“Be a coach, not a cop.” That's key advice Rodney “Buck” Hillestad gives supervisors and business owners about the best way to interact with their subordinates or employees.

Hillestad, owner of Hillestad Learning Technologies, South Milwaukee, WI, started his own leadership training company after working at Case-IH for over 20 years as a supervisor. He has designed and delivered leadership and sales training to thousands of supervisors and employee teams in a wide range of businesses.

“If you work toward developing a set of core leadership competencies — integrity, attainment skills, tactical skills and inspirational leadership — you're going to be an effective supervisor,” he says. “Whether you're running a custom-harvesting crew that has hundreds of acres to cover or a candy factory, many of the same leadership skills apply.”

A good boss should have or provide:

Integrity — That means being fair, leading by example and remembering that these responsibilities don't go away because you've had a bad day.

By treating workers with respect, and as important members of your custom-harvest team, you can expect them to react that way. If you act as though they're incapable of making decisions without you hovering over them, they'll likely behave that way.

Take personal responsibility for what goes on that's within your control. If mistakes were made on your watch, own up to and correct them. Then do what's necessary to prevent a recurrence. If you blame others for your mistakes, your subordinates probably will, too.

Attainment skills — A boss should have the technical expertise he expects from employees. For example, it would be difficult to teach others how to operate the latest features on a new forage harvester if you don't know them yourself.

Build a high-performance team. Ask yourself, “What are the characteristics of the most effective team I've ever been a part of?” Consider what made that team so effective and emulate those characteristics.

Communicate in multiple ways, so that you are addressing everyone's preferred style. For example, one of your employees might best learn how to operate a new baler with a hands-on demonstration and another might benefit more from reading the manual.

Build rapport and find common ground with your employees.

Set measurable goals for employees and provide effective feedback about how well they're doing. If somebody's doing a poor job, address that, too.

Tactical skills — Develop and implement a vision. People will follow someone who has a vision or knows what success looks like. Tell your employees, “If today works out to be perfect, this is what it's going to look like.”

Set realistic goals, such as the number of acres you want to harvest today, and remember that setting unreachable goals is discouraging.

Display an appropriate level of assertiveness. Assertiveness, not aggression, passionately pursues a goal or implements a vision.

Inspirational leadership — Enthusiasm energizes and motivates others. As a supervisor, you set the tone for the team, and employees will pick that up and approach tasks the same way.

Try to give individuals what they need to be successful and recognize that it's going to be different for everyone. Some people need a lot of coaching; others don't.