At a presentation this autumn at midwestGREEN in Columbus, Ohio, Jared Woodend, owner and COO at Redwood Operational Solutions, laid out key measurables and expectations to help building successful field leadership. Woodend’s main focus is implementing operational improvements with green industry and exterior services companies that offer landscaping, hardscaping, construction and other skilled trades services.

Setting goals and having metrics in place that are balanced between quantitative and qualitative – and communicating those expectations with your team – are the first steps in creating and maintaining successful leadership. Woodend pointed out the example of expected hours for a project: If meeting expected hours is all your team is focused on, they may meet those expectations while ignoring equally important metrics, like minimizing safety incidents. Finding a balance between quality and quantity is always important.

Once those measurables are set, determining the ideal state should be the next step in the process. It’s important for your team to know what they are striving for. This could look like completing a certain number of projects in a year, or aiming for zero safety incidents in a season, but knowing what those goals are and communicating them down through your team is crucial.

Now that you know where you’re going, the next step is knowing where you are in the moment with the measurables you have in place. Woodend returned to the example of hours: If you have a team leader that routinely performs at 80% efficiency, it’s not likely that they’re able to flip a switch and reach 100% efficiency after a single conversation. However, if you know they’re at 80%, it is then possible to set benchmarks over time to lead them to their ideal performance. Woodend reminded those in attendance to keep in mind that growth is rarely linear and that setbacks will happen. Always strive to maintain perspective and work toward improvement – and remember that growth lies in the distance between where a team member started and where they are today.

When it comes to a leader’s impact on an actual project, Woodend cited the three most important and interconnected pieces of the puzzle: Time, cost and scope, with each having a direct impact on overall quality. Woodend calls this “the Project Triangle,” since a change to one will almost certainly impact the others.

Time boils down to how long it will take to complete a project. The biggest impact a leader can have on time is the execution of the job plan. Developing and motivating the team and ensuring they have the right tools for the job will lead to the success of completing a project on time.

On the cost side, efficient use of labor and using the right materials will help keep the project on task and within cost expectations.

In terms of scope, it’s important to deliver what was sold, and to keep in mind that plans can change and to be prepared for that. Always be ready to develop a new plan if the situation needs to change while also being mindful of what is within you and your team’s ability to accomplish.

Woodend concluded with these important tools to keep in your leadership toolbox:

  • Connection – Explain your role and your expectations for your team. Being clear about your role and your team’s roles will help to ensure their commitment and what is needed from each person.
  • Communication – Be proactive and thorough. Understand and be understood with clear communication, and maintain that communication for the duration of the project.
  • Accountability – Set specific, achievable goals and follow up on them. Remember that holding accountability is not confrontation, and that feedback creates clarity.
  • Delegation – Produce the highest value in your role. Work alongside those who are your direct reports, but don’t try to do someone else’s job.
  • Training – Always teach at the trainee’s level, not your own. It’s important to tell and to show, and to have them do a task under constructive supervision in the beginning. After that, allow for a review of the work done to ensure the task is being carried out effectively.

A final piece of advice Woodend offered is to keep your eyes on what is known as the “time horizon,” which he described as long-term cause and effect. As a leader, it’s important to pay attention to how far you can see into the future, noting how a single ripple will affect you and your team as it spreads.

Woodend finished with a quote from American writer Tom Peters: “Great leaders do not create followers, they create more leaders.” Using the tools outlined by Woodend, he hopes for all aspiring leaders to do just that while setting up their entire team for success.

by Ken Griffin