Why Foreman Should Work to “Polish their Reputation”

When working as a subcontractor, foremen should represent a more professional image to a general contractor's superintendents

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The word polished, as I use it here, is intended to represent a more professional image to the Superintendents you will work with during your career.  Quite honestly, many general contractor superintendents have a very low impression of many sub-trade foremen, so it’s critical that we make a “polished” impression. Accomplish this successfully and the entire project becomes a more pleasant experience.

Consider a few efforts to “polish your reputation” with the superintendents you work with:

  • Be the first to introduce yourself and to shake the superintendent’s hand…and demonstrate the same respect for the superintendent each day.  If, for example, the superintendent is comfortable with you calling him by his first name, use it. However, if you don’t know, address the superintendent as “Mr. Jones” until he instructs otherwise. If the superintendent is female, use “Ms. Jones” until she says otherwise.
  • If the superintendent brings some bad news or challenges to you, accept the input and thank them for their quick and honest information.
  • When you run into a challenge, first think through several options of solutions and then take the problem to the superintendent. You’ll gain more respect if you will always think about potential solutions to challenges your crew is facing.
  • Never be slow about giving the superintendent one of your company’s hats or T-shirts. 
  • Upon presenting the superintendent with your schedule for the week, allow them to assess it quickly to see if it’s doable in their eyes.  If not, quickly ask what you can do to adjust the schedule if needed.
  • If the superintendent brings a request for something on your company’s part something that you know will not be received well redirect the superintendent with, “Well, Ken, I know I will need to discuss that with my boss. I’ll let them know that we want to do it, but give me some time to contact my leadership and see about the possibility as we’ve discussed, or a better option if needed.”
  • If the superintendent puts you on the spot for an answer…NOW…still divert, politely but firmly. Never let them pressure you to say something you may later regret. This is a little dicey to address, but you do not want to be “used” by the superintendent against your own company. And believe me, some superintendents are great at getting a “yes” from the foreman that conflicts with the “no” that they will receive from the foreman’s boss. Don’t commit to a pressured request when you know that your leader will disagree. Simply hold your ground and inform the superintendent that you will bring the request to your leader ASAP…if not sooner!
  • Never be afraid to have your workers pick up a little trash from other contractors. While you don’t want to purposely bring attention to the superintendent that you are doing this, superintendents notice things like that more than you think.
  • No matter the superintendent’s “temperature,” remain calm and cool headed. Even if he or she is shooting you with every creative and dirty phrase known to man, stay poised. Responding in the same manner will never allow you to win points with the superintendent. Even the meanest superintendent will circle back around and apologize to that foreman who “took it” and didn’t respond in kind.

Putting the “polish” on your efforts can certainly make you the “preferred foreman” in the eyes of the GC superintendent. And in this way, your polishing efforts may make your company the preferred contractor, often leading to winning more work.

Today’s superintendent often confronts more issues and faces more challenges than in past years. From receiving project drawings that are seldom accurate or available at the start of the job, to increased visits by OSHA, and greater scrutiny by inspectors, the superintendent’s tension level is at an all-time high. 

Plus, they are dealing with subcontractors who are themselves struggling with some of the same issues including trying to find skilled workers. So any construction site can become a toxic melting pot just waiting to release its workplace poisons.

If you are a foreman, trying to find more ideas on how to get along with the superintendent on your project, making an effort to “polish you reputation” will pay off on the current job and future ones. 

Even if you are a foreman leading a self-performing crew for your own company’s job, polishing your reputation (and establishing a positive and proactive presence) will go a long way in making you more effective and successful.

Determine today to make a more intentional effort to be positive, proactive and polished. The successful execution of the three will win you more fans, more work and a reputation that will pay handsomely!

Here’s to giving those superintendents your best shot!