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Longshore Insider
The 4 G’s of Effective Front-line Leadership
Feb 17, 2020 - Joe White, AEU LEAD

PwC recently released the results from its 22nd Annual Global CEO Survey. When asked in the survey how they planned to drive revenue growth over the next 12 months, 77% of CEOs responded with “operational efficiencies”. Translated, that means internal focus from an executive level on improving systems and processes already in place. For middle managers, it means changing behaviors involving employees and work practices that may have been in place for years.

Those on the front line – specifically, supervisors, foremen, and lead personnel – are responsible for driving initiatives forward and making transformation possible. Unfortunately, most aren’t prepared and don’t have the skills needed to make the desired transitions a reality.

While there’s no “easy button” or time-honored tradition known only to the chosen few, there is a strategy that can greatly increase your odds of success. Crafted around four “G’s”, the outlined practices below can be performed by anyone with the time, drive to succeed, and willingness to engage. As a supervisor, this technique also provides an opportunity for you to distinguish yourself as a front-line leader.


1. Grow Support for the Need to Change 

The key to growing support for change is to focus on the need for change. This requires careful attention to detail and connecting the WHY to something important to the individual with whom you’re speaking. This is the easiest of the four steps and allows you the opportunity to start out on the right foot. It’s important to find a common point of agreement, especially one that revolves around a business need that can be solved by making a change.


2. Get Buy-in for the Benefits of Change

Whereas the first step involves a rallying point around the need for change, the second step shifts focus to getting buy-in on the benefits of the needed changes. This subtle but significant shift in detail and direction is the difference between acknowledging a problem exists and agreeing that something needs to be done about it. When getting buy-in, it’s important to frame discussions around HOW the changes will benefit the individual, others, and the company.


3. Gain Alignment on the Path Forward

Because decisions are often made at an executive level, the specifics of the initiative itself, and the detailed path of pursuit are often handed down and may not be open for negotiation or discussion. While we strongly advocate input from key stakeholders, we also recognize that it’s not always in place. Regardless, your role is to champion the effort and to rally the support needed for the transition to occur. To do this, you must gain alignment on the path forward.

Your focus is now on WHERE changes will be made and how it will impact those reporting to you. This is where many on the front-line crash and burn. The best advice we can offer is to own it. Make the communication your own, speak in first-person, and let those reporting to you know you’re in it together and for the duration of the journey. Provided the path forward is defined and handed down for implementation, portray it for what it is – a requirement and not an option.


4. Gather Commitment Involving Roles and Responsibilities

Gathering commitment may seem a bit old-fashioned, but it’s still effective in most cultures. By and large, most people don’t want to disappoint, and giving someone your word carries a lot of weight. Whereas gaining alignment focuses on where changes will be made, gathering commitment involves specifically identifying WHAT you expect in terms of job performance and individual behaviors. While employees often complain about change and its impact on them, knowing what’s expected and how they fit into the transition goes a long way in gaining needed traction.


Changes Ahead

Provided the survey results from PwC’s study hold true, we will continue to see change and transformation in the workplace this year and beyond. Recognizing the needs of those in the middle and preparing them for the task ahead is a much needed first step for many organizations. Following these “4 G’s” will create opportunities for skill development that may be used in any area of operational performance.

This article originally appeared in the AEU LEAD blog on March 11, 2019.



As Director of AEU LEAD, Joe White focuses on helping members transform operational goals into actionable plans through a structured change management process. Prior to joining AEU, Joe was a senior consultant for E.I. DuPont’s consulting division, DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS). He joined DSS in 2011 to develop the next generation of safety practices using extensive research in behavioral sciences he’s compiled over a period of nearly two decades. His efforts resulted in the development of The Risk Factor, which is now the flagship instructor-led offering for the consulting division. Combined, Joe has 26 years of operational safety experience, the majority of which was with DuPont. Joe has been published in Occupational Health & Safety Magazine for his prominent work in safety relative to behavioral and neurosciences and is an event speaker at many leading industry conferences including National Safety Council (NSC) Congress and Expos, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and National Maritime Safety Association (NMSA). Joe is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and has a B.S., in Safety and Risk Administration.

The opinions and comments expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the opinion of ALMA, AEU or Amwins. None of ALMA, AEU, Amwins or the authors are responsible for any inaccuracy of content or for any loss or damages incurred by any party as a result of reliance on information contained in this article. Content may not be published or reproduced without the written consent of the authors. Prior articles may not be updated for accuracy as pertinent information changes over time. The Longshore Insider is intended to provide general information about the industry and should not be construed as legal advice under any circumstances. For legal advice, please consult a licensed attorney.
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