ConstruCtion Crew supervision

50 Take Charge Leadership Techniques & Light Construction Glossary

Karl F. schmid

CoNTeNTs
To the Reader . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. On Supervising . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 Making the Leap into Supervision . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 Communication: Open Doors/Locked Doors . . . . . .4 Processing Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6 Transmitting Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7 Cross-cultural Communications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8 Handling Smart Alecks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10 Bringing Smoke . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11 When Your Discipline Is Challenged . . . . . . . . . . . .14 Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) . . . .15 Setting Standards: Expect Much, Get Much . . . . . . .17 Delegating Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18 Inspecting Subordinates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19 Advice from Ike . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19 Providing Feedback . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20 Providing Corrective Feedback to an Individual . . . .21 Getting Subordinates to Dress Properly . . . . . . . . .21 Listening . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23 Asking Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23 Performance Evaluations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25 Rewarding Individuals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27 You’re Their Boss, Not Their Pal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28 Counseling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29 Mentoring . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30 Exercising Authority. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33

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26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50.

On Being Fair . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .35 No One Said It Would Be Easy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37 Selecting from Among Applicants . . . . . . . . . . . . . .39 “The Law of the Jungle” by Rudyard Kipling . . . . . .41 Searching for Innovation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .41 Managing Time . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .44 Decision Making . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .47 Making Meetings Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .52 An African Proverb . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .53 Planning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .53 Operating During Emergencies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .54 Know Thyself . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .56 Manage Thyself . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .58 Words from Theodore Roosevelt . . . . . . . . . . . . . .59 Would You Get Elected? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .59 Crew Safety . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .61 Turnarounds: It’s All About Teamwork . . . . . . . . . .63 Measuring Performance (Metrics)—By the Boss . . .65 Measuring Performance—For Your Use Only . . . . .68 Report Writing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .71 Presenting Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .74 Analyzing Work: Critical Path Method (CPM) . . . . .79 Analyzing Work: The Learning Curve . . . . . . . . . . .80 Analyzing Work: Value Engineering (VE) . . . . . . . . .81 More on Supervising . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .89

Appendix: A Brief Description of the Critical Path Method (CPM) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .91 Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .99 Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207

To The ReadeR
In this construction crew supervisor’s manual, I hope to provide you with a tool kit of leadership skills. The manual provides solid, common sense guidelines for you to preempt, use, and refer to as problems arise. It provides quality tools specifically intended for construction crew supervisors, who have the toughest leadership job of all. As Potter Stewart, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, wrote in his short concurrence in the obscenity case of Jacobellos v. Ohio (1964), “hard-core pornography” was hard to define, but “I know it when I see it.” The same is true for outstanding leadership; it is difficult to define, but you know it when you see it. For lack of a better definition, let’s say that leaders get others to work for them and for their organization. And leaders have the ability to direct, organize, and contribute to the general health of their organization. More importantly, numerous studies have shown that effective leadership has little correlation with characteristics that intuitively might lead you to believe that a person will be a good leader (e.g., high intelligence—people of high intelligence have often struck out as leaders; and gregariousness—there are many examples of shy, soft-spoken people who have excelled in leadership positions). There is really no single, outward trait that identifies a person as being an outstanding leader; you can be an outstanding leader if you work at it.

viii  To the Reader

For starters, try doing these:
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Manage your time. As a supervisor your time belongs to your subordinates. You cannot shut yourself off from them. So the secret—easily said but difficult to do—is to put first things first. Concentrate on expending this irreplaceable resource carefully. In a sense, the conservation of time is an umbrella that covers all other leadership traits. Be results oriented. Always keep the goals and purposes of your organization in view. As a first-line supervisor, you don’t have very many options regarding the type of assignment you give to your subordinates. But to the extent possible, consider their strengths and weaknesses; then build on their strengths, and play down their weaknesses. Keep learning technically and about your subordinates. Respect your subordinates, always.

Karl F. Schmid, PE; LEED AP Los Angeles, CA

Construction Crew supervision

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1.

oN suPeRvisiNG

Ask your subordinates. They’ll tell you, “Supervisors don’t do work, I do the work.” Then, you might ask, “Why am I so tired at the end of each day?” Supervisors get work done through the efforts of others, and supervising is the main tool for doing this. It is hard work. The next topics taken individually may seem very simplistic, but viewed as a whole they will heighten your leadership and supervisory subskills. While not specifically categorized the paragraphs that follow are intended to assist you to improve on these necessary leadership traits:
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Encourage open communications Build teamwork Get people involved Encourage initiative Set high standards Provide control measures Provide performance feedback

2.

MakiNG The LeaP iNTo suPeRvisioN

It’s what you have always wanted—to be in charge. You now have the authority, the power if you will, and the freedom and flexibility to do what you think is best for your organization. As they say in New York City, “Forget about it.” As a new supervisor, you will first sense constraints, not freedom. This is especially true if you worked relatively independently in a job such as a tradesperson, driver, or building inspector. Your responsibility was to do your job. As a supervisor, you will become involved in many relationships, not just with your subordinates, but also with people within and outside

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your own organization. For example, you may have to convince a company salesperson to bid higher (because your crew won’t be able to do the job for what he says it will take to win it), another foreperson to alter his1 crew’s schedule (so as not to interfere with your crew), and a delivery person to make an after-work-hours delivery (also to keep your crew on schedule). Some of those demands can be relentless and disjointed. You will also learn that the people in your crew won’t always respond to your instructions. This may be because they are testing you, but more likely it is because they want to show that they know their jobs. This all will change over time, as you earn their and other peoples’ respect. When things don’t go as you had hoped, you may be tempted to get tough, and this may actually appear to work. However, you want to be their supervisor for a long time.You do not want just compliance; you want commitment over the long haul. Instead of taking the “my way or the highway” approach, try asking your new subordinates how they have been doing the job and if they have any suggestions.Your first few weeks as a supervisor may feel like years, but keep at it.Your subordinates want you to succeed. No one wants to work for an ineffective boss. At first you will probably believe that your job is merely to get your subordinates to work efficiently, and in one sense it is. But you were also selected to make things better, and this will require you to introduce changes not just within your area of responsibility but also outside of it. You will have to develop long-standing relationships with people: the company’s sales rep, other forepersons, estimators, and outside delivery people.
1. For clarity, and to save time, space, and expense, I use “he,” “his,” she,” and “hers” symbolically to mean “his or hers” and “he or she.”

Construction Crew supervision

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Developing this informal network with people who can affect your crew’s work is an important part of your new job and another aspect of it that will take time. You may have the same feelings toward your new boss as your new subordinates have toward you. You too will be wary and will want to show your competence.You will worry that by asking questions you will be viewed as weak or incompetent, or you may worry that your boss will push you aside and take over. These are not unusual feelings. Don’t be afraid to ask. For you, becoming a supervisor is essentially the same as when you learned the job from which you were promoted. As with learning anything, becoming a great supervisor will occur incrementally and over time.You will gain a new mind-set and learn new skills and ways of thinking. You will learn to deal with ambiguity and to deal with other people accomplishing tasks in ways different than how you would have done them.You will learn to give clear instructions. You will learn when to yield and when to say “no.” Over time you will gain confidence and become the supervisor that you envisioned yourself to be. Before you know it you will be giving advice to someone who has just been selected to be a supervisor. If you have been a union man, you may have felt protected by your union. But now that you are a supervisor, there may be times when you find that union rules slow you down. Some construction industry rules about jurisdiction—rules that you may have felt strongly about when carrying tools—may no longer seem reasonable. But unions are a fact of life in the construction industry. Union contracts establish work rules that as a supervisor you may feel are restrictive, but they are rules that are unambiguous and by which you must abide. Unions are a source of high-quality craftspeople. Union representatives can

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be helpful with troublesome employees. Above all, if your company hires union workers, it behooves you to maintain a good working relationship with union representatives and shop stewards. Draw on them for advice with trouble employees. It is usually wise to give the union representative a “heads up” before taking disciplinary action.

3.

CoMMuNiCaTiNG: oPeN dooRs/ LoCked dooRs

How often have you heard about the importance of open and honest communication? Yet, communication between supervisor and subordinate remains a problem. Unfortunately, human beings have a natural tendency to judge, evaluate, approve of, or disapprove of other peoples’ statements. This should not come as a surprise, since we all have different backgrounds, experiences, and education. We have different values and, therefore, are motivated differently. Furthermore, while the tendency to make evaluations is common to almost all interchanges of language, it is very much heightened when feelings and emotions are deeply involved. If there is to be a way around this, it is by understanding the meaning of empathy, which I define as the ability to put yourself into another person’s skin. Try to understand how the person to whom you are speaking feels. Understand with the person, not about the person. Try an experiment. The next time there is an argument among your subordinates, institute this rule: each person can speak up for himself but only after he first restates the ideas and feelings of the previous speaker accurately and to the speaker’s satisfaction.

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Actually, you can initiate the experiment without asking for consent. Merely say something like this: “As I understand it, you are saying that…Is this correct?” This takes some courage because after hearing the other person out, you may wind up changing your opinion. Suppose that you as a supervisor give instructions to a subordinate and the response indicates doubt or reluctance on the part of the subordinate.You, therefore, explain further. After several round robins, you are likely to conclude that your subordinate is either shirking, stupid, or you have not given good instruction. Carried to extremes this communication breaks down, and you go off to do the job yourself or find someone else to do it. Before doing the job yourself, try this: Draw out your subordinate’s thoughts. Instead of telling him how to do the job, get him to tell you how he plans to do it. Listen, listen, listen, not just to the words, but also with empathy.There is a point beyond which this approach ceases to work, and you end up saying, “Just do it” or “I’ll do it.” But this should occur very seldom. When people believe they are part of the solution and their opinion is important, things generally work better. Here are some hints:
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Don’t assume that the person to whom you are speaking views the world as you do. Remember this: there are no misperceptions; there are only perceptions. Don’t assume that your view is deemed completely logical. Don’t assume that you can change the other person’s mind. You can, however, learn to appreciate the other person’s perspective. Communication is two ways. The person to whom you are speaking must also open up to your thoughts. Probably the biggest block to personal communication is peoples’ inability to listen intelligently, understandingly, and skillfully to one another—that is, to be able to place herself in

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another person’s skin. (How often has your spouse or significant other said, “You’re not listening to me”?)

4.

PRoCessiNG iNfoRMaTioN

We all know how critical communication is to the success of any endeavor. Because it is so critical, there have been great advances in communications technology. It is now possible to send, receive, and store large amounts of information at incredible speed. But quantity, speed, and coverage are not the only requirements of communication. It is also important that we communicate clearly and precisely. Here are some simple rules that can lead to greater understanding:
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Pay attention to what is going on around you. Knowing as much as you can about “the big picture” and “what’s going on” where you are working will help you to better understand the information that you are receiving. If you think you will have to recall something, write it down. Note the conditions that created the information. The number of rumors approximately triples when there is a lot of uncertainty, fear, or stress in the situation. Consider rating the likelihood of what you have heard to be true on a scale of 1 to 5. Consider the source from which you are getting your information. Daily we meet people with diverse backgrounds. Phrases and actions can mean different things to different people. Consider rating the credibility of your source on a scale of 1 to 5. Look for signs that emotions are affecting the people who are bringing you information (e.g., nervousness, anger, fright, etc.). Continually ask yourself, “What is this person really trying to tell me?” Get in the habit of asking questions about what people tell you (e.g., “Did I understand you to say…?”). You can be quite sure that you received the information correctly when you can tell the other person what she said in your own words.

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Above all, encourage subordinates to be open and honest and do not get angry with people who tell you something you do not want to hear. Don’t shoot the messenger.

5.

TRaNsMiTTiNG iNfoRMaTioN

Just as you must process information from others, others must process it from you. As a supervisor, you will spend a great deal of your time communicating to influence subordinates to accomplish work. You do not “handle” people; you motivate, guide, and organize your subordinates to do their work. And your primary tools for doing those things are spoken and written communication. Remember these points whenever you send a message, orally or in writing:
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Keep your subordinates informed. Get new information out quickly. Communicate openly and honestly. Make the message as simple as possible. Start with a clear, simple statement of the purpose of the message. Do not overload it with unnecessary information. Organize the message in a way that is easily understood by the receiver. Know the people who work for you and use words that they understand (eschew obfuscation—sorry, couldn’t resist). Try to use relatively short sentences. Use an example to illustrate any major new point or idea. Draw pictures and sketches to go along with words whenever possible. Repeat the important points of the message at least twice. Summarize the major points of your message. Ask the person to whom you are speaking for feedback. Have him repeat or explain to you just what you have said.

When giving instructions you may wish to remember this format, which the armed forces have used for planning and operations orders for as long as anyone can remember. I remember the format in this way:

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General Lee is talking to his commanders:
The enemy is up there and we’re down here. (SITUATION) We’re going to get ’em. (MISSION) Bragg, you are on the right flank. Longstreet, on the left flank, and Hood, you are in reserve. (CONCEPT OF THE OPERATION) I’ll be on that hill watching the operation. (COMMAND AND CONTROL) We will eat when we get to the top. (LOGISTICS)

If you don’t like the military terms, substitute goals for mission; management for command; and control and supplies, materials, or whatever you choose for logistics. Generally, life is not so simple, but the basic five paragraphs have served me well in many situations, both for planning projects and explaining them to others.

6.

CRoss-CuLTuRaL CoMMuNiCaTioNs

As a supervisor, you are almost certainly going to be communicating with people for whom English is a second language. Here are a few pointers on how to communicate with these people:
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Be aware of idioms. Idioms pervade our English language. (Many idioms are local, and many are not even understood by native English speakers.) “Touching base,” “now we’re batting a thousand,” “big bucks,” “call it a day,” and “hanging tough” are all idioms that may not be understood by foreign-born people who have been taught formal English. A literal translation of “let’s hit it” may have an unwanted result. Try to minimize your use of idioms, although there is no need to eliminate them completely. The trick is to be sure to explain the idiom after you’ve let it slip. Before you know it, your foreignborn subordinate will be “hotfooting” to work.

Construction Crew supervision
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Check for understanding. All subordinates want to please their bosses. It is common for someone to nod enthusiastically after receiving instructions when in fact he did not understand a word you said. A good way to address this problem is to have the listener retell what you said in her words. Check regularly so you don’t lose your foreign-born listener. Allow time for native tongue “breakouts.” If you have several subordinates who speak the same foreign language, allow them to take time to discuss matters among themselves. Problem solving will be much easier for them. Learn the verbal styles of other cultures. This will help you read between the lines of what others are saying and cut back on cross-cultural misunderstandings. For example, the verbal style of both Germans and Russians tends to be direct. They immediately get to the point, without much small talk. Asian people tend to be more self-effacing and may preface their conversation by apologizing for their “limited” skills. This is not a sign of incompetence but of cultural modesty. Asian people also tend to take more time out for reflection. If you’re a chatty person, you will have to adjust your style accordingly. Americans expect people to look them in the eye when they are speaking, yet in some cultures this is a sign of disrespect. And sometimes words are used differently. For example, in the United States a beautiful woman might be referred to as a “10,” but in Vietnam she would be a “1.” Learn the proper terms of address. Americans tend to go by first names. But most cultures are more formal at work, especially when addressing supervisors. My first language was German, which I learned at home. Then at eighteen, when I was an exchange student to Germany, I used the familiar form of “you”—the only term I had heard at home—when speaking to a director. My boss (who reported to the director) informed me in no uncertain terms that this was a no-no. If your subordinates address you as “Mr.” but you prefer being called by your first name, find an appropriate time and explain your preference.

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Americans, and especially those who live in large cities, tend to be more impersonal at work than people from other societies; immediately after work we scatter to the four winds to get home as early as possible. As a result, we do not socialize much with our coworkers. If at all possible, arrange group gettogethers after work and encourage employees from different cultures to socialize. Learn the key superstitions of other cultures. For example, according to one Russian superstition, whistling indoors will bring about financial ruin. In some South American countries, a woman placing her handbag on the floor will lead to her money disappearing. While the number thirteen is unlucky in America, the Chinese have a fear of “four” (it sounds like their word for death). In Russia, you would not give a dozen roses. Evennumbered bouquets are for funerals only, so if you are sending flowers for a special occasion, tell the florist to make it eleven or thirteen. For your foreign-born subordinates, learning English seems like a one-way street. Learn some foreign expressions. Try to make some effort to communicate with them in their native tongue, even if it is merely saying “good morning,” “thank you,” and “have a nice weekend.” Speaking just a few words can be a great icebreaker and shows your interest in them and their culture.

7.

haNdLiNG sMaRT aLeCks

Eventually you will run across a smart aleck: a person who seems to derive pleasure from making others, and especially you, look bad. For example, a smart aleck is someone who “grandstands” his suggestions or a person who waits until after you have committed to a course of action and then suggests a “better” way. A smart aleck must be handled carefully. You can easily lose the respect of your other subordinates if a smart aleck gets the better of you.

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