However, because a construction project manager has learned, both through tertiary education as well as by experience, the basics of construction management, as well as the principles of construction, does this make them a good construction project manager? I would argue that there are certain qualities that successful construction project managers require. The question is can these qualities be learned or acquired? Maybe they are learned in our early education? Perhaps these are qualities we inherit?
10 Qualities of successful construction managers
What turns an ordinary construction project manager into a great construction manager? I believe the following qualities are important:
- Conscientious – over the years as a project manager I worked countless hours of overtime, even though I was only paid a fixed monthly salary. We often joked that if we were paid all the hours of overtime we would have been very rich. Many nights I got home late with the family already in bed. These extra hours were often not planned, but were a result of things going wrong on the project – cranes that broke down, concrete that didn’t arrive as ordered, or simply a job that had to get finished. Now I’m certainly not advocating that you should regularly work late - in fact regularly working late may be a sign that you’re disorganised. Rather it’s about getting the job done when you have to. It’s about caring about the project and your team. It’s also about being proud of the quality of your work.
- Hard working – construction is hard work. There never seems to be enough time. Projects are fast track. Clients are demanding. Paperwork seems endless. We always seem short staffed. Everyday there’s a new problem. If you’re going to do your job properly you have to be prepared to work hard.
- Observant – it never ceases to amaze me how some construction managers can walk past something on their project that’s obviously wrong and not notice it. Quality problems go unnoticed, unsafe acts are allowed to continue and poor productivity (including people and equipment standing idle) isn’t commented on. A good project manager will immediately notice when things aren’t right, when things start going wrong.
- Decisive – construction managers have to make decisions on a daily basis. These decisions can sometimes have a dramatic impact on the outcomes of the project. Sometimes not making a decision, or delaying the decision, could have more of an impact than making the wrong decision. Construction managers have to carefully and quickly weigh up the question and the supporting information, then make the best decision understanding the consequences of their decision. Sometimes you have to make hard choices which you can’t shy away from. Undoubtably, sometimes you will make the wrong choice – learn from the experience.
- Logical – projects have to be built in a logical manner, in the correct sequence of activities. It’s essential to plan the project properly at the start, choosing the most appropriate construction methods and understanding how each activity impacts the other activities. Problems frequently occur in construction and they’re often only solved by logically working through the problem to understand the cause and the best solution to solve it.
- Resilient – things will go wrong on a project. I’ve worked with difficult and objectionable clients and had projects that no matter how hard we worked we were destined to lose money and finish late. Yet, no matter how bad things are the project has to be completed. There’s nowhere to hide. Get on with the project and don’t let your team see, or have to face, your frustrations. Despondency spreads easily and saps morale, which eats productivity on the project, often exacerbating the situation. Some clients may become abusive, even blaming you for problems or claims they’re responsible for. You can’t make it personal – get on and finish the project.
- Able to work with people – construction is a team effort and involves working with people from diverse cultural, educational and economic backgrounds. Construction managers will work with difficult people, they will be giving direction to some who are older and have been in construction longer, and they will have to manage these situations to give the best result for the project. Being able to work with people also means understanding them.
- Willing to learn – you’re never too old to learn something new in construction. Learn from your mistakes, learn from those you’re working with, even learn from other contractors.
- Able to communicate – managing projects is a people business. You have to be able to communicate verbally and in writing. Your communication must be clear and understandable.
- Adaptable – each project is different. You work with different clients, a different team, new suppliers and new subcontractors. Every day is different, with varying weather and problems. Your plans will be disrupted. You have to be prepared to adapt to the changed circumstances.
Even construction project managers that have the right training and experience can be poor project managers if they don’t have the above qualities.
What do you think makes a great construction project manager?
What other qualities do you think a good construction project manager should have?
Can these qualities be learned?
'Construction Claims: A Short Guide for Contractors' is another of Paul's useful books.
Paul has recently published 'Construction Management: From Project Concept to completion'.
These books are available on Amazon and other online book stores.
Paul publishes articles regularly on LinkedIn and his website.
Paul writes regular articles for other websites, gives lectures, mentors, and is available for podcasts and interviews.
© 2018 This article is not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission from the author.