Communicating Clear Expectations = Successful Performance, Part 2

Norb Slowikowski

April 2006

The latest trend is to push more responsibility to the job site level. Schedules are tight, so decision-making is done right on site, and issues immediately arise. Companies are also running much leaner operations, so the biggest challenge to being profitable is in communicating clear expectations. Each foreman must have a clear understanding of what is expected if the goal is to maximize profitability on the job site. Here are the last three of six key expectations that you must communicate to your foremen.

Be an Effective Leader. A good foreman manages the job and leads the people. You don’t have to manage people because people will manage themselves if they are given the right conditions. I believe in the "Lead Goose” concept (like geese that alternate flying in the front of the "V” formation). You want to develop "lead geese” in your organization, people who will step up and lead even when you are not there. Don’t be a "head buffalo”—you know the type: He calls all the shots, knows all the answers and basically acts as a dictator.

To be a "lead goose,” you first have to let people own their jobs. You can do that by explaining what you expect of them. Next, give them everything they need to do their jobs. Last, give lots of positive feedback and get rid of criticism because criticism is not a motivator. When people are in trouble, they need to be coached, not criticized.

Establish a climate for ownership. Involve your people in all aspects of the job. Solicit ideas. Be a collaborator, not a boss. Be accessible to everyone. Check in with the general contractor every day.

Hold people accountable. If they aren’t performing up to your expectations after continued coaching, set some consequences. Tell them that if they continue their negative behavior, they will probably lose their jobs.

Maintain a Safe Work Environment. Make sure you know what the safety rules are and explain them to your people. Tell them that there will not be compromises on the issue of safety. Let them know that if they aren’t willing to wear hard hats, safety glasses and proper personal equipment, then they won’t have a job.

I find that the GC’s safety standards are lower than the sub’s, so the tendency is to relax on safety. Tell the GC you will not compromise safety. You will not put your crew in harm’s way. Make sure your crew knows to report any unsafe conditions to you.

Include "Tool Box Talks” in your morning meetings. Talk about safety and consider conducting a weekly safety audit.

Customer Relations. There are two customers: internal and external. Your internal customers are the project manager, superintendent, your crew and other trades on the job. Make sure you treat you internal customers with respect. Keep them in the loop on all matters. External customers are the general contractor, architect and owner.

You need to be clear on what your external customers want. If you can’t leave the job until the work is 100 percent complete, make sure you know exactly what this means.

In summary, if you do not communicate and clarify what you expect of your team, they will do what they think is important, which may not align with your expectations. When this occurs, you are at risk for failures on the job, since what others think are important for the job may actually be a deterrent to increased productivity and maximized profitability.

Ineffectiveness occurs when expectations are not communicated and clarified. Remember: You get what you expect. If your foremen don’t know your expectations, you have set them up to fail rather than succeed. When you and your foremen are on the same page, you have created a win/win situation for everybody.

About the Author
Norb Slowikowski is president of Slowikowski & Associates, Inc., Darien, Ill.