Influencing Field Production Through Objectivity

In this second article in a series of four, we will explore the importance for construction leaders to influence their field production leaders and crews. In today’s effort we look at the significance of being objective in our influencing.

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To be objective is to respect what is expected and realize that compliance must be achieved. To be objective is not necessarily the same as being “fair.” For example, it’s not fair to work long hours, or work Saturdays, or to have one crew work on harder projects than other crews. However, it is objective to know what needs to be completed, when it is to be completed, and to make the right, sometimes tough, decisions to get it completed.

Consider how your leadership efforts can positively influence your field people, while being objective, when you:

  1. Know your project details, scope of work, and the clear compliance issues. We never want to direct our production leaders to direct the wrong efforts to complete a project. Steering your people in the wrong direction will greatly reduce the amount of influence you will have with your people.
  2. Educate your field leaders on No. 1 above. It is always wise, not just productive, to educate your field leaders first and then, their “leads” who help them execute the production needs and goals. Making sure that your field leaders truly know the project details, what the clear scope of work represents, and any compliance issue that the company must satisfy. This might even be expanded to know who the customer is and what their expectations are for the project.
  3. Discuss each required action needed to complete the project. Who estimated and initially thought through the execution of the project? That individual, be they the owner, the estimator, or project manager, must sit down with the leaders and walk through each process, looking for those areas that may pose a challenge. Accomplishing this effort BEFORE the project starts can win much respect and greatly improve the senior leader in influencing the field people to take the appropriate steps to complete the project as estimated.
  4. Debate options that are realistic including manpower, crew make-up, lay-down areas, labor schedule, required safety preparation, etc. The time to disagree and to argue best steps are before the project starts. Here the senior leader can allow his or her field production “experts” the chance to hammer out what they think is the best based on the project, the resources, the expectations, etc. for the project. One option in approaching the last project may not work best on the new project for different reasons than were experienced on the previous project.
  5. Seek understanding and agreement on the final “pre-construction” decisions and map the project plan accordingly. A final agreement must be reasoned. It is always desired to have 100% consensus but when this is not possible, at least the entire decision-making body for the project must agree that whatever final decisions are arrived at will be supported. This is a tricky area that leaders must realize that once a “bill is passed” that all the leaders will work to bring the best results through to the end. 
  6. Re-engage No. 5 above when field leaders veer off the initial path. Should early agreement be reached, and the production begins but field leaders begin to veer from what was the original pathway, a “time-out” must be called and the leaders must re-engage. This re-engagement will involve the “veering leaders” to explain, with examples, why they have strayed away from what we first agreed to. Perhaps the field leaders have captured something that was not known to the leadership team who developed the initial plan. However, if the reasons to veer do not have substance and provide an improvement to the production success, the field leaders will back up and reassert to follow the initial plan that was first developed. 

Being objective in construction is often an easy to challenge experience. Seasoned field veterans, used to doing the same things for 20 years or more will be hard to change their ways. Yet, this is where the influencing leader must step up, provide objectivity in the discussion, presenting information that even the most experienced of “old dogs” can respect and recognize the wisdom. 

Here's to influencing your field leaders through being an objective leader who consistently seeks to be equitable, yet realistically compliant!