Steering Through The Storm

Every year I tell myself that the construction business can’t get any harder.  But every year it does….  

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It’s a crazy business.  Added code requirements, crazy hoops to jump through to get approvals, complicated designs, unrealistic expectations, volatile material and labor costs and availability are just a few of the issues.  Getting a project finished in today’s construction world is a major accomplishment.  I am very thankful for this fact:  Our staff is the very best in the business.  They never give up.  When it gets tough, they just buckle down and work through it.  They are an extremely tough and dedicated bunch.

Yet, sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming.

You can only take so much abuse.

You begin to loose sight of the finish line.

You begin to doubt if you will ever finish.

I visited one of our sites recently during “crunch time” and our field staff appeared exhausted and defeated.  You could see it in their eyes.  It was a combination of overwhelming fatigue and shame.  I know their hearts are right.  I know they are engaged in the battle.  I could sense that they felt like they were letting me down.  They made commitments to me that they were not going to make.  This put the company in a bad position and they knew it.  So what did I do in this circumstance?

I encouraged– When they can’t see the end of the tunnel you must help the group to visualize the path so that they can see the way out.  Even though things were not good, I was upbeat and did my best to pick them up.  It would have been much easier to come in like a tornado, completely change the program and whip them harder.  But I knew this would not be good for them and it would not help the situation.  Yes, mistakes were made and we can talk about them later.  For now we needed to dust ourselves off and keep going.  I encouraged some of the younger employees by telling them that it’s always a struggle and this was not unusual.  They were blaming themselves and it helped that they know that the mad dash at the end was part of the business.  It’s normal.  Not at all fun, but normal.

I made suggestions– I viewed the situation and gave input on several problems that were hurting progress.  A fresh view can be very helpful.  I provided this in a way that was not condemning.  In fact, I left it up to them to decide what was best.  They have superior knowledge of the situation- even though I outrank them.  The suggestions showed that I cared.  It showed that I was looking for a way to help and not criticize decisions or strategy.

I provided extra resources– We made some personnel moves to provide more help.  They needed help.  They were running out of gas.  New faces and fresh attitudes help to pick up the entire team.  It’s like the cavalry riding over the ridge to save the day.  A new influx of energy.

I defended them– Questions were swirling about decisions and processes.  For the time being, I defended our personnel.  I respect them and for now, they need to be supported.  Strengthen what you have and support the weak areas and get through the battle.  Avoid the whispers and gossip.  The team needs to be cohesive and separating and pointing fingers will only divide the team.  For now we need to be united.

I believe the worst thing you can do when leading through a storm is to come in and try to shake things up.  There are times when immediate moves need to be made, for instance, if there is a person who is a cancer to the group.  Generally, the best moves are to provide support until things begin to smooth out.  There is plenty of time to analyze and criticize, but the first order of business is damage control.

Guard your tongue.  Stop the bleeding.  Get the energy level back up.  And get the boat pointed in the right direction!

So what  do you think?  Have you been in a situation where you had to get through the storm?  Do you my approach is correct?  Click on “Leave a Reply” and tell me what you think!


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