Operational Leaders: Do You Understand Your Wiring vs the Wiring of an Estimator?

Back in 2014, I wrote an article for ASPE National’s newsletter titled: Estimators, You’re on the Top Occupations List! The prediction by the US Department of Labor is that 40,000 new estimating jobs would be created in the construction industry in the US by 2020. We aren’t at 2020 yet to see the actual numbers in, but just our office alone, servicing mainly Florida, always has clients seeking estimators of various levels of experience. Currently we have ten employers seeking various levels of estimating and preconstruction professionals.

Our challenge is that many candidates are more suited for estimating or preconstruction services than they are in the field or full cycle project management.

We see plenty of top candidates with the skill sets and personality traits to fill the role of an estimator. The majority, unfortunately, have not specifically been titled estimator with their last company or a recent company within the last ten years. This typically results in them rarely getting a chance to pursue the career they are most likely going to excel at.

So, how do we know they are wired to be estimators, titled that way or not?

I am a high dominant individual (action/result oriented), so to interview estimators many times I have to remind myself to focus on them as individuals and not focus on how it feels like watching paint dry to get them to open up, as they are usually a much calmer demeanor and more reserved than I am. In addition, many of them speak slower and more softly than I do. When we hire Project Managers and Supers we often look and listen for “fire in their belly” and the ability to push a schedule while not compromising the contractual terms. When we interview estimators we need to look and listen for the ability to dependably perform the complete estimating process with back-up and timely results, communicating progress/results along the way.

We also know they are wired to be in estimating because they come alive when talking about structuring the job for success; selecting the right subcontractors, understanding the scope of the project, understanding how much it will cost and the potential pitfalls if it is not structured right up front. When asked what disappoints them, they open up about how they feel when they work smart and hard and a project goes south because a Project Manager did the buyout without their input and decides to go with a different sub(s) then they recommend. The ironic part is they don’t have an issue going with the sub a Project Manager may prefer, if the Project Manager would make sure the sub wasn’t just matching or lowering price, but had everything included in their bid and truly has the attitude, aptitude and resources to do the job. Estimators want the projects to be not only aesthetically awesome, but they also want the projects to be built on-time and with a real agreed to budget.

We ask them questions about leading meetings, making calls to negotiate etc. They typically don’t like to be the one responsible for leading the resolve of conflict or potential conflict. They thoroughly enjoy preparing the detail an operationally wired person can take to the meeting with them to help them resolve a potential fight. They celebrate having helped win, not having led the battle.

Estimators are more likely the ones that understand balance of life. Mainly because they do detail work the majority of the day and they understand that mistakes happen without taking time to clear the brain. They can sit still and rest, go to the park at lunch-time, or sometimes they just need to sit in their cars to gather their thoughts. They may do whatever it takes to complete a bid on time, but they may not do it by consistently pushing the plow through like an operationally wired individual would. They understand the need to stop and process. The funny part is, many times if they behave in this manner, then an operations person thinks they have too much time on their hands and gives them more work or shortens their schedule, which is why they come see us to go somewhere else.

Reference above we are only speaking about how estimators are typically wired and individuals working in a team within a department, not the chief, director, senior lead, or operational professional taking the lead. The best operational professionals, and the best leaders who estimators report to, share priority scales of both operations and estimators, as well as communication skills to be able to represent both sides. A rare find, but many times developable within someone who naturally has the inborn priority scales, but needs the coaching and training on the leadership and communication front.

The 17 years I spent on the local board of the American Society of Professional Estimators, the twenty-two years in construction staffing and the many venting calls I take from operational professionals over the years saying the same things;

  • He/she doesn’t speak up in meetings
  • They go for a walk, sit in their car, leave every day for lunch and the bid is due!
  • They are out of here every day at 5:00 on the dot
  • They hate such and such in project management, operations etc. and won’t talk to them

I could go on and on, but most are related to them not working fast enough, hard enough, or the operational person is not relating to them as a person.

From the estimator I hear things like;[/vc_column_text][/vc_column]

  • They want three sub bids on every trade, but then never go with who we agree to upfront so now the subs don’t want to bid the jobs
  • They told the client we would have it tomorrow and the client is expecting real numbers which takes time to put together
  • They command me to do something vs ask me
  • Just having them keep asking sets me back

Most every comment from the estimator is a feeling of being rushed or overruled.

Investing in doing a DiSC profile can help you as the leaders of your companies understand your teams, put the right people in the right seats and win and profitably complete projects. For more information on our coaching programs give us a call at 305-361-0094.

We are all “Wired for success!” We just need the right connection!

DiSC Priority Scale Graph

Estimator DiSC Priority Scale Graph
The above bar graph is a detailed DiSC Score on the Eight Priority Scales of a typical Estimator.


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