How Do Construction Team Leaders Motivate Their Employees?

These four action steps will help you lead your employees to want to do what you want them to do

The team leader is responsible to motivate people to put out more effort with more enthusiasm and get them to go beyond the minimum required.
The team leader is responsible to motivate people to put out more effort with more enthusiasm and get them to go beyond the minimum required.

It is the team leader’s job to discover what makes each person tick, do their best and produce outstanding results. People who work for you are not you. They don't think like you, and they work different than you. And just because you pay them a good pay or salary doesn't mean they're going to work their fanny off the same way you do.

To get them to follow your vision and achieve big goals, you've got to give them a reason to want to follow. People are motivated for their reasons, not yours.

Think of your children. You tell them what you want them to do, but they don’t always do it. Then you try to bribe them to no avail. Frustrated, you scream, "If you're not home by 10:00 p.m., I'm gonna kill you!" Well, you don't. You let them off the hook. So they continue to stretch the envelope, as there’s no accountability, no responsibility and no consequences. It seems like nothing works with your kids, just like with employees.

Do they want to do it?

Leadership is really about influencing others to want to do what you want them to do. They key words are "to want to do." They've got to want to do it. You tell and they decide if they’ll do it. When you tell your kids to clean up their room, they decide if they’ll do it based on their needs, consequences, accountabilities and responsibilities.

Ask yourself: “What makes people want to follow me?” You know what doesn't work with children and employees: confusion, lack of trust, no integrity, no accountability and no consequences.

A lot of managers say, "My people won’t do what I want them to do. I should get rid of them, but I can't afford them to leave, so I don’t fire them.” What kind of accountability is this? If they don't have to do what you want them to do, why should they do more than the minimum to keep their job? You've got to make them want to do it.

What people need

People need two things — money and happiness.

Money includes fair pay at a secure company with competitive benefits. Happiness is the same as being motivated.

Effective leaders and winning coaches motivate people to perform. This is accomplished with exciting leadership, motivation, inspiration, holding people accountable and giving them responsibility. The team leader is responsible to motivate people to put out more effort with more enthusiasm and get them to go beyond the minimum required.

There are four action steps leaders take to achieve bottom-line results through people.

1. Provide clear expectations

People need to know exactly what the team leader wants them to achieve — the clear and expected specific results. Just like professional baseball managers use statistics and the scoreboard to provide accountability and feedback for their players, your employees need to know the score and what is expected. Weak leaders and poor coaches assume people understand what’s required, don’t take the time to spell out what they want and don’t make people accountable for achieving specific results.

The norm is to tell people to work real hard, try their best and then not give them feedback or a scorecard to stay informed as to the results they achieve. This poor leadership style doesn’t let people know exactly what’s expected or how they are doing.

Employees must be told exactly what results you want: “By Friday I expect you to have this installed and 100% complete. By the 30th of the month all invoices must be out. I expect the forms to be ready for concrete by Wednesday night, no exceptions or excuses."

Be specific with clear targets and expected exact results clearly defined. Make sure people understand what the target is, what’s acceptable and what’s not, when they hit or miss it, the consequences for not achieving results, and the rewards for a good job.

2. Motivation, recognition and praise

Like winning coaches, effective leaders provide ongoing motivation, recognition and praise to people who do the work and achieve the desired results. Weak leaders, who don’t take time to thank people for a job well done, get weak results.

Think of the great winning coaches over time. Most are known as great motivators who use different methods depending on the circumstance. Motivation can be provided in different ways — challenges, competitions, listening, training, encouragement, incentives, rewards, recognition, or praise. Of all the motivating factors, the two that provide the biggest incentive for people to perform are regular recognition and praise.

In a survey why people left their company, over 90% said they'd never been recognized or praised by their boss, ever, for anything. People want and need feedback and positive reinforcement for their contributions and efforts.

Leaders give praises at least every week to everyone in their sphere of influence. Use words like, “I appreciate you” and “Thanks for a great job.” Leaders use recognition to motivate their people to perform at a higher level. How often do you recognize and praise your people to improve their performance?

3. Understand the big picture

Employees as team players need a clear understanding of the big picture, what’s happening, how they fit in and how their contributions add value to the process. Team leaders as great coaches share and explain where the company or project is going — its’ vision, future, positive and negatives, and changes required to be successful. People need to know the truth and big picture, otherwise they tend to think the worst.

Several times a month I present workshops to conventions and company managers who are looking for great ideas to build and improve their businesses. When they go back to their offices the next day, their people are often afraid they've been scheming how to squeeze them to work harder. That's not reality, but without information, people fear the worse.

Effective leaders constantly tell the real deal — business is good or bad, sales are up or down, productivity is acceptable or not, whether people are doing a good job or not, and the profit picture. When leaders leave their people in the dark, people also don’t see any reason to perform at a higher level.

4. Show you care

Leaders let their people know they care about them as individuals. People need to know you appreciate them; you care about their goals, their future, their kids, and their families. People must know they're important, and their needs and wants will be considered as they contribute to the entire organization’s success.

Meet with each of your reports on a regular basis to have an in-depth conversation. Discuss how it’s going, how it can go better, what else can you do to work better together, and what else can you do for them to be happy and produce at the desired level.

Use these four leadership action steps to get the results you want. Leadership is simple. The hard part of leadership is to do what you know you should do every day. So, go do it!

George Hedley is a professional construction business coach and professional industry speaker who helps contractors grow, make more profit, and get their companies to work! He is the best-selling author of “Get Your Construction Business To Grow & Profit!” available at his online bookstore at E-mail [email protected] to sign-up for his free e-newsletter, be part of an ongoing BIZCOACH program, or get a discount for online courses at