13 Abilities of a great general superintendent in construction

Explore the 13 essential abilities of a great general superintendent in construction project management. From leadership and communication to technical expertise and problem-solving, understand competencies defining exceptional superintendents.

13 Abilities of a great general superintendent in construction

In construction, general superintendents oversee virtually every aspect of a given project, including safety, scheduling, and financials. They work alongside project managers, coordinators, and other professionals.

Keep reading to learn more about what general superintendents do and the skills they need to thrive.

What is a general superintendent?

Broadly speaking, general superintendents ensure construction projects are completed profitably, in line with applicable quality and safety standards, and on time. Of course, this burden doesn’t rest solely on their shoulders. Many other construction project management professionals contribute as well, often taking direction from – and reporting to – the general superintendent.

A general superintendent’s job description varies depending on the project’s needs. Typically, however, their duties will include:

  • determining a project’s needs in collaboration with various stakeholders
  • setting deadlines
  • tracking (and reporting on) progress
  • equipment management
  • ordering materials
  • giving subcontractors feedback
  • handling job site emergencies and conflicts
  • coordinating with construction human resources personnel

Construction general superintendent salary and job requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies general superintendents under the umbrella of “construction managers.”

Their median pay is $95,260 per year. Employment opportunities are expected to grow by 8% through to 2029, much faster than the overall job market’s 4%.

Construction superintendents often need a bachelor’s degree supplemented by on-the-job training. Companies often prefer to hire superintendents with experience in other aspects of project management.

13 Characteristics of successful construction general superintendents

Now that you know more about a general superintendent’s job description, let’s look at a few characteristics that typically accompany success in this role. For information about effective leadership in project management, check out our key components of effective leadership.

1. Excellent communication

General superintendents are responsible for keeping tabs on just about every aspect of a construction project. This requires excellent verbal and written communication skills.

While it may not be explicitly required, multilingualism can be a tremendous asset in this regard due to construction’s cultural diversity. Check out this article for tips on improving communication.

2. Problem-solving skills

It’s not uncommon for things to go wrong on construction projects. Inept general superintendents who struggle to solve these issues in a timely manner can prompt extensive cost overruns that jeopardize the very viability of their companies.

Whether a subcontractor is dragging their feet or excessive change orders from the client are prompting major delays, the general superintendent is responsible for figuring it all out.

3. Experience

It’s tough to oversee so many aspects of a construction project without having extensive prior experience. Consequently, general superintendents typically come from more specialized roles.

This is important for reasons beyond merely helping the superintendent keep tabs on everything. It can also be important in the context of their ability to connect with other stakeholders. To phrase this another way, professionals typically have a much easier time heeding demands from superintendents they have full confidence in.

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4. Interpersonal skills

Construction superintendents work with many people on a daily basis. To keep these professional relationships running smoothly, superintendents need interpersonal skills such as:

  • awareness
  • empathy
  • diplomacy
  • listening
  • networking
  • the ability to read body language
  • team-building
  • respect
  • tolerance

These skills can provide benefits beyond the project at hand. Often, receiving a new contract is as much about your company’s network as it is about the bid itself. General superintendents play a key role in setting the tone that other professionals (including decision-makers at general contracting firms) remember most. A construction superintendent with a great set of interpersonal skills and a people-first approach can significantly improve labor productivity.

5. Professionalism

As part of setting the tone, construction superintendents must display exemplary professionalism in how they treat and interact with others.

It should go without saying that abusive, intimidating behavior is never tolerated at reputable companies people actually want to work with. Beyond basic respect, superintendents can also thrive by handling correspondence professionally and keeping projects on pace.

6. Initiative

Because construction projects have so many moving parts, superintendents who don’t take initiative and plan ahead often struggle.

Conversely, the professionals who thrive in this role create contingency plans that maintain operational efficiency even in the face of unexpected challenges.

7. Resourcefulness

While the role of general superintendent is certainly challenging, there are many tools available to assist professionals resourceful enough to utilize them.

Construction resource management software, for example, can help superintendents keep tabs on personnel, materials, and equipment with ease. It’s much more efficient than spreadsheets, freeing general superintendents up to focus on uniquely human tasks rather than maintaining databases.

8. Thick skin

There’s no denying that any professional needs a thick skin to thrive in construction. It’s an aggressive industry in which management professionals need to hold their own and not fear butting heads with others if it means achieving key goals.

9. The ability to work under pressure

Even on small construction projects, the pressure can be intense. General superintendents can find themselves caught between clients who want maximum efficiency for the least amount of money possible and subcontractors who want their interests protected.

Successful superintendents don’t buckle under this pressure. Rather, they’re able to harness their skills (such as the aforementioned interpersonal and problem-solving abilities) just as well – if not better even as tension rises.

10. Commitment

Good construction superintendents don’t settle for subpar quality. They’re always looking for ways to go above and beyond. This commitment to quality helps maintain trust among project stakeholders.

11. Technological savvy

Technology plays an increasingly important role in the construction industry. Successful professionals – including general superintendents – therefore need to be capable of learning new software and integrating it into their workflow.

12. Delegating

Because the role of general superintendent is so far-reaching, it’s impossible for any single person to manage the minutiae well all by themselves. Hence, successful superintendents are masters at strategically delegating tasks.

By extension, they’re also good at assessing subordinates and determining which team members are best suited to handle specific tasks.

13. Attention to detail

Even when superintendents delegate tasks, they need to remain focused on the details. After all, they’ll be at least partially accountable for any errors found in those details.

Construction General Superintendent FAQ

How do general superintendents manage conflicts?

Conflict management is part of the general superintendent’s job. Mediating the interests of various parties such as owners, subcontractors, and labor forces is something every general superintendent will encounter. The key to conflict resolution is a deft combination of communication skills, emotional intelligence, and problem-solving skills. A great general superintendent will maintain professionalism while negotiating conflict while making sure the project remains on track. Not always an easy feat!

What technologies are beneficial for general superintendents?

Modern, tech savvy general superintendents make use of technology to augment their approach to managing construction projects. Software for construction resource management, workforce planning, scheduling, and budget tracking can be huge boosts to efficiency. Tools like Building Information Modeling (BIM) software, project management tools, and communication tools can help streamline operations. Being technologically savvy is a key attribute for general superintendents looking to manage complex projects while balancing challenges of modern construction such as labor challenges.

How do general superintendents ensure workplace safety?

General superintendents prioritize workplace safety by ensuring compliance with local regulations, that all staff have necessary training, and that there is a culture of safety on-site. This can be achieved by developing and implementing safety plans, conducting regular safety meetings, and by participating in on-site safety inspections. This also requires staying up-to-date on the latest safety standards and making sure they are educated on local regulations.

Can a general superintendent’s leadership style impact project success?

Absolutely, a general superintendent’s leadership style can have a significant impact on the success of a project. The traits of a great superintendent, such as professionalism, interpersonal skills, and problem-solving skills, are key to being a strong leader. As noted earlier, having thick skin is essential for leadership and, sometimes, confrontation and conflict are a required part of the job. In an ideal world, superintendents are able to lead by cultivating a positive work environment based on open, clear communication and collaboration. At other times, it may be necessary to adapt leadership style to the team and specific challenges of the project.

We hope this article has helped you understand the responsibilities that accompany being a general superintendent in construction. It’s undoubtedly a key role in construction project management.

For more information about project management – along with the processes and skills that prompt success in this area – visit our blog.

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Michel Richer

Michel Richer is the Manager of Content and Product Marketing at Bridgit. He started in the construction industry early on with a local restoration company. Michel is driven to propel the construction industry forward by helping to eliminate outdated, ineffective processes.

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