Being a boss of tradies – such a great job, but it comes with a unique set of challenges. You have to have your wits about you, coping with supply issues, market competition, regulatory compliance, and skills shortages.

The key to nailing all of this and being the best possible boss you can be is effective leadership.

When I talk to many of my tradie bosses about this type of leadership, they often think it’s all about being a good bugger. However, effective leadership is more than just being a friendly person-in-charge. It’s about developing your effective leadership toolkit for long-term success.

To help assess your current leadership ability, take a moment to measure yourself against Tradie HR’s Boss Checklist to identify just how effective you are as a boss, and to identify areas to develop for 2024.

1. Clear Communication: As a leader, your ability to communicate effectively is the most important thing. Are your instructions clear and concise, and do your team members understand their roles?

Being open, honest, and straight forward is so important to creating a positive work site and reducing any misunderstandings.

One client, the nicest guy, often over communicates. An idea will pop into his head, leading him to rush to his staff saying that this is what they’re now going to do. Then the following week, a new idea emerges, and he changes his mind again. Here’s where he enters dangerous territory by communicating big decisions without thinking it all through first – and then changing his mind. The result? His team do nothing because they know he’ll change his mind again and again.

I am currently working with this business owner, and encouraging him to press “pause” – pressing “pause” before he responds and pressing “pause” before he makes a decision and communicates. It’s a valuable habit that he is learning to cultivate with outstanding results, leading to much clearer communication.

2. Team Empowerment: Successful leaders empower their teams. Are you fostering a collaborative culture where everyone’s input is valued? Encourage team members to contribute ideas and take ownership of their work. Research shows that if you do this, you’ll see increased productivity and job satisfaction.

Ensure that you listen to their ideas and treat their input respectively. If you criticise them, then don’t be surprised if it’s crickets at toolbox meetings.

3. Safety First: In the trades, safety should be a top priority. Are you promoting and enforcing safety protocols on the job site? A leader who prioritises the well-being of their team demonstrates responsibility and professionalism.

A couple of years ago, I was asked to do a staff survey for a company, and it came out in the results that staff were actively encouraged not to report any near misses or accidents because top management did not want to do all the compliance that went with that. This was the thing that bothered the staff the most – not the pay but health and safety (or lack of it).

4. Problem-Solving Skills: Challenges are inevitable in the trades. How adept are you at solving problems effectively? A strong leader identifies issues early on and implements strategic solutions to keep the project on track. They are also not afraid to ask their staff “what do you think?”.

Remember, your experts are often your employees on the job site, not the expensive consultants.

5. Relationship Building: Building strong relationships with clients, suppliers, and team members is crucial. How well do you work on having positive relationships in your network? How is the experience for others in dealing with you?

One of my favourite quotes is the following: “Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card and the experience people have with you becomes your trademark”. Says it all really.

6. Accountability: Do you take responsibility for both successes and failures? A strong leader holds themselves and their team members accountable for their actions, fostering a culture of accountability and trust without blame and fear.

Sadly, I’ve seen too many examples of bosses blaming others. Remember words are weapons. Are you using yours to build your people up or break them down?

7. Inspiration: Lastly, do you inspire your team to do their best work? People want to work for people who are inspiring, motivating and lead from the front. What activities do you do daily, weekly, and monthly to guide, support and align your people? Are you proud of your employees’ successes, and are committed to helping them shine?

The journey to becoming an effective leader in the trades industry is ongoing, and regularly assessing your skills and how you are going as a boss is crucial towards your continued success. In 2024, aim to go beyond being a good bugger!

If you would like help with doing so then please reach out to me in confidence to see how we can elevate your leadership presence in the trades and help you stand out as a true industry leader!

This article is not intended to be a replacement for legal advice.