Eric: Hey, this is Eric Anderson and I had a discussion with an area manager with a construction company this week and we were talking about what his real job is, and what provoked the conversation was the challenge that he feels as he's making the shift from being a project manager to being an area manager, leading people as opposed to building projects, and that's the topic that I cover in today's short podcast.
This is a video that I actually shot right after our conversation, posted it on social media, but I thought it would be beneficial to share with the podcast audience, so keep that in mind, as you're listening to this episode that this is a video that I shot. It's short, but it's to the point and I think you'll find it very useful, so check it out. It's all about, again, how you, as a senior leader, make the shift from building projects to leading teams. I appreciate you listening. Feel free to share it with other people that you think would benefit from the topic. [00:50.2]
This is Eric Anderton, and you're listening to “Construction Genius”, a leadership masterclass. Thomas Edison said that genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. If you're a construction leader, you know all about the perspiration, and this show is all about the one percent inspiration that you can add to your hard work to help you to improve your leadership.
When you get promoted into a senior leadership role, let's say, area manager, project executive, COO, what is your job? Your job is to manage people or to lead a team. Your job is no longer to build projects, and many construction leaders are uncomfortable with that because they think that if they're not building projects, if they're not solving problems on projects directly every day, they are not working, and that is simply not true.
Think about it. When you used to be a project manager, you would go out to the job sites. You would meet with owners. You would deal with issues. You would interact with superintendents. That's what defined your work. But now you're a project executive or area manager, or operating officer. That no longer should define your work. [02:14.5]
What defines your work now is meeting with your people who are going out to the job sites, having the project meetings, interacting with the superintendents. That's your job, so you must shift your mind from being a builder of projects to being a leader and builder of people and teams.
How can you do that practically? Set aside a block of time on a weekly basis to meet with your team. Now, you may say, “Duh, Eric, I already know that.” Yes, I know you already know that, but do you do it? And not just to meet with your team, but I mean to meet one-on-one with people in your team. Some of those you may meet with on a weekly basis. Some you may meet every other week. But if you want to excel as a leader, you must consistently meet one-on-one with your team. [03:10.5]
When is the best day to do that? Typically speaking, in construction companies, Tuesday through Thursday is full of client meetings, project meetings, team meetings, etc., etc., so the best days typically are Monday and Friday, and in my experience, Mondays work the best.
You get into the office on a Monday. You're kind of kicking some butt, grinding through emails, dealing with issues from, let's say, 7:00 a.m. to 10 o'clock. Is it possible for you between 10:00 a.m. and, let's say, two o'clock on a Monday to carve out that block of time to meet with your team. You may say, “Eric, it's impossible. I have this whirlwind.” The whirlwind is never going away. All that stuff that's happening, it's never going away, but if you don't set out that block of time to meet with your team, you will never excel as a leader and you will never truly make that shift from managing projects to leading and building teams. [04:10.0]
Okay, so what you need to do is set out that block of time, however much time you need to meet with your people individually, and you need to determine that meeting rhythm, whether it's, like I said, once a week or once every other week.
Then what you have to do is be clear on what the exceptions are when you will allow that time block set aside for one-on-one meetings to be violated. They could be things like vacations, sick kids, maybe a deposition you need to go to if you're involved in some sort of legal issue on a project, and it could be a 911 on the job site that you need to get stuck in with, or your project manager does.
But not all 911s are created equal, right? Sometimes we do just have a cat stuck up in the tree as opposed to a serious issue on a job that absolutely needs to be handled right now—so clearly define what the 911 issues are, which will cause you to not have that one-on-one meeting with your direct report. [05:11.2]
Okay, now, I know that you can create that block of time in your calendar and you can do it today, and I know that having these meetings will have a tremendous impact in a positive way on your leadership and help you make that shift from building projects to managing people, leading people, building teams.
In your mind, though, you should make a distinction between standards and expectations. Let me explain that, and this is just for you as a leader. Your standard should be “I am going to have that meeting, those sets of meetings, every single week. I am going to be committed to that block of time for my one-on-one meetings.” That's the standard. [05:54.6]
But you know what the expectation is? I'm probably going to nail it 80 percent of the time. What that means is the standard is reflected in the fact that you block out the time on your calendar, but the expectation is an internal thing, so that if you don't achieve the standard every week, you're not beating yourself up, because what happens with people is that they will commit to a course of action.
They know it's the right thing to do and you know that meeting with your people once a week or once every other week is the right thing to do. You know that that mentoring opportunity, that opportunity to deal with the issues that they're facing will help you to have a tremendous impact on them, and it will deliver you from having to micromanage and get stuck in the weeds on their projects. It will let them build the projects while you focus on the bigger picture items. You know that's going to happen, but it won't happen every time.
So, internally, give yourself permission to allow your expectation to be “80 percent of the time, I'm going to have those meetings.” Therefore, when you don't have them, you're not beating yourself up and you are not then just abandoning the idea altogether because you're not hitting it perfectly. Don't aim for perfection. Aim for consistency in the right direction. [07:06.0]
All right, this is one of my longer short videos, right? And so I just want to encourage you. How can you make that shift from managing projects to managing people? Set aside that block of time to meet one-on-one with your people. Understand that those one-on-one meetings are your job. They are just as important as a client meeting. They're just as important as a job site meeting when you're a project manager.
It is your job to meet with your people. Be comfortable with that. Don't get anxious, tapping your foot in those meetings, thinking, I am wasting my time. You are not wasting your time, so set aside that block. Be clear on the exceptions when that block is going to be violated and you're not going to have the meeting. Then, in your mind, have the standard of always having the meetings, but then have the expectation of 80 percent success. In this way, you'll be able to make that shift from managing projects, to building teams, managing people, and you'll be much more successful as a leader. [08:08.0]
Hope you found this helpful. Thank you for listening.
Hey, this is Eric. Just before you bounce, this whole episode of Construction Genius was inspired by a conversation I had with one of my executive coaching clients. I work one-on-one with senior leaders in construction companies from the C-suite all the way down to senior project managers, and if you have area managers, senior executives who are struggling with that shift from building projects to building teams of people, why don't you reach out to me on my website?
If you're a president or CEO owner of a construction company, these are the types of people that I talk with in my executive coaching engagements. My website is ConstructionGenius.com, and you can go [slash] contact. You can fill in your details. I'll get back to you within 24 hours and we can have a short discussion about if or how I can help you. [08:58.0]
Again, this is just for the presidents or CEOs of construction companies. That's who I engage with first, and then we can discuss the people who report to you in your organization and see if there's anything I can do to be a sounding board, a help in terms of them upgrading their leadership game.
Thanks again for listening to the podcast today and I appreciate you engaging with Construction Genius.
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