Evaluating … You!

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

There is a plethora of employee performance evaluation products available in the market; you should find one that fits your firm's level of expertise and sophistication. Your workers need to have at least an annual performance review. It's not only good business, but it also allows the contractor to hold personal meetings to point out how employees need to improve or where they are performing well.

While there may be an abundance of performance review approaches for employees, there are not as many reviews contractors and owners can use to assess their own effectiveness. That's why I developed a "Contractor's Performance Review," or CPR. Let me share with you the five areas that make up the heart of the assessment.

1. Leadership
How well do you energize and inspire the people in your company? Construction is a long season; therefore, keeping your people "up" can be challenging to say the least. Are you reinforcing your firm's vision, missions, values, goals and 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? What about a business development plan? Are you following the plans? Are you seeing results from the efforts you put forth?

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 those working for you are improving? Are new ideas and solutions suggested by the workers 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 things like production, material use and vehicle maintenance? If so, are your people aware of what their mistakes cost the business in terms of dollars and reputation?

5. Non-company relationships
How well do you engage customers, suppliers, bankers, competitors and so on? Are you respected in your market area? Do others call you for support, advice or ideas?

Your self-review

You can see that the above questions should be fully examined by yourself, but in order to properly complete the CPR you need feedback from the people you work with. But how can you get such feedback? You should ask for it directly and indirectly.

You can certainly ask individuals some of the questions listed above in a direct manner. There is nothing wrong with this, but some folks may be a bit timid or shy - especially employees or suppliers who are worried about losing their jobs or sources of income over their answers. 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 ask or do not ask and by the number of mistakes that are 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 question 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 a questionnaire 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?

Chances are, you may have had to lay off some folks from your company or have chosen to hire fewer employees this spring. It's likely that the workers you currently have in your company have more of a "thoroughbred" mentality - that's why you have chosen them to remain active with you. Go to these workers. They will 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 the people 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 ever have.

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