating OMS Lead was to help supervisors understand these elements of effective leadership, and that starts with ‘knowing what you don’t know’ because that’s the first step in learning. We begin with teaching basic skills, communicating, and connecting with people from an emotional perspective. Coaching these leaders on communicating Why they need their people to do things and inspiring them to want to do it allows the entire team to work towards a common goal.

Coaching the Coaches

In addition to the coaching of front-line Supervisors, the OMS Lead program works with Managers and Superintendents to develop ‘Day in the Life’ of documents, guidelines and sets of expectations for the different roles reporting to them. This step is so critical because it’s easy to accept any behaviour if we don’t have an agreed expectation for behaviour. Once this is established, we work with the managers to communicate these expectations to their front-line supervisors. This standard creates consistency in approach and clear expectations from the manager right to the shop floor.

After successfully executing a program like this, there is a base of processes, structure, and tools. As a result, decisions are driven down to their appropriate level, because trust and accountability have also been driven down to that level. The supervisors are making day-to-day decisions, managing personnel conflicts, and firefighting. The managers can now focus on vision and strategy for the next six months to two years because their supervisors have the skills and are empowered to make decisions and lead their people.

Learning to love the job

For me, coaching and mentoring leaders is a lot of fun. There’s a joy in sharing my experiences and helping supervisors remove the stress from their work and learn to love their jobs. I get a lot of satisfaction when I see leaders have those ‘Ah-ha’ moments. These are the moments when the lightbulb sparks in their brain, and they realize, ‘If I implement these processes, if I create this structure, if I empower my people, then managing becomes easy.’  For me, as a supervisor, the less I improvise and ‘wing it,’ the easier my job is, and I have more time to focus on the parts of the job I enjoy and less on the parts I don’t.

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