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Get Your People to Do Things Right!

Hedley  George

Managing a construction company is a near-impossible task to handle effectively. There are so many moving parts and issues. To make it worse, you’re required to perform perfectly at very low prices. Working with lots of construction business owners, my guess is that your number one challenge is dealing with employees and getting them to do things right. You continually worry about whether they performed exactly what you asked them to do, did they complete the entire task, did they do it right, did they treat customers fair and friendly, were they safe, and did they meet the project goals?

The ultimate challenge is to develop disciplined, results-oriented, accountable and responsible managers and employees. You desire them to work as a team, represent the company well, care about quality, be productive and improve the bottom line. I often get this question when I speak at conventions: “I’m a smaller company. How can I trust my employees to do exactly what I want them to do? A mistake can cost me everything. Nobody cares like I do. So I can’t delegate much or let my people make any big decisions.” To overcome this accountability and responsibility problem, consider these three challenges:

Do You Chase Wheelbarrows?

I was visiting a construction job site and noticed one of our long-time laborers cleaning the slab. He swept trash into his shovel and then walked about 100 yards to the trash bin. He repeated this for several minutes until I finally stopped and asked: “Where’s your wheelbarrow?” He said his boss didn’t give him one. I then asked if a wheelbarrow would make the job go faster. He said yes but his boss had not given him one to use that day.

I looked for the foreman and superintendent to no avail. So I went to the storage bin, unlocked it and got a wheelbarrow. I solved the problem, or did I? The real problem was that the laborer wasn’t trusted or given responsibility to think for himself, make decisions, choose the right tools, or be responsible to achieve the expected results. He wasn’t accountable for anything except to keep busy.

Are You a Firefighter?

Ever feel like a firefighter running from one fire to another with a garden hose trying to put out everyone else’s fires? Do you work all day doing your employees’ jobs, and then working all night doing yours? Your employees can handle more responsibility. But the real problem is that you don’t give it to them.

In a recent poll of field employees, 66 percent were asked to make decisions, but only 14 percent felt empowered and trusted to make decisions. They were afraid their boss would yell at them for mistakes. Therefore, employees didn’t want to take on more than they have to. The root of most people problems is the boss, not the employee.

Who Owns the Problem?

When the boss owns every problem, only they can solve it correctly. When you solve other people’s problems, they rely on you to solve all their problems. When you solve employees’ problems, they can’t grow and improve. It’s your job to train your employees and make them responsible. You have to let go to grow.

You Can’t Do it All Yourself!

Small business owners start out as the sole proprietor making every decision. Successful business owners quickly realize they can’t do it all themselves and need empowered people they can trust if they want to grow. The number one reason employees don’t accept responsibility is that they don’t know exactly what they are expected to do. The second reason is because their boss doesn’t trust them. Therefore these companies stay stuck at the level of what the boss can control and micro-manage.

Five Steps to Get Your People to Do Things Right!

1. Establish Clear Expectations

Tell them, show them, write it down and make lists of what’s required. Then ask them to explain what you told them to verify they understand the task and expected result. A good leader takes time to show and explain how to do the job and requirements.

2. Create a Scorecard Tracking System

To make people accountable for results, they must know what results are expected. When people are told to do things and don’t know how long it should take, they can’t take responsibility for the results. In other words, without a scorecard, people can’t be expected to get things done on time. There must be ongoing project targets to track, review and measure results. Team members need to know where they stand to meet the required goals.

3. Define Levels of Authority

Which employees can spend money, buy materials or tools, or make important decisions? Without defined levels of responsibility, employees can’t be expected to make good decisions. Accountable employees need clear descriptions outlining what results they are accountable for; what tasks are required on a regular basis; and what level of authority they have to achieve the expected results.

4. Be a Coach, Not a Controller

People want to be coached. The best coach usually wins the most games. Why? They train their players with proven winning plays and then let them play the game. The more you control, the less your people do for themselves. The more decisions you make, the less decisions they make. Is that what you want?

5. Celebrate and Reward Success

You know what else good coaches do? They recognize and encourage their players. Make it a priority to look for the good. Start weekly recognition programs for people who save or make the most money, do something excellent, have the best attitude, make the best decisions, or go the extra mile.

By implementing these simple steps, your people will grow and want to take on more responsibility. The key is to let go of making every decision. Get started right now by taking three things off of your to-do list and delegate them to someone else. Enjoy!

George Hedley, CSP, CPBC, helps contractors grow and profit as a professional business coach, popular speaker and peer group leader. He is the author of “Get Your Construction Business to Always Make a Profit!” and “Hardhat BIZSCHOOL Online University” available on his website. Visit for more information.