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Leadership for Linemen: Part 1

Dec. 4, 2019
When moving from the field to the office, linemen must work on their writing skills to succeed in a supervisory position.

In the first part of my leadership series, I'm focusing on writing. You may wonder why I'm focusing on this topic, but you'll find that there are many misconceptions about leadership. How many times have you read motivational phrases, terms and analogies about how to be a great leader? Many of them are prevalent, but provide little to no value. There are no tools, job aids and training that can be learned from a catchphrase or meme. 

Here are four strategies to improve your writing when you move into a supervisory position. 

1. Use abbreviations sparingly. Writing, expressing yourself and communicating are fundamental skills that we as a society have dumbed down and made easy through a lack of discipline and training. Texting, using emojis and shortcutting words through the use of abbreviations and contractions are not acceptable in the business world nor should be. In the transmission and distribution industry, the message must be easily understood when writing to communicate safety, procedures, clearances, performance evaluations and training modules.

Utilities may use some industry-accepted abbreviations in certain situations such as switching orders when it is necessary to write down multiple moves during energization and de-energizations steps. However, those abbreviations come with training and education and vary slightly from one company to another.  

2. Be professional.  When you enter the supervision world, you will be required to write emails and business letters. You will also need to review and revise contracts, perform accident investigations and compose safety and work procedures, performance evaluations, etc.

One rule of thumb when you first start working as a supervisor is to never use profanity. It is unnecessary, and you will immediately send the reader the wrong message. It is okay to be passionate and forceful in your writing, but you need to learn to communicate your message professionally. Think about the implications of your message and who your audience is.

I have been to many conferences where the speaker, in an attempt, to relate to his or her audience will use “salty” language to establish a connection with them. For example, a supervisor/former lineman believes it would be cool to speak to his audience as if he were out in the field. However, your audience could include managers, directors, human resources, newspaper reporters--you name it. Be professional when you communicate.

3. Use correct grammar, spelling, syntax and punctuation. For example, a comma makes a big difference in the message. For example, “Let's eat, Grandma," hto “Let's eat Grandma.” A comma makes a big difference in the message. Imagine you’re sending out an invoice and the total is $4567. Instead of writing $4,567, you use a period instead of a comma and say $4.567. Even though you have the same numbers, you get a totally different result.

4. Print your handwritten notes and sign in cursive.

Writing is not the “glamorous” part of leadership. It doesn’t evoke cool catchphrases and memes. It is, however, necessary in order to process work, close out jobs and provide details on maps. Also, if you want to move up vertically in the organization your ability to write effectively will enhance your chances.

Do you have a question for Max about leadership, training or career development? Email it to Field Editor Amy Fischbach

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