8 Essential Traits of Construction Worksite Leaders

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Fact: External hires are 61% more likely to be fired from management positions than internal promotions.

Fact: It costs 18 – 20% more and takes 50% longer to hire for management positions than to internally promote externally.

Fact: Despite an industry-wide boom, it’s more difficult than ever to find skilled construction workers, let alone highly qualified worksite leaders.

Conclusion: Internally promoting workers to leadership roles saves construction businesses money and time.

Now, with that said, how can you determine if a current employee will make a good construction site leader?

Ask any foreman, and they will tell you that they’ve made the mistake of promoting a successful individual contributor to a management role, only to find out later that the person wasn’t cut out to manage a team.

Why does that happen so often? Because managers make the mistake of equating aptitude with hard skills (plumbing, electrical, carpentry), for aptitude with leadership skills. Most people don’t understand that hard skills abilities have very little to nothing to do with someone’s capacity for project and site management.

Instead, leadership should potential should be assessed from a worker’s soft skills, i.e., their personality traits.

Soft skills can tell you not just whether or not someone will be able to complete a task (can they tick off a checklist of worksite projects?), but also whether they can figure out what needs to happen to take a project to its successful completion (if something goes wrong, can they course correct and effectively communicate the new plan to their workers?).

To determine whether or not someone will be a strong leader for a construction team, you need to look for these eight skills:

  • Exceptional Communication Skills
  • Accountability
  • High Potential
  • Mentorship
  • Empathy
  • Engagement
  • Multitasking
  • Motivation

Exceptional Communication Skills

If ever there were an industry where Murphy’s law applies, it’s construction.

Construction projects are chaotic. There are thousands of moving parts and multiple different types of teams – architects, designers, investors, workers, site managers, city ordinance teams, etc. – to manage at any given time. Moreover, the needs and demands of any one of those teams could change at a moment’s notice.

Finding leaders that can understand, synthesize, and effectively communicate those changes across your entire worksite is critical.

That’s why, above every other trait on this list, leaders in the construction industry must have excellent communication skills.  

When you’re evaluating someone’s communication skills, ask yourself:

  • Are they able to quickly grasp complex concepts and communicate them to others?
  • Do they listen to the needs of others or brush people off?
  • Can they effectively communicate with different types of workers and people with different personalities?

If the answer to these questions is yes, you have identified a potential leader.

Something else to keep in mind when you’re appraising a worker’s communication skills: pay attention not just to what they say, but also how they say it.

A strong leader needs to communicate in a highly professional manner with investors and outside consultants, and on a personal level with their direct reports. Workers gravitate to leaders who listen and explain concepts without being condescending, so it’s critical that a leader can do that.

Accountability

Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone owns up to them.

When you’re considering an individual’s leadership potential, think about the last time they messed up. Did they own up to that mistake or blame on another worker or outside circumstances?

Workers who can’t own up to their mistakes will never be able to account for the mistakes a team has made on a project, and if you can’t account for team mistakes, you can’t correct for those mistakes to move a project forward.

Look for leaders who not only hold themselves accountable but also think of ways to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

High Potential (not High Performance)

In the same way that not all carpenters are good at electrical work (and vice versa), not all high performing workers have the high potential of a future leader. That’s because high performance isn’t necessarily indicative of high potential, and, unfortunately, most hiring managers don’t realize the difference.

High performance is a sign of expertise and technical ability, whereas someone’s aptitude for growth measures high potential.

People with high potential invest themselves in personal improvement and team improvement. They want to do what they do better, and they also want to improve the quality and productivity of the projects they work on. High performers, on the other hand, may be able to effectively and expeditiously complete a project, but won’t necessarily seek out ways to improve themselves.

As you start thinking about employees in terms of their performance vs. their potential, you’ll realize that many of your high performers just aren’t cut out to be leaders, no matter how much you or the person would like them to be in that role.

Mentorship

By 2020, nearly 50% of the global workforce will be made up of Millennials, and a study by Deloitte shows that almost all of those workers will look for new jobs if they don’t feel like they’re receiving mentorship at their current company.

The days of working on your own and “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” are gone. Younger workers make up the workforce of today’s construction teams more and more each year, and they gravitate towards managers who will help mentor them to success.

Future leaders need to mentor their fellow workers not just because it’s a way to parlay valuable skills, but also because it’s essential for maintaining low employee turnover rates.

Empathy

A good leader cares about the overall well being of their team, not just the well being of the project.

Leaders create positive environments by offering constructive criticism rather than straight criticism, patting people on the back when they’ve done well instead of ignoring it, and having a positive attitude about work projects.

Ask yourself these questions to determine whether or not a potential leader has empathy for their fellow employees.

  • Will they stop what they’re doing to help another employee who needs help?
  • Are they an active team player?
  • Do they interact with others rather than keeping to themselves?
  • Do they take the time to build personal relationships with other team members?

If you’ve answered yes to all of these questions, then you’ve identified an empathetic person who cares about the well being of other team members. This person will be able to use their ability to understand others behaviors to benefit your job site.

Engagement

If an employee doesn’t care about the well-being of your company, they won’t be a good leader. Why?

Because employees who are engaged in your company’s growth understand that when the company does well, they do well.

So how can you tell if an employee cares about your company’s mission and growth? It’s easy for people to say that they do (i.e., “I want us to do well”), but it’s another thing entirely for them to mean it (showing that they care about company success).

To figure out if a worker is engaged and invested in the growth of your construction business, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do they proactively suggest strategies for worksite improvement that improve productivity or streamline an activity?
  • Do they care about worksite safety and frequently remind other employees of safety behavior?
  • Do they help/assist/offer suggestions for other employees who are struggling?
  • Do they go above and beyond and ask for or take on tasks outside their standard job duties?

If the answer to these questions is yes, that is a sign that someone could be a strong leader.

Multitasking

More than anything, leaders need to be able to multitask. They need to complete their own to do list, while at the same time keeping tabs on their underling’s to-do lists and keeping tabs of project progress. That’s why multitasking is an essential skill for worksite leaders.

However, there is indeed such a thing as a ‘one trick pony.’ Not everyone can handle taking on more than one task at a time, and not everyone can handle taking on more than one project at a time.

So when you think you’ve found a potential leader among your workforce and are considering them for promotion, give them a couple of extra tasks to complete that all need to reach completion at the same time.

Do they sail through the extra work and keep organized? Or, do they find the added work too difficult to manage and fold under pressure?

Motivation

As you grow your business, you’ll find that there are two types of workers: watchers and actors.

Watchers are more than happy to complete their given task lists, but once they complete that list, they wait for instruction from others before moving on. They fail to understand, or try to understand, what the next steps are to bring a project to its logical conclusion.

Actors don’t wait for someone to tell them what to do next after they’ve completed a task. They understand what it will take to complete a project and move on to the next step once they’ve completed a task. They facilitate projects through to completion by inserting themselves in the decision-making process and moving projects forward.

Essentially, these are people who aren’t driven by their success (can I complete the tasks given to me?), but by the company or the project’s success (how can I help finish the entire project?). These are people who look for challenges, enjoy learning, and enjoy other’s good work – they want everyone to do well so that the entire project is done well. They want to explore new methods for process improvement, and they have the energy and drive to keep improving.

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Contributor Bio

Contributing Author:  (CCW). Crowd Control Warehouse provides businesses and government organizations with effective, forward-thinking crowd control solutions and high-quality stanchion, retractable belt barrier, and traffic control products.

5 Steps to Take to Retain Great Employees – Brett Clawson

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Finding ways to minimize employee turnover can provide a number of key advantages, especially for businesses that may lack the resources needed to conduct another hiring process. Learning how to maximize employee retention will allow organizations to enjoy the benefits of having a seasoned and well-trained staff. Reducing turnover can be especially important for smaller businesses that may be unable to afford the added expense needed to hire and train new talent as well as larger organizations seeking to avoid the potential disruptions that may be created when replacing existing personnel.

  1. Hiring the Right Candidates

The first step towards improving retention is knowing how to select the right applicants and candidates. Employees who possess a spotty employment record and professionals whose career goals may not align with the company’s vision or standards may prove to be little more than a liability. Well-motivated applicants, dedicated professionals, and future employees who value loyalty and stability are often the best choice.

  1. Competitive Salaries and Benefits

Businesses that fail to properly compensate their employees may soon find themselves losing the most talented workers to their competitors. Higher hourly wages, more comfortable salaries, and a generous employee benefits package can go a long way towards improving morale and ensuring that workers are willing to stand by their employer in the days to come. While taking on additional payroll costs may place strain on operational budgets, businesses would do well to view such expenses as an investment in their own future.

  1. Cultivating the Right Workplace Culture

The environment and social atmosphere of the workplace can be of critical importance when it comes to sustaining high levels of employee morale and reducing overall turnover rates. Creating and maintaining a more positive atmosphere or adopting the core values that will allow for a superior workplace culture to grow and evolve in an organic fashion can be tremendously beneficial for optimizing employee retention. Culture is important, and businesses that spend the effort and resources to improve theirs may be able to enjoy a number of future advantages.

  1. Promoting From Within the Company

Professional ambition is a wonderful quality to find in an employee, provided that employers are willing to provide their staff with opportunities to grow. While there are certain situations where business owners may have no other choice but to bring in fresh talent, it is still very important to make every effort to promote from within the ranks of existing employees when trying to fill a position. Attracting the most talented and driven professionals can be all but impossible for organizations who are unable to provide their current and prospective employees with a chance to grow with the company.

  1. Involving Employees in the Decision Making Process

Providing workers with greater agency makes it easier for them to involve themselves in the daily workings and future growth of the business. Workers who are limited by the scope of their duties or position often find it difficult to stay engaged or motivated, issues which may soon find them seeking out a new employer. Businesses who choose to provide their staff with the power to make decisions that will directly impact both the company and themselves are far less likely to suffer from high rates of turnover.

Creating a Plan to Improve Retention

There may be numerous issues that are contributing to high turnover rates and business owners often find themselves feeling overwhelmed in their efforts to address the problem. Formulating a plan or strategy to improve retention can provide the clarity and focus needed to enact more effective changes. Finding ways to improve morale and minimizing turnover often requires a long-term approach and businesses would be wise to assess their needs and identify any situations that may warrant attention on a periodic basis.