Business Building: Get People To Do What You Want

Words: George Hedley

George Hedley

I used to get tired of the same old excuses for poor performance. It was hard to get our construction company managers, supervisors, foremen, and field crews to do what I wanted them to do. They always offered semi-legitimate reasons why they didn’t get the job done on time, or why they didn’t follow directions, or why it wasn’t their fault when something went wrong on the jobsite, or why they couldn’t do what was expected. Therefore, I thought I couldn’t find any good help or maybe people don’t care about doing a good job. It seemed as though nobody would take charge or be responsible and accountable. I unfortunately thought I was the only one who could do the job right. 

People Are Different Than You

There is a better way to improve your construction business with the people you currently have versus replacing all of them with different players. Your job as the leader is to get people motivated, on the same page, and working like a winning team with clear targets and goals, drive, and excitement. Successful construction business owners and managers realize their people are different from them. They understand employees are not motivated for the same reasons they are. People have different life experiences, backgrounds, beliefs, needs, goals, and personal pressures. Most people don't think the same as you do, they have different personalities, and will act and react differently than you in most situations. They also won’t do things exactly the same way you do with the same intensity. And just because you pay employees a good wage doesn't mean they're going to work their fanny off for you. 

Young workers are very different as well. They like continuous learning and personal growth in their careers. They don’t like dead-end jobs without advancement in sight. They think they can do your job better than you can. They want to make a lot more money than you provide and will leave jobs quickly when offered more pay. Their loyalty is to themselves and what you can do for them. They also want to participate in major decisions. They want balance in their life and would rather go home early than get overtime hours. Work is not their number one priority as they value family and friends more than their job. It’s your job to discover each employee’s differences, what makes them tick, and help them achieve their goals in order for you to reach your business goals.

Is The Motivational Problem You?

Years ago, I went through fourteen secretaries over a two-year period. I just couldn’t find anyone who would work as hard as I wanted them to. No one was ever quick enough, or smart enough, or good enough for me. One day I finally realized maybe the problem was me! I had to take responsibility that it was my job to motivate my staff and it wasn’t their job to motivate themselves. Once I realized this fact, my personnel problems turned around, our people became great, and our employee retention moved to 90% plus every year. I had been the problem, not them. 

To motivate your workforce, you've got to give them a reason to be motivated. Employees like to know what results are expected on a daily basis. Just like in sports, people must know the targets, goals, and updated score to win the game. Don’t expect others to understand your passion for results, schedule, production costs, customers, quality work, or the need to make a profit if you don’t give them targets to shoot for. They must want to follow your vision, achieve your goals, and get the job done properly. Therefore, they need regular feedback on how well they are doing.

For example, think of your children. You tell them what you want them to do, but they don’t always follow your wishes. Then you try to bribe them: $100 for an “A”, and they say, “Not enough.” Frustrated, you scream, “If you're not home by 10:00 p.m., I'm gonna kill you!” Well, you don't, you let them off the hook, and they continue to stretch the envelope. The real problem is lack of clear expectations, no real accountability or responsibility, and little or no consequences for non-compliance. It seems like the same problems you have with your kids are the same with your employees. 

Do Your People Want to Follow You?

Effective leaders influence others to want to do what they want them to do. The key words are to want to do. Employees must want to do what you want them to do to get the results you want. You tell and they decide if they’ll do it. When you tell your kids to clean up their room, they decide if they’ll do it based on your input, feedback, encouragement, delivery, follow-up, accountabilities, and responsibilities. All of these factors affect their decisions. 

Ask yourself: “What makes people want to follow me?” You know what doesn't work with your children (and employees) – no clear targets or goals, confusion, lack of trust, and no accountability or consequences. A lot of business owners and managers say, “My people won’t do what I want them to do. I should get rid of them, but I can't afford for them to leave, so I don’t fire them.” What kind of accountability is this? If they don't know what you want or have to do what you want them to do, they won’t do more than the minimum required to keep their job. 

Get Clear, Specific, and Keep Score!

I bet if you ask your key managers and supervisors to list out what their top accountabilities and responsibilities include, you’ll get as many answers as you have people. Often the field foreman thinks their goal is to get the job finished, while your goal for them is to meet the production budget without call-backs. The number one motivator is a clear understanding of what’s expected and feedback how people are doing on a regular basis. If employees know their goals and get updated performance data, they can then make adjustments needed to hit the goal. No score equals no winners.

Therefore, managing people starts with a specific list of what results they’re accountable to accomplish. For example, a project manager is accountable for completing their project on-budget and on-time, managing the requirements of the contract, and working with the customer in a professional manner. Next, each employee must have a clear detailed list of the tasks they are responsible for and must do on a regular basis. For example, a project manager is responsible to complete a monthly job cost report, update the schedule monthly, keep all change orders current and executed weekly, get all submittals approved within the first three weeks of the project, meet with the field superintendent weekly to review the schedule and production job cost report, approve all invoices accurately to the right cost codes weekly, and bill the customer by the 30th of the month.

What do you do to make employees want to do what you want them to do? Start by making sure they are clear what they must do every day, week, and month. And then keep them informed of their score or progress. To help set define your positions, targets and goals for employees to hit, email to get a copy of George’s ‘Org Chart & Position Descriptions’ workbook.

About The Author
George Hedley CSP CPBC is a certified professional construction BIZCOACH and popular industry speaker. He helps contractors grow, make more profit, build management teams, improve field production, and get their businesses to work for them.  He is the best-selling author of “Get Your Construction Business To Always Make A Profit!” available on  E-mail to sign-up for his free e-newsletter, start a personalized BIZCOACH program, attend a 2 ½ day BIZ-BUILDER Boot Camp, or get a discount at online university for contractors. 

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