Women leaders improve leadership skills through supervisory trainings in Indonesia

7 Mar 2023

Quality Control Supervisor Lina Marlina recalls how she used to scold her subordinates whenever buyers would reject products that failed to adhere to their quality control requirements. She would shoulder the blame from upper management and buyers as shipments were delayed further, causing her to panic even more.

Having experienced such chaotic situations, Marlina felt an immediate connection to Better Work Indonesia’s (BWI) Supervisory Skill Training (SST) session on communication styles. The SST approach differentiates between passive, aggressive and professional communication styles. Marlina said she used to be both aggressive whenever she got upset and passive whenever she panicked.

“Now I’m more of a professional communicator,” said Marlina. “So, when I face problems, I first think of the solutions instead of being angry.”

Marlina said the training also taught her how to use an “emotional bank”. She explained that thanks to her “deposits” of positive behaviours in the “emotional bank” of her supervisees, her team now trusts her leadership. This is particularly important considering that Marlina manages over 250 employees from the Quality Control department.

“Although most supervisors in the sector like Marlina are women, they often lack the knowledge and skills to be successful in their roles. As a result, they resort to yelling and scolding amid pressures on achieving production targets”, BWI training team leader Shelly Woyla Marliane said. Marliane further added that the SST was designed to be highly interactive and to teach supervisors about their roles and responsibilities, professional behaviour at work, communicating effectively with workers and improving worker performance, thus improving outcomes in three areas: supervisors’ abilities and confidence at work, their relationships with workers and productivity.

The lack of such training hinders an already disadvantaged group, who face hurdles to taking on a leadership position – women. A 2021 report cites insufficient general or line management experience as well as lack of leadership training for women, among others, as barriers to women’s leadership in the world of work.

To help tackle this issue, Better Work’s SST has trained more than 1,000 factory supervisors and supervisor candidates in BWI factories to acquire professional leadership skills. An impact evaluation of the  SST showed that when supervisors participated in SST, the staff turnover rate for their lines decreased, while workers also reported higher levels of satisfaction and productivity. This effect is particularly significant when supervisors being trained are women.

“SST showed these supervisors that there is a way to be a leader without having to be hostile to workers,” said Marliane. “We believe that with SST, we can suppress verbal harassment on the production floor, and also encourage the birth of good, professional leaders and build a more positive work atmosphere.”

Line leaders have also benefitted from the training. When she first took on her role in 2017, line leader Depi Puji Astuti faced older and more experienced subordinates who often belittled her orders and decisions. She would cry frequently out of frustration and vent her emotions by shouting at her team members.

After joining SST, the 31-year-old has been using encouraging words instead and discussing with her team what they expect from her alongside their complaints. In return, Astuti would ask them for their support when completing targets and orders from buyers.

“They now say, be it in front of me or whenever I’m not around, that Devi can better control her emotions,” Astuti said.

Line leader Puput Rahmadanti also witnessed the change in her line. Previously, Puput’s team received many complaints and fell behind target frequently. Such pressure pushed her to be more aggressive to get her team members to listen to her. In addition, her anxiety often pushed her to make rash decisions.

Thanks to SST, Rahmadanti learned how to remain composed when making decisions and compassionate when handling people. Such an approach has helped her increase the productivity of her team.

Pak Edgar [the trainer] told me that we need to capture their heart first so that you can earn their respect and be closer to them, before we can have them perform how you would like” explained Rahmadanti.

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