Field Management Academy Helps Construction Superintendents Sharpen Leadership, Communication Skills
Construction superintendents need a lot of resources in their tool box. The first on site and the last to leave, responsible for upholding safety, budget and productivity on a construction site, superintendents are tasked with leading and coordinating the efforts of a diverse team of subcontractors, trade disciplines and suppliers. Each day they orchestrate what can be dozens or even hundreds of workers on a job site, always looking ahead and communicating with owners, employees and other stakeholders to keep progress moving steadily forward. In addition to technical training, KA superintendents are also required to bring at least 7 years of relevant experience or training to the job. Yet it is a people job, and the most seasoned and successful superintendents know that being knowledgeable and practiced in communication and team building leadership skills are as essential as any technical skill or piece of equipment on the jobsite.
With the goal of building on these essential leadership skills, Kraus-Anderson University has launched the KAU Field Management Academy. Course objectives include:
- Strengthening relationships and human relations skills
- Enhancing communication skills
- Develop leadership skills, and
- Elevate trust with clients and partners
“Soft skills training can be found to have direct links to a long list of construction best practices,” said Brian Hook, Director of Field Operations for Kraus-Anderson Construction Company. “In keeping with our goal of continuous improvement, KA field management professionals can gain from this training at every step in their career.”
At this writing, about four dozen KA field leaders including project superintendents, general superintendents and safety personnel have completed the six-week course, comprised of weekly in-person training sessions. The program covers a variety of relevant topics, from key drivers of employee engagement, to providing effective feedback and understanding and working with different personality styles. Away from the job site, field staff appreciate the opportunity to talk through challenges and learning experiences with their peers, while picking up tactics for communication clarity, learning to accelerate rapport with clients and promoting a cohesive team effort on the jobsite, says Kraus-Anderson Education Director Mike Smoczyk.
“Where we have always provided good training on technical topics, these classes reinforce management and leadership skills,” said Jim Bergren, KA General Superintendent. “It gets them to think about how we work with others, and ways to do that better.”
Course evaluations have been strongly positive, with attendees reporting that they have learned valuable skills and concepts that they can apply directly to their work. Some comments from attendees below.
How is this training different from typical continuing education you’ve had in your career?
TODD BONNEY, SUPERINTENDENT: I am better with actual hard information, like do we have room for this mechanical to fit under the
trusses and how can we make it work. The Field Management class was not my typical type of class. Because of the class I do try to spend more time talking about personal life with the foremen and getting on good level of trust with them.
BRIAN KOBOW, SUPERINTENDENT: I’d say the training was a little different in the fact that you were pushed to participate and communicate the entire program, not just sit and listen, which helps us all improve on our communication skills.
Why did you find the FMA training beneficial?
CHRIS RYAN, SUPERINTENDENT: I found the class very beneficial to my day-to-day communication on the job and life goals. Also I liked that the class was more hands-on than listening to a lecture.
TODD BONNEY: I think back to the “and/but” training of not telling someone no regularly. I try to build off what they are saying and keep the effort or discussion positive and beneficial moving in my direction. If I need to say no than I prove it with documents. FMA keeps me thinking I need to talk nice, help others, be an asset they want to come to for help. If I do it well, they want to help me clean up details instead of trying to get out of detail tasks in grey areas.
BRIAN KOBOW: I do think the training was beneficial and all should go through it. I think it is good to hear from others of situations they have been in similar to yourself, and possibly another way to handle them. Also, It opens up lines of communication with others that you can possibly use as a resource when you get into a situation you are unfamiliar with.
Is there an example you’d share of how the training could be applied to your own work experience?
TODD BONNEY: I worked with a foreman I would often get frustrated with. He was a great welder but couldn’t figure out plans accurately. When I worked with him and hand fed details correctly he would get a lot done clean. After FMA, I see the conflict causes me more headaches. If I can work with guys I can keep everything moving accurately.
Any other overall takeaways?
TODD BONNEY: If I am talking with someone who gets upset and frustrated with many sites to run to, I will add to their communication and agree with it, but slowly change it to the direction I want. That way he stays on task and leaves motivated.View Comments