Construction superintendent duties often include being the eye of the hurricane, or the calm in the center of the storm sometimes called a construction project. Thomas Hardy of the Skiles Group explains 5 ways you can be the eye of the hurricane.
5 Ways You Can Be “The Eye of the Hurricane”
No construction project comes easy, but some days it can feel like our projects are being completely run off course by a hurricane. Owner changes, weather setbacks, material delays, scope changes, workflow not being performed per schedule—the list of unexpected issues and surprise obstacles goes on and on.
It’s important to remember that, when these occur, your firm, client, and trade partners are looking to you to lead. So, when the winds are rough, you need to think of yourself as “the eye of the hurricane;” the entire hurricane rotates around the eye, and that is the calmest part of the storm. As the eye, you are the source of stability for your team—the person who is asking valuable questions and listening to the answers, calling the right shots, and guiding the project through to the other side. Here are five hard lessons I’ve learned on my journey as a construction superintendent that can help you to weather any storm.
On the jobsite:
Listen before you speak – When someone brings a problem to you, listen to them before you respond, and ask questions to dig deeper and see the whole picture. If you don’t, you risk assuming what the problem is before you know what the problem is.
Taking that a step further, if you are always the first to speak in a meeting, chances are good that others are not going to contribute because they don’t want to go against your plan in front of others—and they might have had a better idea than your own. Go into the meeting and ask for ideas from the others, and let everyone who wants to talk have a chance. Now you have access to all the brainpower in the room, and you might get new information you didn’t already know. If you want to understand how and what your people are thinking, let your team talk before you do. You may be surprised by what you hear.
Put yourself in the other person’s work boots – When your frustration starts to build while interacting with someone, take a minute and try to put yourself in the other person’s position. When I do this, it helps me reset my perspective and think through why the person I’m talking to might be doing or saying things differently than I would. I’ve found this trick really helps to calm my anxiety and often allows me to learn something new.
This also means treating others on the jobsite with respect, regardless of their title or role on the project. Every person on the team has an important part to play, and as a construction superintendent you want each of them to feel like you will give them your time and care about what they have to say.
What does a construction superintendent do?
Construction superintendent duties include being the overseer of the day-to-day operations on the project construction site including scheduling, site safety and compliance, and management of trade partners (subcontractors).
Take a breath – Being agitated, argumentative, or angry only makes the hurricane stronger—and if I’m doing that, now I am part of the problem instead of the solution. These feelings of frustration are completely normal, but how we handle them is what makes the difference. One easy way to calm yourself and manage your temper is to take several slow, deep breaths. This practice helps me relax and maintain my control so I can be focused and productive.
Away from the jobsite:
Getting away for lunch – The days I skip lunch completely, or answer emails and texts while I’m trying to eat, are usually not good days. I know this one is sometimes hard to do but, when things are rough, try to take your lunch break away from the jobsite—either in your truck, at a restaurant, or sitting outside. Taking a break from the grind can leave you feeling less stressed and more ready for the second part of the day.
Set work and home boundaries – When I can, I turn off email notifications on my phone and iPad when I get to the house. My team knows if it’s an emergency to give me a call. This separation of work and home helps me manage the stress. Setting boundaries will not only help your home life, but it will also help your work life.
Being “the eye of the hurricane” will help maintain the health of your project (and your personal health, too). As construction superintendents, we are the ones who set the tone on the jobsite. If we have a poor attitude, it is inevitable that it will trickle down to the entire team. Construction superintendent duties also include trying to set the example that you want others to follow—this is one way to be a true leader, and everyone will take notice.