Put Yourself Under the Knife

Seldom does a contractor take the time to really assess how he or she is performing?personally! Between setting direction, fighting for more capital from your banker, or just making sure you can field a full crew, it is easy to overlook perhaps the person who should be held to the highest standards?you!

While there may be an abundance of performance review approaches for employees there are not as many reviews that a contractor/owner can rely on to assess his effectiveness. I have developed a "Contractor's Performance Review," or CPR. Let me share with you the heart of the assessment that you can take and consider for your own review.

There are five areas of review:

1. Leadership. How well do you energize and inspire the people in your company? Construction is a long season so keeping your people "up" can be challenging to say the least. Are you reinforcing your firm's vision, missions, values, goals, work culture?

2. Company Growth. This is related strongly to the strategies you have for the future development and growth of your company. Do you have a strategic plan? A business development plan? Are you working the plan? Is it working?

3. People Management. Are you placing the right people in the right roles and positions? Are you leading your leaders to develop your underlings? Is there any proof that those working for you are improving? Are new ideas and solutions arrived at by the others in your company?

4. Operations Management & Measurement. Are your company's sales, profits, production, quality, safety, and customer satisfaction heading in the right direction? Are you maximizing your resources? What is the state of "rework," "call-backs," and "looking for stuff"? Are you tracking production, material use, vehicle maintenance, etc. and are your people aware of what mistakes cost the business in terms of dollars and reputation?

5. Non-Company Relationships. How well do you engage customers, suppliers, bankers, competitors, etc.? Are you respected in your market area? Do others call you for support, advice, ideas, etc.?

You can assess for yourself that the questions posited for each area of review should be fully examined and will depend on others for answers. But how to get such feedback?

You can certainly ask employees and suppliers some of these questions, but some folks might be a bit timid or shy, especially employees or suppliers who don't want to lose their jobs or source of income. However, some people will tell it to you straight. So ask those folks who you know to be straight shooters.

A more indirect method of getting feedback is to observe how others perform, behave, and communicate. This takes a bit more time but over the course of a few weeks you can often determine how clear your instructions to your crews have been based on the number of questions they either ask or do not ask or the number of mistakes that might be made. The same method of indirect observations can be applied to almost every category. Certainly the "measurements" that you maintain for your company speak of your leadership.

Now, it is not out of the questions to pose questions to many of the same individuals referred to earlier in this article. In fact, part of the CPR allows you to send out questions to a select group of people and ask them to provide you feedback anonymously.

During this very questionable and difficult time in our economy, when many things are being "assessed and reviewed" doesn't it make sense to conduct the same scrutiny on your leadership? Don't be timid about doing this.

Chances are that you may have had to lay some folks off from your company or have chosen to hire fewer employees this spring. The likelihood is that the "remnant" of those who will be working for you will be more of the "thoroughbred" mentality, that's why you have chosen them to remain active with you. Go to these workers. They'll not lie to you. You've proven your respect for them. Now give them the chance to prove their respect for you.

Put "yourself under the knife" and let those whom you most appreciate give you their most honest assessment of you and your leadership. Trust me, this can be difficult but it may be the best learning experience you'll every experience.

Brad Humphrey is president of Pinnacle Development Group, a consulting firm that specializes in the construction industry. He is a regular presenter at National Pavement Expo and National Pavement Expo West (www.nationalpavementexpo.com) For more information about Brad's firm visit www.pinnacledg.com or check out resources from Brad at www.gangboxinc.com.