”I can feed pigs with fancy titles, but I am having trouble finding a proper construction manager,” says Niels. “Give me that person, who is proud of being a construction manager and who have had enough hands-on experience to know the workmanship, employees and profession.”
The reason for this outbreak was that Niels and I had one of our regular talks, where we discuss the industry, tasks, GenieBelt, and much more about constructing. “In Rome, construction managers were high esteem citizens, who achieved adulation and wealth. They could build a 50-kilometer long artificial waterway, which on average drops 34 centimeters per kilometer – through mountains and hills. All of it crosses a 360-meter divide, through a 20.000 m3 aqueduct, and all of it is still standing!”
These words from Niels has stuck with me, along with a post I made the other day in the LinkedIn Group “We create the future of construction.”
The post had the following headline: “No more construction management for the advisor”
It was a call for debate about the possible value in securing construction management in the hands of people who have had experience in the field.
Rene Christiansen, who have worked with construction management for over 30 years, shares the same opinion as Niels; “We need to understand that it is all about communication between different types of people”
So why do Niels, Rene – and bunch of other people in the industry – believe that talented people move on quickly from being a construction manager? Let us go back to my put on why this happens, but let us first stop for a second and look at what is required to be a top class construction manager – and why this job should fill you with pride:
Leadership, not management: You need to be able to lead
You are going to work with both advisors and customers, architects, subcontractors, and geeks (like me). And you need to be able to make the different groups work together and agree on a common solution.
Communication skills: You need to have a wide span in your communication
One day you are out on the polished floors and talking with the client and shortly after you are standing in the middle of the mud, discussing with construction workers. Very few people are able to talk with different groups of people that each requires different ways of communicating.
Empathy: You need to have an interest for other people
You should not only be able to talk with the different participants of the building project, but also securing constructive and efficient cooperation – you need to understand their tasks and challenges, and be able to familiarize yourself with why something is important for them.
Handle stress: You need to keep calm and create an overview
When the concrete machine is stuck in an accident on the highway, while the architect wants to know why you decided on steel stairs instead of wood, all while the owner wants an updated budget, and the family wonders why you once again is on the building site instead of being home, then it requires that you can handle the stress.
Asking for trouble
As a construction manager, you are asking for trouble. Many job positions can be the similar, but as a construction manager in particular, you are in a constant war zone. Between contractors and advisors, end users and owners, external suppliers, authorities and last but not least, you and the family. Because you need to put a lot of hours into this to make it all go hand in hand. Therefore, you need to be multitalented if you want to control these 4 focus areas and still be able to come home in time for dinner with the family.
“So why is this position under such pressure? And maybe more interesting – what do we need to do to change it?” I asked, Niels.
“Our people need to BOTH manage the planning and afterwards the constructions management – by making this continuity through the project, it gives a more challenging weekday – and it gives better service to the customer.”
“Well – look at how we do it. Our people need to BOTH manage the planning and afterwards the constructions management – by making this continuity through the project, it gives a more challenging weekday – and it gives better service to the customer.”
“Also remember to educate your people along the way,” Rene, replied. You cannot be an experienced construction manager when you are in your early 30s and have not had your first arbitration yet. Not that it is a good thing to end up there, but because it tells you the importance of how to communicate and cooperate correctly in your future work.”
“And then remember de-briefing – we waste a lot of talent by making them make the same mistakes as everyone else, and making them perform one task after another, without the possibility to stop, reflect, analyze and get smarter before taking on a new task,” Niels rounded off.
A true kinder surprise for construction managers
Summing it all up, that means that we need to put emphasis on:
1. The challenge in combining planning and construction management
3. Experience gathering
“Remember to pay your people well! If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys…!”
Now my question for you is: “Have you talked nicely to your construction manager today?”
Featured Image: Monkey Business (Super Bowl Commercial 2005) by CareerBuilder
Check out also the original Danish version of the article.