Most contractors hire subcontractors, who in turn hire field leaders for their respective trades. The field leaders of each trade have a great impact on the bottom line because they are on the jobsite managing crews and their tool and material needs, as well as setting standards for the quality of work completed. Field leaders are the principal planners, organizers, decision makers, problem solvers, documenters, safety leaders, communicators, and mentors on the jobsite.
Most field leaders are promoted to leadership positions because they are top performers in their respective trades. In many cases, it is assumed that because these individuals are exemplary workers, they will be great field leaders. What is more often the case is that new field leaders are ill-equipped to manage all aspects of a construction project in a manner that maximizes profits to the company. Think about the projects that your company is currently constructing as you consider the following questions.
Do the field leaders of the various trades understand your business? The viability of a contracting business relies heavily on the notion that every leader, in the office and in the field, fully understands how company profits are realized. This includes the competitive nature of bidding against other contractors for projects and understanding both direct and indirect costs, financial risks, and cash flow. Most field leaders clearly understand the installation process but not all the ins and outs of running a successful contracting business. Nor do they understand enough about the financial aspects of the company to always make the best decisions on the jobsite.
Do those field leaders practice the essential leadership skills required to earn the respect of others? Professionalism, respect, credibility, character, ethics, integrity, mentoring, and lifelong learning are leadership qualities that motivate crew members to do their best. Yet, most individuals who hold field leadership positions received little or no leadership training. Effective field leaders possess the key leadership qualities that enable them to be successful, as well as learn from others, in addition to the technical expertise required to run a job.
Do those field leaders have the planning and organizational skills to keep crews working efficiently? Effective field leaders spend a great deal of their time planning tasks, determining manpower requirements, obtaining tools and materials, staging, and supporting crew morale in order to keep a project on time and within budget. Most field leaders are comfortable doing the work themselves, but planning and completing work through other people is less familiar territory. Effective field leaders emphasize continuous planning and organizing that result in efficiency and production. They run safe and efficient jobsites and motivate crew members to do their best work every day.
Do those field leaders have the communication skills required to manage projects efficiently while promoting crew morale? Effective field leaders communicate with crew members in a consistent manner in order to build positive and productive working relationships on the jobsite. They explain tasks clearly, demonstrate listening skills by welcoming input from others, and provide clear and decisive answers to questions that arise. Effective field leaders read technical documents, practice good written communication, and respectfully coordinate with field leaders of other trades. They use good communication skills to inspire crew members to complete every job on time and within budget. Effective field leaders also approach conflict diplomatically and employ a variety of solutions to address disruptive behaviors on the jobsite.
Do those field leaders possess the leadership skills to maximize your bottom line? The answer to this question varies, but a common thread that runs throughout the construction industry is that new field leaders are often handpicked from each company’s manpower pool on an as-needed basis, without the time to assess each field leader’s business and leadership skills. In many cases this results in trial-by-fire decisions. Exceptional technical skills without leadership training do not typically result in effective field leadership. There is a big difference between an individual doing a job well and an individual managing others who are responsible for completing a job collectively. Field leaders often work with people who do not share the same hobbies, views, beliefs, or philosophies.
Because they cannot be at the jobsite every single day to see what is actually happening, owners and contractors are in the precarious position of trusting field leaders of subcontractors to keep daily activities on task, on time, and within budget. The management team must believe that these field leaders are competent in their trade and capable of setting a consistent example that a crew is willing to follow. The company must also believe that field leaders will keep them informed of all financial decisions that affect the outcome of a project.
Contractors need field leaders working on their projects who are able to protect the company’s interests as if they were their own. To accomplish this, leadership training must become more of a priority. Leadership training helps current and potential field leaders:
- Learn more about the contracting business
- Plan, organize, execute, and document projects
- Supervise safe and efficient jobsites
- Communicate with and mentor crew members
- Complete projects on time and within budget ■
About The Author: Jason C. McCarty is the author of Effective Leadership Skills for Construction Field Leaders, a new training manual that combines print and online resources in a turnkey package full of real-world case studies and interactive experiences. Jason is a journeyman inside wireman who is licensed in both Oregon and Washington. He became a foreman in 1998 and is a member of IBEW Local 48 in Portland. Jason has worked as an electrician in 22 countries on 5 continents. The diverse nature of his work has provided Jason with opportunities that have shaped his approach to leadership and project management.
Modern Contractor Solutions – December 2016
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