Aim for Peak Performance, Establish a Positive Work Climate

Norb Slowikowski

September 2006

In my work with contractors and training their foremen and superintendents, I become more and more impressed with field supervisors and their desire to do their best work every day. If you really want your foremen and superintendents to be "peak performers,” then you must understand what they really want and what they’re looking for in their world of work. Here are their expectations of management:

Better communication both upward and downward.

• Keep us informed. Let us know how the company is doing.
• Solicit input from us. Encourage suggestions and ideas. Provide support when we’re having problems on the job site.
• Listen, listen, listen!

Have the project managers visit the job site at least once a week. They need to become aware of our day-to-day barriers, frustrations, needs, etc. They need to get a feel for the realities of jobsite conditions. The foreman, superintendent and project manager need to become partners to improve productivity.

Empower us to do the job—don’t second guess us. Tell us what you expect, set goals and establish priorities with us and involve us in the decision-making process. Then hold us accountable for our actions.

Review the entire job with us after it’s completed to let us know how we did in terms of productivity. Let us give feedback about the quality of support we received from the project managers and superintendent. Identify what we did well and what we need to improve. It should be a "Lessons Learned” meeting.

Conduct pre-job meetings to identify and discuss all factors that have an impact on productivity. Planning and organization are the keys to controlling the job.

Provide foremen with a bonus opportunity that’s tied to achieving expected results. Consider such performance factors as savings, quality, safety, weekly planning, effective utilization of tools, equipment and material. It should be based on overall performance in key performance areas.

Provide continuous training and skills development for field supervision. Reinforcement training and coaching is needed on a continuous basis.

Provide coaching, not criticism. Help people improve instead of being quick to blame and yell. Treat us with respect and help us grow in our job.

Eliminate barriers that have a negative impact on employee morale and productivity:

• Insufficient information can prevent us from doing our jobs effectively. This could include drawings, scope of work, quality specs, addendums, labor budget, safety rules, etc.
• Lack of positive feedback. Too much emphasis on what’s wrong rather than what’s right.
• When information is not provided, chances of increasing productivity are diminished.
• Lack of support from the office when we have conflict with the GC’s superintendent.
• Lack of support from project managers when you need help. They’re always too busy.

Lack of accountability. It seems that when someone doesn’t do his job, nothing happens. The message seems to be, "If you screw up constantly, maybe somebody will talk to you eventually.” This really has a negative effect on teamwork, morale and productivity.

In general, lack of follow-through by management. We discuss a lot of things in meetings but don’t follow through to get them implemented.

Ineffective leadership creates a negative work climate and a downturn in performance.

Now is the time to focus on building a positive work climate through effective leadership.

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