It was once suggested to me that, in most turfcare work teams, there are only a couple of people with ability or potential, the others are mainly manual workers who just want to do their work each day and get home on time.
I was informed that this majority in the work team avoid responsibility or any type of personal development or training because they have no ambition beyond keeping their job. This is believed to be true of the majority of individuals no matter how old they are, or how many years they have been working.
Only two types of people
For myself, I acknowledge that this view may seem to be apparent in some work teams, but I do not believe it is universally true. I have observed frequently that, if a supervisor or proprietor thinks that people have this mentality, then they need only a little evidence to believe that this situation is universally true.
This belief was characterised over fifty years ago by Douglas McGregor whose study of employer attitudes revealed that employers are either Theory X or Theory Y:
Theory X employers assume that employees are inherently lazy and will avoid hard work if they can. They believe that employees need to be closely supervised at all times, Theory X employers also believe that their staff will avoid any type of responsibility, preferring to have a quiet life instead. Theory X employers think that their employees are only interested in money and perks, and that they must be threatened or intimidated before they will work to any sort of standard.
This approach usually leads to mistrust, strict supervision and a blame culture. A culture in which employers blame and punish their staff, and staff, in turn, blame and punish each other. Theory X employers believe it is the supervisor's job to organise the work and energise the staff.
Theory Y employers, on the other hand, assume employees can be ambitious, self-motivated and self disciplined. They believe that employees may actually enjoy both the mental and the physical aspects of their work. They think that work is as natural as play. They also believe that all staff possess the ability to do creative problem solving and, given the proper conditions, will learn to seek out and accept responsibility. Theory Y employers think that staff can and will exercise self-control and self-direction in accomplishing work objectives to which they are committed.
Theory Y employers believe that, given the right conditions, most people will want to do well at work. They believe that the satisfaction of doing a good job is a strong motivation.
Theory X or Theory Y
As an employer, a supervisor or as an individual in a team do you have a Theory X or a Theory Y mentality? Maybe you are a bit of both?
Whatever you are at the moment, I can tell you that Theory Y employers are more likely than Theory X employers to develop the climate of trust with their staff that is required for people to give more, perform better and be loyal to the team.
Most of the performance problems that I have been called in to solve can be attributed to a Theory X mentality. This is especially in cases where Theory X supervisors lead a generally Theory Y team and, occasionally, when a Theory Y supervisor is dealing with Theory X individuals in the work team.
On a wet summer or a snowy winter's day
In the fifty years since the notion of Theory X and Theory Y first gained acceptance, there has been an almost total swing towards Theory Y supervision being seen as appropriate in most work situations, especially in the turfcare sector where the vast majority of people seem to enjoy doing their jobs.
If you suspect you are in one of the few remaining bastions of Theory X then you can at least test whether a transition to Theory Y might be possible. You might start to do this on a wet summer or a snowy winter's day.
For example, Theory Y supervisors communicate openly with staff. They stop keeping the staff at arm's length and start taking them into their confidence; Theory Y supervisors also create a comfortable environment in which the staff can develop and use their abilities. They involve their staff in decision making so that the staff have a say in matters that affect them.
The Three S's
In my management seminars I tend to recommend the three S's. These are - Specialisms, Sectors and Succession Planning. I continue to suggest these because the feedback I have had on the use of them has been very positive. You may already be doing one or more of the three S's already and, better still, you may have been rotating the roles. Let's take them one at a time.
Specialisms - the supervisor makes sure that everyone has a specialist role in the team. This tells staff they are competent, responsible and trusted. Specialisms might include responsibility for Health and Safety, spraying, basic mechanics etc. The team member's specialist role might involve them undergoing some training, but supervisors could also give staff the responsibility for briefing or coaching other members of the work team in their specialist area. You might start this process by talking to individuals or the whole work team on a wet summer or a snowy winter's day.
Sectors - the supervisor makes sure that everyone has a sector of the playing fields, grounds or golf course for which they are personally responsible. This, again, tells staff that they are competent, responsible and trusted. A greenkeeper might be given responsibility for certain holes on the course or, if preferred, just the bunkers or the fairways or the greens of certain holes or all of the holes.
On days when there is more work than the individual can cope with, then the supervisor ensures that other team members go and work for the individual and s/he in turn will help them out when help is needed in their sector.
This may require the sector 'leader' to be coached or trained in how to supervise people. Pitchcare can help supervisors with this requirement. If you have people who need training just contact Christine Johnson, the Pitchcare Training Development Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org
Succession Planning - the supervisor makes sure that everyone has a place on his/her succession plan. All employers need to be prepared for key people leaving their employ at short notice - for whatever reason. If a Head Groundsman or Head Greenkeeper leaves unexpectedly, employers can minimise this problem by naming individuals to be the successors of the people above them in the hierarchy. For example, if the Head Groundsman leaves then the Deputy can be the nominated successor. If a Deputy Golf Course Manager leaves then the First Assistant can be the nominated successor.
This nominating of successors needs to be done well in advance and can go right through the team. Every interested team member will then know that their employer thinks that they are competent, responsible and trusted enough to do the higher level work - at least until a job vacancy advertisement can be placed and recruitment interviews arranged. The ambitious individual then has maybe a few weeks in which to demonstrate to the employer that s/he is the best candidate for the higher level job.
'The devil they know' rather than a stranger
Many employers prefer to promote from within the organsation. They are hiring 'the devil they know' rather than a stranger off the street. It would be incumbent on every individual on the succession plan to coach and train his/her nominated successor to do the higher level work so that a seamless transition can take place. Again, this is something that can be started on a wet summer day or a snowy winter's day.
May I close by encouraging you to make the most of your down periods by taking some time to develop your staff, and by getting your staff to develop each other in a purposeful way. I believe that it can only be good for you, your staff and your employer.
Frank Newberry has been helping people get better results in the turfcare sector for over twenty years. If you need to develop your staff to perform better, and you would like some advice that is specific to your situation, you can get in touch with Frank direct via the contact tab of his personal website: www.franknewberry.com