The Leader of the Pack – From Super Superintendent to Field Operations

Transitioning From Project Superintendent to Corporate General Superintendent

In our Super Superintendent post last week, we noted that the best traits of a lead project superintendent include taking ownership of jobsites by interacting daily with project team members and sub-contractors. However, a project superintendent’s territory is confined to a singular geographic location for the duration of the project.

Therefore, when transitioning from that role to a corporate general superintendent (or sometimes referred to as a field operations manager), your mindset will require a 180-degree shift.

Shifting From Doer to Coach in Construction Management

As you shift from being the “doer” in the field to being the coach assisting the “doers” in achieving their objectives, you need to adjust from asking these questions of yourself . . .

  • Am I in control of my project?
  • Am I directly communicating with the trades?
  • Am I taking responsibility for meeting the project schedule?
  • Am I walking my jobsite multiple times a day to observe and correct workers?
  • Am I doing my daily jobsite reporting?
  • Am I directly speaking to the team that reports to the project lead superintendent?

. . . to asking these:

  • Are the superintendents I lead in control of their projects?
  • Have I provided them with what they need to communicate with and manage their trades?
  • Am I holding them accountable for meeting their assigned project schedule?
  • Am I visiting the respective superintendents’ jobsites weekly? And if so, what do I expect to see when I arrive?
  • Am I training, reviewing, monitoring, and holding accountable the superintendents who report to me?
  • Am I listening, observing, and coaching the field superintendents on how to better communicate with and lead their teams?

Role of a Corporate General Superintendent in the Construction Industry

When adjusting your role from player to coach, it is important to remember that a coach’s job is to help people achieve a more meaningful and satisfying career and, in turn, a more successful life. Coaching others means looking to the future and helping them to be the best versions of themselves while maintaining faith in their desire to succeed. Coaching also involves teaching others how to manage their emotions, specifically in helping them understand that while it is normal to feel a wide array of emotions in the course of a job, it is important to take responsibility for one’s actions and not allow these feelings to negatively impact one’s work.

As the coach, it is important to earn the respect of the people you are leading, and one recurring opportunity to achieve this occurs quite frequently.

Often a project team member or sub-contractor with a complaint will bypass the normal chain of command to communicate with the corporate general superintendent directly. If a worker approaches you in these circumstances, you should inquire as to whether he has addressed the issue with his supervisor. Even if he has, it would be best to invite his immediate supervisor into the conversation before allowing the complaint to progress. You should also empower the direct supervisor to lead the conversation and mediate between him and the complainant only if the discussion goes in a negative direction.

While this may be more difficult and time-consuming at first, particularly when superintendents are especially inclined to desire rapid and conclusive results, it is nonetheless important to find out what you don’t know about the situation. If you can restrain yourself from interfering with the project superintendent’s communication and decisions, you will achieve respect from your team, which will accelerate your own career. The performance of your team will speak volumes about your leadership.

Additional recommendations:

Don’t pick favorites, especially with those who are your friends or family. In the construction industry, it is not uncommon to be related to some of your subordinates or have a friendship with them dating back many years. In some cases, a subordinate may have, at one point, been your supervisor. Nevertheless, you need to avoid showing favoritism and hold everyone accountable equally.

Spend time off the jobsite with your subordinates to get to know each of them personally. Even something as small as lunch or coffee off-site once a week for an hour will help develop the relationship.

Confidence must be earned. Don’t assume that because you have a title, your team will automatically have confidence in you. You must have the mindset of constantly improving yourself so you can improve the team. You should always maintain at least three personal and professional development goals to keep yourself disciplined in this regard.

Communicate your expectations and set forth specific and attainable goals for your team. As the goals are reached, be sure to acknowledge the accomplishments of your team.

Provide support by understanding and granting your people what they need to be successful. You will learn what they need by establishing good communication and trust.

Leadership Communication and Body Language in Construction Management

Over my career I learned that people’s reaction to you is determined 7% by the words you use, 38% by the tone you employ, and 55% by the body language you display. Thus, it is critical to recognize when your body language speaks louder than your words.

Desire, Work Ethic, and Team Success

When you were raised to your current role, you were hired to make decisions critical to the company’s health, well-being, and growth potential. Your boss could have declined to provide you with this opportunity, but he hired you because you possess the talent and skills to do the job properly. Of course, the unknown factor in your hiring is whether you have the desire and work ethic to meet the expectations required of you. Only you can commit to increasing your workload in the short term to properly organize the human capital provided to you.

A title is not in itself evidence of success. The real proof comes when your team members achieve goals they would never achieve on their own as a result of your efforts and coaching.

Are you ready to accept the challenge?

Suzanne Breistol


1 Comment
  • Rick Philpot

    Very good reading, helps me to remember what is important while doing my job.

Leave a reply

Your email addres will not be published.
Required fields are marked with

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.