HOW TO MANAGE A TEAM IN CONSTRUCTION - (THE ART OF DELEGATION)
Updated: Jul 29
For Project Managers and Foremen, team building and management is an essential aspect of construction projects. As a good project supervisor, you are expected to build teams with crucial personnel that perform set duties on site.
For any team to survive there must be perfect harmony between all members. And it is the job of the team leader to ensure that this harmony is maintained. However, it is expected that there may be conflict, and this is typically due to a misunderstanding of responsibilities.
It all comes to an understanding of how responsibility works, knowing your job, and listening to your workers. It's the basics of the delegation of authority in the construction industry.
Delegating tasks makes your job a lot easier. By delegating tasks, each team member understands the role they are to play.
Once you understand these concepts, you will change the way you see your company and the teamwork involved in running it - regardless if you are a General Labourer, a Construction Foreman, or a Project Manager.
First things first:
THIS IS HOW RESPONSIBILITY WORKS
Construction Industry Example
Responsibility, is more intense at the top, and less intense at the bottom, though it goes until the last chain in command.
For instance, if Apple makes an iPhone that overheats, although the engineers are responsible for the mistake, Steve Jobs will get the blame for being responsible for not creating a good enough product/legacy. Yes, even though he is dead.
The magic here is you doing your job and holding everyone else (above and under) accountable for doing their job right. You can offer help, though you should not do other person's job.
Remember: If you are up in the ranks, you will naturally respond for other people's mistakes down the ranks from your position. To be a great professional, working in a great company, you NEED to be able to hold people accountable, even when uncomfortable.
It has become a general known fact, humans tend to hate responsibility (not always but often). So, if we were to consider the Job site example, the Labourer may naturally avoid the responsibility and will rather blame the carpenter by saying something like:
“The Carpenter told me to do it”
Regardless of what rank we're looking at. There is a problem to be treated here.
In this example the Labourer was not holding responsibility for his own job. Maybe he wasn't being held accountable for it, or the Carpenter didn't properly explained the task.
With this in mind, the first thing to understand is that this idea must be clear in all minds involved in the building process.
SET CLEAR EXPECTATIONS
Explain what will be done, how it will be done and how it will look like when its finished.
In other words: Give a clean, good explanation of what you need done (take your time to reflect, if necessary). Workers need to know exactly what you're trying to achieve.
Here's a trick we've posted on the other day about how to remember all items that should be covered in a good briefing section.
Click on it for more info.
Follow Spades' Instagram for more tricks like this.
MAKE SURE WORKERS TICK “OK.”
When it comes to responsibility, it is safe to say that people do not take responsibility for things they don't understand or agree with.
Workers have to accept and agree to follow some specific instructions regarding their jobs.
Only then will they be able to work at their peak. To achieve this, they must be briefed properly in a manner that is clear to them. Therefore, it is essential to check for signs of agreement or disagreement among the construction workers as you instruct them
Assuming that everyone is on the same page to start with, it is possible that occasionally a worker would change his mind once realising that some variables were not accounted for in the initial brief.
This may develop resentment among the workers and they might get uncomfortable while doing the work. This discomfort is usually common in jobs where the foreman insists upon sticking to all the instructions and procedures.
To avoid such scenarios, I recommend you to talk to your workers and learn their opinions before start as well as during execution.
However, If you feel like you always have problems getting your point across, maybe it has something to do with the way you're communicating. Learn more by clicking here
Pro tip: Really listen to their opinions.
The Agreement raises Commitment.
Getting “them” to say that “they” can do it diminishes the possibility of the responsibility being deflected to someone else.
Note: This behaviour is not exclusive to low-rank General Labourers. We ALL tend to avoid responsibility.
This process is actually similar to the use of the intention method, where you give the workers some form of control. Unlike collective roles, you narrow it down to specific responsibilities.
Each man knows what to do and must do it because it is unique to him. Therefore, the success of the entire project rests on each worker and not just on the supervisor.
When the workers know that all the roles are individual ones, none of them will want to lag because they know that the team can quickly determine where the delay or setback came from.
The main purpose of always asking questions is to make sure workers understood the task, feel respected and taken into consideration.
As much as you can, ask confirmation questions to clear any doubts that may have developed. The workers’ questions will reveal where your briefing needed more information and will also give you a clearer view of how much experience each worker has.
When asking questions, keep in mind that the main purpose is to bring the workers on the same page as you are. The aim of questioning should be clarification rather than cross-questioning or tests.
Questions should not be a test. Sometimes, “testing” the workers can have a negative effect on the psychological level, as they fall under doubts. Over questioning and testing might end up causing the the workers to feel insecure. Which is the exact same confusion that you are intending to avoid.
GOT IT? LET'S REVIEW THE PROCESS:
Explain what needs to be done: Give a good explanation that covers the Intention - What - Where - When - and Then (what to do afterwards)
Determine a time frame: By when you need it done? And do you want it done it well or fast? Cover this question in your explanation.
Explain what will be the metrics to evaluate if the job was well done. Is there a certain outcome your trying to achieve?
Q&A section. Allow the worker to ask anything and ask questions yourself to check if everything is properly computed and understood
Check if the workers agrees with all the details. If not, seek a resolution and agreement or explain the task again.
SHARING AUTHORITY IN A TEAM
In the same way as delegate tasks and responsibilities to workers in collective roles, you will need to narrow it down to specific responsibilities of each member.
You can actively divide tasks between team members or let the team organically share the team goal between members, as long as each worker has a level of commitment to the overall goal.
Therefore, the success of the entire project rests on each worker and not just on the supervisor. When the workers know that all the roles are individual ones, none of them will want to lag because they know that the team can quickly determine where the delay or setback came from.
“Only do what only you can do.”
...and delegate everything else. This is way you know for a fact that everyone is working at their best potential.
Of course, never forget to keep the respect, treat everyone equally and have manners. Learn more about it here
With proper team management, you realise that your job isn't difficult. Like in the engine of your wristwatch, with every gear working properly, it tells time correctly. But if one becomes faulty, the entire mechanism is compromised. This also applies to team management.
Make sure you know what is your job and every other workers know theirs down the Responsibility Pyramid. Do YOUR job with care and hold all other workers accountable for doing the same.
By keeping everyone in sync, constructions grow on schedule without any delays on your side. But if the team isn't managed properly, your construction plans can be misinterpreted will cost you time and resources.