Bob just completed a leader's morning "huddle" before the rest of the crews got to work. He was sure that each of his foremen was clear as to the changes during the day due to a combination of equipment problems, customer needs and a few laborers missing work due to illness and vacations. However, within 30 minutes of concluding the meeting, Bob was receiving phone calls from his foremen, each asking Bob to repeat what he had said earlier.
This situation isn't foreign to most contractors. Just when you thought you were crystal clear, the very same people who just minutes before stated they understood their instructions are either calling to get another dose of the same message or, worse yet, perform the wrong efforts thinking they understood the initial instructions or directions.
Getting all of your leaders on the "same page" requires more than just talking. Let's take a few minutes and consider the specific efforts you can take to bring greater consistency and adherence to needed project requirements.
- Focused and attentive
This is so easy most of us simply don't do it! Before you communicate with the people who need your message, be sure to confirm that they are focused and attentive. Too many meetings involve people who are distracted, having small talk with the person standing or sitting next to them or working on something else. The increased use of Blackberrys and the like has become very common in many construction companies. While they are a great high-tech tool, they should not be allowed during a meeting, especially when critical information is being presented.
Getting your people's attention can be done simply by asking them to get focused, waiting for their eye contact, pausing occasionally after you speak to draw them back to you, and even stop your own speaking when an individual or two are obviously not paying attention. You are not rude by employing such simple tactics; in fact, the individuals to whom you are directing your focus and attention are projecting their own rudeness if they are not focused and attentive.
- Repeat for clarification
To ensure your people are with you mentally, don't be shy about asking them to repeat what they thought they just heard from you. Having them repeat back to you will provide you with proof of what they thought they heard compared with what you thought you just communicated. How might you specifically ask an individual to repeat back to you what you just shared? Try the following question:
"Jack, would you tell me what you thought you just heard me share?" or "Jack, just to be sure that I'm communicating clearly, would you repeat to me what you think you heard me say?"
No matter what approach you choose, do not be shy about asking your people to repeat what they believe to have heard from you. You may be completely surprised at how they understood your comments.
- Strength (clarity) through verification
If it works in global politics it can work for leaders in the construction industry. When you are talking with your staff, it is often a good idea to have them verify what you are saying. For example, you may have asked one of your workers to track the number of anchor bolts used during the previous day of work. Ask your worker to verify the number by sharing with you the exact amount they had counted.
Whenever you have requested a subordinate to measure, monitor, track, etc., it is good to have them verify the request verbally. While they may have done their figuring with pen and paper, still have them communicate their efforts. This often invites greater attention and strengthens their ability to be on the same page with you.
- Develop a 'Four Quarter Strategy'
Football coaches realize that each quarter of their game is critical. Strategy in the first quarter might be a bit different than the strategy in the fourth quarter. Such differences are often the result of situations. It is no different in construction.