Business Building: Managing Your Managers & Supervisors Made Easy!

Words: George Hedley

George Hedley

Managing people does not come naturally to most construction business owners and entrepreneurs. Project managers, estimators, general superintendents, superintendents, foremen, and engineer types are also usually not born managers either. Entrepreneurs who start or own companies are typically effective and confident visionary leaders who understand the big picture and are focused on achieving their dreams. They are hard-working, ambitious, innovative, creative, problem-solvers, people pleasers, customer-friendly, and risk-takers. And they are also driven by a need to create, build and grow. They seek opportunities and have the courage to commit and persevere through every challenge and failure they face.

The Typical Definition Of An Entrepreneur

“A person who creates, starts, organizes, develops, and assumes business risk in expectation of making a profit.” Another version: “An entrepreneur is someone who seeks to solve an existing problem, in exchange for profitably and compensation to achieve their dreams.”  What do you notice about these definitions?  - Constant motion, active, moving forward, building for the future, risk taker, organizer, problem-solver, and building a business versus managing or watching the details.

Business Owners/Presidents Generally Do Not Make Great Bosses Or Managers.

Their personality traits which distract from being good people managers include:

  • They live in the future.
  • They are very impatient and high energy.
  • They don’t like to manage or sweat the small details.
  • They change their mind constantly and are always coming up with new ideas.
  • They have a strong need to control and have a tough time delegating.
  • They want to fix or solve problems themselves.
  • They tend to overrule others’ decisions.
  • They don’t like to follow company standards or rules.
  • They don’t like regular meetings or schedules.
  • They tolerate poor performers and don’t like to make people accountable.
  • They avoid disciplining or firing people.
  • They avoid conflicts like customer disagreements or people issues.
  • They like to give away money, such as change orders.

MBWA (Management By Wandering Around) 

Do most business owners manage managers well, effectively, or poorly? To stay in touch and attempt to manage project managers, they often use the MBWA technique. This involves walking down the hall daily and asking project managers questions like: “How’s the job going?” “Got all the subcontracts executed yet?” “Are you on budget and on schedule?” “Any problems out in the field?” “Do you have all the change orders approved?” “Anything I need to be aware of?” “Is the customer happy?” 

Unfortunately, typical answer project managers (PM) give statements like: “Yeah, boss, I’ve got everything handled,” “Yes, we are basically on schedule, and the budget is in pretty good shape.”  “Yes, I’ve got most all the important subcontracts issued.”  “I am meeting with the customer next Tuesday, and they agreed to approve all the change orders.”  But when the owner digs a little deeper, he finds out that there are eight unsigned change orders already completed, the job is three weeks behind schedule, delays have not been documented, only 75% of subcontracts are signed yet, the customer is very unhappy, and the project is more than $40,000 over-budget. In fact, the project manager hasn’t kept up with proper documentation, approving invoices, or submitted last month’s progress payment request.

People Avoid Pain At Any Cost!

How did this happen? The owner/president accepted the PM’s half-true story even though he likely knew it wasn’t 100% true. The PM didn’t want to admit he wasn’t doing his job and following company standards or systems. Therefore, the PM told the owner what he wanted to hear rather than the ugly truth. Also, the impatient owner didn’t want to take time to get into details, confront the project manager, or get into a conflict. The project field superintendent, foreman, and bookkeeper all knew the PM wasn’t doing his job and costing the company money. Everyone was avoiding pain and pushing it forward when, eventually, an even worse outcome would appear. 

A simple fix to this problem is the owner/president to hold regular monthly project management accountability review meetings one-on-one with each direct report or PM to review, in detail, the project job cost budget update, executed subcontract log, schedule, paperwork, documentation, change order logs, payment applications, shop drawing submittals, and correspondence to make sure and verify if the PM was doing his job.

Managing Manager

The "Managing Manager” (MM) is someone who manages a group of people, team, division, or department. In the construction business, this position can include the business owner, president, vice president, general operations manager, chief estimator, general superintendent, financial manager, or sales manager - all who manage a group of people who manage several projects or teams. 

The Definition Of A Managing Manager (MM)

“A person who is responsible for supervising and in charge of administering, controlling, and directing a department, team, or staff of people to achieve expected results. Accountable for organizing, coordinating, guiding, motivating, and supporting a team responsible for an aspect of an organization's operations.” 

The MM is usually very structured, organized, systemized, detailed, likes order, neat, tidy, easily holds people accountable, tells people the truth without a sugar coating, has no problem disciplining or firing people, sees and doesn’t avoid problems, likes to clean-up the mess, faces reality, doesn’t except or make excuses, doesn’t tolerate poor performers, meets deadlines, has a firm calendar, and achieves results. Are you a managing manager? The following is a list of typical roles and responsibilities of a MM.

Managing Manager’s Role and Responsibilities

Achieve Results:

  • Overall management and to hold people accountable to achieve RESULTS.
  • Responsible for operations, people, projects, profit, management, production, project management, field, subcontractor, supplier, schedule, quality, safety, contractual, documentation, communication, and customer goals.
  • Put the right people in the right positions and ensure there are enough properly trained people to handle the workload effectively to meet overall goals. 
  • Recruit, hire, train, mentor, and coach direct reports to meet overall goals plus improve or eliminate poor performers. 
  • Make sure everyone does things the same way per company standards and systems.
  • Build and maintain a winning team with a positive attitude.

Planning and Organizing: 

  • Develop strategy and budgets to allocate financial and human resources to grow revenues, achieve profits, and hit overall company goals. 
  • Determine how teams should be structured and jobs designed to ensure the best results.
  • Meet, collaborate and work with other company peer managers to organize, discuss, review, and make strategic decisions to meet the overall company goals.


  • Make sure employees are achieving their goals, following company standards and systems, doing their jobs efficiently and timely, being accountable and responsible to perform their job descriptions, and focused on top priorities. 
  • Review employee work product, activities, requirements, and scorecard data to ensure on-time and on-budget quality workmanship, and performance.
  • Hold regular meetings with direct reports to review their achievements, duties, progress, status, deadlines, work product, and results.


  • Train, mentor, support, motivate, and provide  positive feedback
  • Help employees become the best they can be and achieve their highest level of performance and growth. 
  • Provide direction on efficient, timely completion of their responsibilities. 
  • Provide input and direction to help team members make good decisions, solve problems, overcome challenges, and handle emergency issues. 
  • Strive to create and promote a healthy, effective working environment where people feel respect, trusted, and motivated to do their best work. 
  • Keep team informed of overall company systems, procedures, changes, strategy, results, and issues.

As companies grow, entrepreneurs reach the level of what they can do, manage, or control themselves. And the entrepreneur thinks they’re the best at almost every task and role required to run a business and manage people. But only ten percent of business owners are good people managers. Unfortunately, owners are never willing or slow to admit they aren’t good managers. The tombstone of an out of business owner often reads: “Here lies the body of an entrepreneur who failed to realize the genius who starts a company cannot and will not be the same person who manages a larger growing profitable company!” To fix this problem, owners can use a the Must-Do Tasks & Responsibilities techniques to ensure required tasks are completed.

Managing Manager as Policeman or Enforcer

Let’s look at what a good MM’s duties, job description, and enforcement or policing activity should include. In the construction business, the president or vice president of construction operations generally have project managers (PM) under them. The MM must ensure the PM does their job. In other words, the MM is the policeman making sure the PM is following the rules, standards, processes, and systems required by the company. To make sure the PM achieving their goals, completing their required responsibilities, and doing their job, the MM must hold a regular monthly or bi-monthly Project Management Review Meeting with the PM to make sure their “Must-Do Tasks & Responsibilities” are performed.

Project Manager Review Meeting

Attendees: MM & PM

When: Mandatory Monthly or Bi-Monthly

Agenda: Meet to review and verify all required tasks are completed and results achieved.

Review PM Must-Do Tasks & Responsibilities

  1. Updated project budget & job cost report with estimated cost to complete.
  2. Production labor & equipment scorecard updated.
    1. Actual production labor & equipment hours versus budget.
    2. Review with field foreman weekly.
  3. Confirm all subcontracts and material orders are executed.
    1. Review Subcontract tracking logs.
    2. Make sure all subcontracts and orders are executed within 14 days or job start.
  4. Confirm submittal process is on-track.
    1. Review list of all required shop drawings and submittals.
    2. Insure all are submitted within 14 days of contract & approved within 7 days.
  5. Confirm all bonds, insurance, permits, testing, etc. are received within 10 days of contract.
  6. Review change order documentation and process.
    1. No extra work done without prior written approval of customer, or company officer.
    2. Maintain PCO / CO log and all proposed and executed change orders are current.
    3. Document all project issues, changes, RFIs, delays, notices, etc. within 7 days.
    4. Price & submit within 7 days & get approved within 10 days.
  7. Review updated project schedule.
    1. Confirm schedule has been reviewed with superintendent & foreman.
    2. Confirm field look-ahead schedules prepared weekly by superintendent/foreman.
  8. Review project invoice and payment process are submitted to customer by month end.
  9. Confirm all timecards & job invoices are current with accurate cost codes.
  10. Confirm project documentation & correspondence is updated weekly.
  11. Ensure updated project plans and specifications are current.
  12. Confirm PM visited jobs every week.
  13. Confirm PM communicates with superintendent / foreman daily.
  14. Confirm team Pre-Con pre-project turnover meeting was held within 7 days of contract.
  15. Confirm PM held customer job meetings onsite weekly or minimum every 2 weeks.
  16. Confirm subcontractor pre-job meeting was held onsite prior to job start with superintendent, all subcontractors & major suppliers.
  17. Make sure project subcontractor job meeting onsite was held weekly or every 2 weeks.
  18. Review project safety plan is in place & maintained.
    1. Make sure all required safety meetings were held & documented for crews & subs.
  19. Review project close-out, punch-list, warranty work, procedures & documentation.

When managing managers hold regularly scheduled meetings with their team and players, they accomplish several things. 

  1. They leverage their time by not having to run around the office all day checking in with people to see if they did their jobs. 
  2. Having a clear list of “Must-Do Tasks & Responsibilities” clearly defines all tasks required by each person on your team. To receive a list of required “Must-Do Tasks & Responsibilities” position descriptions for most construction company players, email
  3. People will know when they must be ready to present their results to their boss. 
  4. Managing a list of tasks is a lot easier than managing personalities and emotions. Plus, it doesn’t allow people to hide the truth. 
  5. It’s easy to manage a regular event in your calendar. 

About The Author
George Hedley CPBC is a certified professional construction business coach and popular speaker.  He helps contractors build better businesses, grow, increase profits, develop management teams, improve field production, and get their companies to work. He is the best-selling author of “Get Your Construction Business To Always Make A Profit!” available on To get his free e-newsletter, start a personalized BIZCOACH program, attend a Profit-Builder Boot Camp, or get a discount at online university for contractors, Visit or E-mail


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