Construction project managers have the complex responsibility of delivering projects on time and on budget, while handling the inevitable curve-balls that speed their way throughout the process. If you’re a project manager, you know that mastering the technical skills of project delivery is essential for success. What you might be wondering is how you can improve on the people side of things. An easily overlooked yet critical component of every project manager’s role is leadership – a skill set that’s not always easy to learn or effectively used.
Neglecting the development of your leadership and people skills can hold you back from reaching the next level in your career as leadership plays a larger and larger role in more senior positions. Leadership and people skills are core to your ability as a project manager to influence, develop trust, and earn the respect and commitment of your team members, ultimately helping you better manage projects. Effective communication of the project’s vision, goals, and day-to-day objectives can make the difference in scope of a project’s losses, problems, and insufficiencies.
Great project managers strive to continuously improve their leadership capabilities through practice, self-reflection, feedback, and learning.
Here are 5 key components to help you become a better leader in construction project management
1. Inspire the vision
The team relies on you to set the strategic vision from the get go and outline the primary objectives and responsibilities of the teams you’re working with. Keeping the vision top of mind and clearly explaining how the vision will enable the whole group to achieve its goal will help align your team towards a common mission. With clear and confident communication of the vision, the team can learn to trust you and rely on you to see them through to successfully fulfilling the vision.
2. Communicate effectively
A top skill of strong construction project managers is effective communication. Clear and concise communication can improve teamwork and project collaboration, while poor communication can lead to confusion and misunderstandings, causing delays or issues as the project progresses. Being a good communicator takes practice but is worth doing!
Here are a few tips to enhance your communication skills. We also dive into a deeper discussion around communication skills in this post.
- Communicate often but with precision to align on the team’s goals, expectations, and to address problems as they arise.
- Establish a formal communication chain.
- Choose a channel your teammates prefer and will respond to, and use it consistently.
- Confirm whether communication has been received, understood, and if your team has questions.
- Be an active listener and open to feedback.
The more open and transparent with your team, the more trust they will have in you and your ability to complete the project within the constraints.
Tip: If your team is struggling with communication, try some team building exercises to help strengthen your team’s communication skills. The Blindfold Game is a great way to build relationships across your team as well as drill in the importance of communication. In the game, the team is divided into pairs – one person is blindfolded and one is not. The goal is for the blindfolded person to walk across the room without running into any obstacles, which are intentionally placed in various locations. This exercise demonstrates teamwork and clear communication between the pairs. If you’re looking to become a Project Manager, check out our top interview questions to prep for here.
3. Enable & empower
Enable your team by making sure they have the resources and support they need to do their best work. Empower your team to understand, evaluate, and make decisions in situations where they can solve problems and move their projects forward so that your team continues to operate as efficiently and effectively as possible. While this may seem like a risk at first, the proper guidance and oversight will enable your team to continue making these types of decisions with better and better outcomes each time.
Empowering your team by delegating certain tasks to other team members and showing confidence in their abilities to get the job done will foster trust, respect, and bolster their own personal motivation to contribute. Encourage others to take on more responsibility when possible. If you believe your teammates are capable of delivering, it provides them an opportunity to work more autonomously, which gives you more time to work on bigger ticket items.
4. Continue to deepen your knowledge
Work to develop a deep understanding of the project you’re working on and how each team’s objectives play into completing the project effectively. Great leaders acknowledge when they don’t know something and actively seek to fill their knowledge gaps in order to better perform in whatever it is they do. Striving to enhance your understanding of the trades teams you work with by asking questions to your teammates or seeking to learn how you can be a better project manager yourself are great ways to enhance your understanding of the business, and can help you garner the respect of your teammates.
5. Make good decisions
Project Managers are relied on to keep the project on track, no matter what happens! This means making hard decisions and being a master problem-solver when unexpected issues arise. Your ability to assess a problem, understand its potential impact on the project, and work independently (or with your team) to mitigate it is a key aspect of great leadership in the construction industry. Knowing when to loop in your team for assistance and when to figure it out on your own are essential to impactful decision-making and will serve you well as projects become more complex and difficult to solve.
Becoming a strong leader
Cultivating your leadership skills doesn’t depend solely on others and is something you can take control of in your personal and professional life. The greater impact you can make on your own ability to work with others, inspire action, and influence behaviour, the better suited to and successful you will be in more senior construction management leadership positions in your company and in the industry at large! Leadership skills are highly transferable and will serve you well no matter what role you achieve next.