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Leadership for Lineworkers, Part 3: Crew Visits

Dec. 27, 2019
When you move from a foreman into a supervisor position, you will be performing crew visits. Here are some tips to make them effective and valuable for the foremen and the field workforce.

As a foreman, you will have the pleasure of having your supervisor visit your crew. When this happens, you may want the visit to conclude quickly so you can move on with your work. Why is that? Oftentimes, you and your crew may not see the value of having your supervisor on-site, and you may not be following all of the rules. If your supervisor shows up to point out that the work signs aren't out or someone isn't wearing a vest, these issues may appear trivial in the grand scheme of things--which is to get the work done. 

Fast-forward to the future, when you are the supervisor and you're the one who is required and mandated to perform crew visits. How are you going to make a quality visit? Here are some tips on how to conduct a visit that the foreman considers brings value to his or her crew as far as safety, quality and production. 

1. Meet with all of the foremen who report directly to you and explain the reason for the crew visits. At some utilities, the supervisors are mandated to perform the visits as part of their performance bonuses, and in some organizations, they have a "quota" for the supervisors to meet. Neither one of these business drivers is optimal. 

 2. Explain that you will be performing both announced and unannounced visits. When you talk to the foremen, try to make them understand that you are not trying to catch them in a compromised situation. Instead, the rules and regulations exist for a reason, and you are responsible for ensuring, along with the foremen, that those standards are adhered to. 

3. Help the foremen to overcome challenges. By having a supervisor on-site, a foreman has another set of eyes as well as access to a person with experience to bounce ideas off of and to discuss challenges in the field. A supervisor who doesn't perform regular crew visits with the intent of assisting the foreman and the crew should be terminated.

How do you perform a crew visit? Here are some strategies to make an announced visit as effective as possible.

Tell the foremen that you will be making a crew visit on a particular day and plan to arrive when they are providing their tailboard at the job site.  The foreman should inform the crew that the supervisor will be showing up and attending the tailboard. Also, the foreman should introduce the supervisor in case some of the younger or newer workers haven't met the supervisor. 

Sit in the background, listen to the tailboard and make mental notes for future discussion. Remember that the crew belongs to the foreman. Show him or her the respect he or she deserves in front of the crew.

In my experience, the foreman looked over to me after the tailboard to see if I wanted to say anything. I took the opportunity to thank the crew for their dedication and hard work. I also emphasized that the real goal of our jobs is to complete the mission and leave and return home safe and sound after a productive day at work.

Pull the foreman aside for a private discussion if there are things you believe should be discussed. Ask for his or her feedback about how they perceive you as a supervisor during the crew visit. If you take this approach, you will soon find your foreman looking forward to seeing you and seeking your advice.

Remember, as the supervisor, you are a servant-leader. Do everything in your power to optimize the working conditions of those who report to you. It is a team effort.

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