Aim for Peak Performance: Establish a Positive Work Climate

Norb Slowikowski

December 2007

In my travels, working 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 some expectations of management:

Better communication 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 per 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 superintendents.

    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 for job performance throughout the year. The bonus should be paid for performance in the following areas: labor savings, quality, safety, weekly planning, effective utilization of tools, equipment and material. It should be based on performance on all jobs during the year, not just for labor savings.

    Provide continuous training and skills development for field supervision, and keep it going on a continual basis.

    Provide coaching when we make mistakes or don’t do something right. Don’t be so quick to blame us for mistakes or yell and scream at us. This doesn’t lead to peak performance.

    Eliminate the following barriers that have a negative impact on employee morale and productivity:
  • Insufficient information to do our jobs effectively, such as drawings, scope of work, quality specs, addendums, labor budget, ongoing feedback, etc.

  • Lack of positive feedback. Too much emphasis on what’s wrong rather than what’s right.

  • No explanation about what we’ve contracted to do. What are our obligations in the contract that was sold?

  • Lack of support from the office when we have controversy with the GC’s superintendent.

  • Lack of support from project managers when you need help. They’re always too busy, and that’s a "cop out.”

    Lack of accountability. It seems that when someone doesn’t do their 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.

    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. A glaring lack of action.

    People in management are ineffective leaders. They have poor people skills and are not very effective when it comes to dealing with people problems.

    Removing these barriers really takes a commitment by management to become more effective leaders. Leadership is based on fundamental values of respect, supporting people and taking action. Leaders reach out and inspire people to peak performance. It is what people do together—building teamwork. Together, leaders and team members work to build a better future, improve productivity and maximize profitability.

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