Managing a construction company is a near impossible task to handle effectively. There are so many moving parts and issues, people and customer problems, and nothing in your control. And to make it worse, you’re required to perform perfectly at very low prices.
The many pressures of managing your company include: trying to get paid, dealing with subcontractors and suppliers, having to cut your prices, scheduling crews and equipment, and making sure everything is done correctly. Working with lots of construction business owners, my guess is that your number one challenge is dealing with employees and getting them to do things right. You continually worry about whether they performed exactly what you asked them to do, did they complete the entire task, did they do it right, did they treat customers fair and friendly, were they safe, and did they meet the project goals defined for the task completed.
The ultimate ongoing challenge is to develop disciplined, results-oriented, accountable and responsible managers and employees. You desire them to work as a team, represent the company well, care about quality, be productive, and improve the bottom line.
I often get this question when I speak at conventions: “I’m a smaller company. How can I trust my employees to do exactly what I want them to do? A mistake can cost me everything. Nobody cares like I do. So I can’t delegate much or let my people make any big decisions.”
To overcome this accountability and responsibility problem, consider these three challenges.
Do you chase wheelbarrows?
I was visiting a construction jobsite and noticed one of our long-time laborers cleaning the slab. He swept trash into his shovel and then walked about 100 yards to the trash bin. He repeated this for several minutes until I finally stopped and asked, “Where’s your wheelbarrow?” He said his boss didn’t give him one. I then asked if a wheelbarrow would make the job go faster. He said yes, but his boss had not given him one to use that day.
I looked for the foreman and superintendent to no avail. So I went to the storage bin, unlocked it and got a wheelbarrow for the laborer to use. I solved the problem, or did I? Have you ever fixed something yourself but not addressed the bigger issue?
The real problem was that the laborer wasn’t trusted or given responsibility to think for himself, make decisions, choose the right tools, or be responsible to achieve the expected results. He wasn’t accountable for anything except to keep busy.
Are you a firefighter?
Do you ever feel like a firefighter running from one fire to another with a garden hose trying to put out everyone else’s fires? Do you do work all day doing your employees’ jobs, and then working all night doing yours? Your employees can handle more responsibility. But the real problem is that you just don’t give it to them.
In a poll of field employees, 66% were asked to make decisions but only 14% felt empowered and trusted to make decisions. They were afraid their boss would yell at them for mistakes. Therefore, employees didn’t want to take on more than they had to. The root of most people problems is the boss, not the employee.
Who owns the problem?
When the boss owns every problem, only they can solve it correctly. When you solve other people’s problems, they rely on you to solve all their problems. When people aren’t responsible for anything, how can they be responsible for solutions? Do your employees rely on you to solve their problems?
When you solve employees’ problems, they can’t grow and improve. When you treat employees like children who can’t think, they act like children and only do what they’ve been told to do. It’s your job to train your employees and make them responsible. You have to let go to grow.
You can’t do it all yourself
Small business owners start out as the sole proprietor making every decision. Successful business owners quickly realize they can’t do it all themselves and need empowered people they can trust if they want to grow. Larger companies have multiple levels of responsible people who make most everyday business decisions. The owner (rightfully) decided he wasn’t the only smart person on the planet.
Read next: Build An Accountable, Responsible Team
The number one reason employees don’t accept accountability or responsibility is that they don’t know exactly what they are expected to do. The number two reason is because their boss doesn’t trust them. Therefore, these companies stay stuck at the level of what the boss can control and micro-manage.
Five steps to get your people to do things right
1. Establish clear expectations
Tell them, show them, write it down, draw visual pictures, and make lists of what’s required to make sure people get it. Then ask them to explain what you told them to verify they completely understand the task and expected result. A good leader takes plenty of time to show and explain how to do the job, the implementation plan, procedures and productivity requirements.
2. Create a scorecard tracking system
To make people accountable and responsible for results, they must know what results are expected; what tools, manpower and resources are budgeted; and the time deadline required. When people are told to do things and don’t know how long it should take or how many hours are expected to complete the task, they can’t take responsibility and be accountable for results.
In other words, without a scorecard, people can’t be expected to get things done on time. There must be ongoing project targets to track, review, and measure to track and achieve results. Team members need to know where they stand in order to meet the required goals and expectations. I created a “Hardhat Scorecard” to track job progress. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a scorecard sample to use to create and track goals and accomplishments.
3. Define levels of authority
Which employees can spend money, buy materials or tools, or make important decisions in your company? And how much can they spend without an approval from their boss? Without defined levels of responsibility, rules and parameters, employees can’t become empowered team leaders and expected to make good decisions.
Given little or no authority, they are unaccountable and un-responsible. Accountable employees and managers need clear position descriptions outlining what results they are accountable for; what tasks they are required to do on a regular daily, weekly or monthly basis; and what level of authority they have to achieve the expected results.
4. Be a coach, not a controller
People want to be coached, not controlled and told what to do all the time. The best coach usually wins the most games. Why? They train their players proven winning plays and then get off the field to let them play the game. The more you control, the less your people do for themselves. The more decisions you make for them, the less decisions they make. The more questions you answer for them, the less they have to think and learn. Is that what you want?
5. Celebrate and reward success
You know what else good coaches do? They regularly recognize, praise and encourage their players. Make it your priority to look for the good instead of point out the bad. Start weekly recognition programs for people who save or make the most money, do something excellent, have the best attitude, make the best decisions, or go the extra mile for the customer. Some weeks you decide the winners, and other weeks let your employees choose.
By implementing these simple steps, your people will grow and want to take on more responsibility. The key is your decision to make it happen by letting go of making every decision. Get started right now by taking three things off of your 'to-do' list and delegate them to someone else. Enjoy!
George Hedley CPBC is a certified professional construction BIZCOACH and popular speaker. He helps contractors build better businesses, grow, increase profits, develop management teams, improve field production, and get their companies to work. He is the best-selling author of “Get Your Construction Business To Always Make A Profit!” available on Amazon.com. To get his free e-newsletter, start a personalized BIZCOACH program, attend a BIZ-BUILDER Action Plan Boot Camp, or get a discount at www.HardhatBIZSCHOOL.com online university for contractors, E-mail GH@HardhatPresentations.com.