With over 45 years of construction experience, I found the hardest part of any job is managing the people in producing a safe, quality task with value on time. Not every employee provides the same level of effort, but all contribute, and if a person is giving 100 percent effort even if it is less than another employee, you can’t expect more than that level of effort.
The single most expensive cost to a project is normally the labor to complete and commission a project to completion. I also learned that you have to set clear and easily communicated expectations to accomplish this goal.
"You have to develop a habit of listening to understand instead of only listening to respond, a big difference in dealing with people"
Everyone needs to feel important in what they are doing to provide the best support to a project. The best motivator, I have found is to make the people successful. You truly get the best performance when the labor force feels important and successful.
I find that being a committed partner in that effort, by showing the people you are with them and supporting their decisions in execution, offering coaching and encouragement accomplishes this effectively.
The most effective manager spends enough time in the field to show employees the work they are doing is important to them and you understand to efforts of accomplishment on a daily basis, I often tell my managers if you are not spending a good portion of you time daily in the field, you will never achieve exceptional results with your Team.
Spending the time in the field also lets you accomplish one of the most rewarding aspects of the job. While in the field and seeing an effort that exceeds expectations, being able to walk up to the employee and offering a hand while asking if anyone has told him he is making a difference today in his efforts on the job, and then telling him you have noticed and you appreciate his efforts.
Honest and genuine recognition of efforts like this travel in the field faster than the next big job rumors, with most wanting to receive the same type of recognition because everyone has a driving desire to feel important and be successful.
Another important aspect of managing people is the ability to listen. You have to develop a habit of listening to understand instead of only listening to respond, a big difference in dealing with people. If you listen to understand sometimes you pick up on uncertainty in a plan or need of guidance coming to you in the way they describe a problem. In the same fashion people perceive that Men don’t like to ask directions, employees don’t always want to ask for help outright. When the people know you will listen to a problem and provide some guidance or options to consider, they will come to you and have less surprises.
Over my years I have developed a list of rules that I use to set expectations, hold accountable and be a committed partner to the work force. I spend 1 hour a week with the supervisors in training to help them understand how and when to use the various rules in their dealings with craft workers.
Doing this live on a project provides a great opportunity to discuss the things that went well and those things that can benefit from coaching for the future.
The following list of 10 rules that my employees call Rocky’s 10 commandants, are listed below. I can swear to you they will bring value to you and the labor force if practiced regularly.
Setting Expectations as the foundation to Leadership
1. As a Manager you are expected to "work the people, instead of just letting them work". This concept applies to Open or Closed Shop Labor, CM work or any contract that requires manpower to execute.
2. A part of working the people is to set expectations up front around Safety, Quality and Production. To do so, you must understand the work, materials and information available.
3. Ask the unreasonable, when setting expectations, you need to target 30 percent more than what the people think is achievable. If you don't, you will very seldom hit your targets. The people will always have 10 to 20 percentsand bag built into any time frame discussed.
4. Always get or agree to a commitment in time for every task, commitments in time equal results, everything else is just a conversation. Be specific in commitments, don't use morning, afternoon or next week time frames, list a specific hour (i.e.: 8am, or 2 pm or any other hour) just be specific on the time, reduce the interpretation, confusion means cash to craft.
5. Always remember, the minimum you accept is the maximum you will achieve. Always expect extraordinary results, don't settle for ordinary, or that is all you will ever achieve.
6. There is never a right way to do the wrong thing. You can be inventive and think out of the box, but never take a short cut to achieve results that should have been planned.
7. You have to stay engaged and follow up, follow up, follow up. The people must know you are engaged and checking on the work, when you quit checking they quit working.
8. Trust but verify, never take for granted a task has been completed until you have put your eyes or hands on it. Remember Rule 5, “the minimum you accept is the maximum you will achieve”, if it has your name on it make sure it meets your expectations.
9. To be successful, no matter what you are doing, you must be able to manage your Time and your Money, these things go hand in hand and until you can do both well you will struggle being effective in managing work and people.
10. You can't criticize a blank sheet of paper, to be committed to you plans you have to write them down. Having a plan and communicating it to your people is essential for success.