By : Don Tyler

Many ag operations have grown significantly during the last several years, and as this growth has occurred they have experienced challenges in developing the desired level of cooperation and collaboration among their increasing number of supervisors. When this growth is managed correctly it can be a great experience for the individual supervisors as well as the productivity and profitability of the entire business.

The development of supervisors is an ongoing process, helping them develop the skills and techniques required to balance their daily production duties with employee management. Quite often, the leadership of the feedlot tries to do all this development themselves. Sometimes this works well, but often the results are significantly less than ideal. For best results, the most effective leaders establish a framework for development that includes supervisors helping supervisors.

During one supervisor’s meeting I witnessed great cooperation and collaboration in action. None of the owners or upper managers were in this meeting. I was there to help facilitate the discussion, but soon found that these supervisors didn’t need much assistance. One of the 9 supervisors in this group had been having some productivity and reliability issues with his staff. His department provided services that the others needed and because he was having challenges, so were the other supervisors.

Instead of each supervisor going around the table and listing their personal grievances with his management ability, they systematically shared how his department’s performance affected the performance of their people. They offered compliments and encouragement throughout the discussion, and though this supervisor did clearly see himself in the hot seat, he took their comments in stride and asked questions for clarification. He defended his people appropriately and tactfully, and accepted the comments and criticisms in stride with the tone they were delivered.
The group finished with clear action steps that the supervisor needed to take within his department, but the other supervisors didn’t leave themselves out of the solution. Some offered to talk to some of this supervisor’s staff and help reinforce the company’s production goals and cultural expectations. Others planned to talk to the employees in their own department so there was consistency in expectations, as well as support for every department to ensure compliance with procedures. One offered to go with this supervisor to their boss and help explain the changes that were needed, the support of all the departments, and the specific steps they would be taking. This was crucial because one of the steps was to potentially terminate two employees for poor performance, and the need to hire their replacements even before they were terminated.

There could not have been a better outcome to this discussion. The supervisors developed and reinforced a new level of camaraderie, several issues were addressed, the supervisor that was struggling felt a greater sense of empowerment and confidence, and they developed a model for addressing similar issues in the future.

When supervisors throughout a company collaborate and cooperate, there is a camaraderie that develops and protects the entire operation. Employees learn that all the supervisors are unified in their objectives, expectations and accountability, leaving no room for a poor performer who thinks they can do mediocre work when they are away from their direct supervisor’s watchful eyes. Additionally, this group of supervisors will have a much higher level of personal job satisfaction because they know they don’t have to address every issue on their own. They will want to be a part of this supervisory team for many years, reducing turnover at this level, and encouraging other employees to seek a management role in the company because they want to be a part of this great teamwork environment.

Don Tyler is founder of Tyler & Associates Management Coaching. He can be reached at or by calling 765-490-0353.

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