Leadership is simple! First and foremost, you've got to know exactly what you want, for your company, your department or your project team. Sounds simple but when asked, most business owners or project team leaders haven’t answered that question before they start bidding or building.
I speak to construction business owners and ask: "What do you want?" They respond: "I want to make a profit.”
I ask: "How much?" — "As much as I can get."
"What if you can't get very much?" — "That's not enough."
"Then how much do you want?" — "More."
"More than what?" — "More than I'm getting now."
It becomes obvious they really don't know what they want or have a clear target to shoot for. When I ask construction project superintendents or foreman when the job is targeted to be completed, I get vague answers like: ‘in a few months’ or ‘around the end of July.’ They generally don’t even know the contract completion date or have a clear target to shoot for.
Examples of specific measurable clear targets include:
- $500,000 net profit per year
- Sales to be $1,000,000 per month
- Our move-in completion date is July 28th
- The project team’s goal is to make $50,000 on this job and get at least two referrals from the customer
- Our crew production goal is to finish within the 2,500 crew hour budget
Effective leaders know what they want and communicate specific clear targets and deadlines for their people to achieve. And only then, can you develop a plan to get what you want. More is never a target. More than what? Work hard is not a target, and trying your best doesn’t pay the bills either. There are three steps to define, communicate, implement, track and achieve what you want:
- Know exactly what you want!
- Have a written plan outlining how you will achieve the results you want!
- Always track and make progress towards what you want!
You get pulled off track daily by day-to-day business activities or field project problems. Things go wrong, customers call with immediate needs, equipment breaks, or people don't show up. These daily inconveniences pull you off course and take you away from your number one priority, which may be bottom-line profit, sales, schedule or customer service.
You need a written plan to keep on track and measure your progress. I recommend written scoreboards or charts and graphs posted for all to see which clearly outline the targets, track the results and define what needs to happen to accomplish the goals.
Keep targets clear & simple
According to Fortune magazine, a top quality of America's most admired companies is laser-like focus. They have a clear single business focus of what they're trying to do. For example: Wal-Mart — low prices, Nordstrom — customer service, GE — be number one or two in every business they undertake.
To me, that's not a path most small and medium business owners take. They try to do too much and be everything to everyone, instead of staying focused, doing what they do best, and only setting a few simple and attainable goals.
If you want to grow, develop a scoreboard outlining your growth goals to track the progress and stay focused. Want to make a profit? Write down the number and track your progress every month on a scoreboard for all to see like in a baseball stadium. Want to increase sales? Decide how many new customers you need and create a scorecard and plan to go see them and get signed contracts.
Those who have scoreboards with written goals achieve them. Those who don't, get the leftovers. People and companies without clear written targets and goals, are used by those who have them. I always ask, "Have you got a measurable target? Do you have three clearly defined goals? What do you want to achieve this year?" Do you have a scoreboard tracking system to record your progress and results? In my survey of over 2,000 business owners, only 30% had written goals for sales, overhead and profit. No wonder construction companies struggle!
Do you use scorecards?
Can you imagine playing a golf course without greens? Score doesn’t matter. After four hours, you stop and go to the bar and start drinking. There'd be no excitement. There's nothing to shoot for. No targets or scorecard. Sound bad? Sounds like most companies to me.
What are you really trying to accomplish? To get the results you want, you have to know exactly what you're shooting for and have a scorecard to keep track of progress. When you hit a bad golf shot, you can make the necessary adjustments to get back on course.
In business, you've got different terrain and obstacles along the way to overcome as well. So you need information and feedback to make adjustments as you go, and targets to shoot for, and a scorecard to keep track of progress. Get everyone involved by giving them clearly visible targets, written goals and a scorecard.
Use challenges & incentives
It amazes me when I go out to a jobsite and ask the field superintendent, "When are you going to get this part of the project completed?" He says, "Well, I think we'll get it done in a couple of months." I then ask, "How did you come up with that completion date?" He then says, "Well, I talked to the subcontractor’s job foremen and we sort of agreed we could all get it done by then." I ask, "Do you think you can finish it a week or two early?" He says, "Well, yeah, we probably could." "Why don't you?" "Well, there's no real need to. We're OK, we'll finish it on schedule." I say, "Wouldn't it be better to finish early?" "Yeah, but it doesn't really matter that much, does it?"
As a leader, start challenging basic assumptions. Give people something to shoot for, and a scorecard tracking system to track the weekly and monthly progress. Offer competitive targets, challenges and encouragements like: "If I give you $100 for every day you finish early, do you think that might make a difference?" Then it's, "Oh yeah, I know we can finish at least a week early, maybe even more."
Excellent leaders are measured by results. They clearly layout what’s wanted, draft a blueprint to achieve it and then watch the progress towards the goal. They also use incentives and challenges to get people focused to achieve the desired end results.
When it's just the same old — same old — same old, people give the minimum instead of their maximum. Everyone wants to be a part of a winning team. Layout a path to victory and watch them hit a hole in one.
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 www.HardhatPresentations.com. E-mail GH@HardhatPresentations.com to sign-up for his free e-newsletter, be part of an ongoing BIZCOACH program, or get a discount for online courses at www.HardhatBizSchool.com.