Pushing Leadership into Your Crews

The question constantly runs through my mind when chatting with contractors about their situation, their dreams and goals, and their frustrations.

Are you trying to build a business or are you trying to work yourself to death?

You can't afford to be the only one making decisions, pushing quality, enforcing safety, driving your crews for speed, and ensuring your customers are happy.

You will never build a successful construction company by being the only leader. Not gonna happen.

You cannot personally oversee everyone who works for you. The rough rule of thumb has always been seven employees per leader. To grow beyond seven employees, you will need to recruit, develop and empower leaders.

Most small business owners are guilty of overlooking the impact leaders have on their business' growth. Add a contractor's natural inclination to be distrustful of his employees' work ethic and craftsmanship and you end up with an individual who resists handing over the reins of control to his crews, much less grooming one or more to lead.

That's a guaranteed path to burnout.

Your business needs leaders. Leaders make you money. Leaders allow you to spend time chasing work and building valuable relationships. Leaders set you free.

Constantly fighting fires? Develop leaders.

If you've been unsuccessful getting someone to step up and lead, you probably didn't follow the tried-and-true 4E approach with an added A:

  • Educate
  • Enable
  • Empower
  • Engage
  • (Hold) Accountable

Teach them how to lead. Help them understand how to communicate, motivate and delegate. Give them constant feedback until they become accomplished leaders. Show them how to fill out paperwork. Show them who to call for material deliveries. Show them how to solve problems and think through decisions.

Give them the tools and information they need to get the work done right and to make good decisions. Set them up for success. They need to know your expectations, the schedule, the budgeted man-hours, quality standards, the safety standards, proper equipment maintenance, etc.

Think about this: the opposite of enable is disable. You certainly don't want to do that to your leaders.

Give them the authority to make decisions and the opportunity to learn from their failures. Don't solve their problems. Make them bring solutions to you. Every time you bail someone out, you weaken his ability to excel under fire.

Make sure their goals are well aligned to your goals. Make sure they understand how they personally benefit when your business goals are met. Put yourself in their shoes and answer the question "what's in it for me?" Until they understand the personal benefit of delivering the results you need, they will not go the extra mile for you.

(Hold) Accountable
Hold your leaders accountable. Make sure they plan their work. Make them communicate with their crews. Make sure they don't cut safety corners. Make sure they complete they paperwork. Make them hit your quality and production targets. Hold them accountable to their job.

No matter how well you've prepared them for success, many leaders will slip into bad habits. Don't let them off the hook. Remind them of the required goals. If all else fails, demote them. Not everyone was wired to lead.

Again I ask, are you trying to build a business or are you trying to work yourself to death?

If you want to make real money, you are going to have to lean on others to get the work done properly. You can't do it all yourself.

If you want to really become filthy rich, you've got to develop a large number of leaders.

Ron Roberts, The Contractor's Business Coach, teaches contractors how to turn their business into a profit spewing machine. To receive Ron's FREE Contractor Best Practices Newsletter visit www.FilthyRichContractor.com.