Image credits: Procore
Construction superintendents have very demanding jobs that require them to be virtually everywhere simultaneously. Since they are in charge of the construction jobsite, there is a lot of pressure to stay on track for each of the associated project departments – a few of which include labor, materials and procurement, scheduling, budgeting, risk management, and reporting. If you are a new construction superintendent, it can be overwhelming and difficult to get your bearings, so here is some advice to help you on your new journey ahead.
Advice for a new superintendent in construction
1. Take the scenic route throughout your project
As a construction superintendent, you have to be armed with all the information related to your jobsite. So, details are your main ammunition in this field, and there is no room for shortcuts or an easy way out! You should take the longer, “scenic” route while exploring your project scope so that you can absorb as much data as possible and identify red flags that are conveniently hiding between all these details. This includes doing your research, reading the project documents, reviewing plans and drawings, communicating with stakeholders, anticipating problems, preparing for backups, connecting the construction dots, and building a complete picture for the work ahead.
2. Be a good talker and an even better listener
Construction superintendents are expected to have excellent communication and interpersonal skills. This is because they form the main point of contact to the construction jobsite, so everybody outside the field relies on updates from the super, whereas those working onsite only follow the super’s lead. Communication works both ways, so while you are responsible for doing all the talking, you should also lend a listening ear to your teams and be open to feedback and problem-sharing. This in turn facilitates conflict resolution because your employees know that you will hear them out – and you know that you will help them out!
3. Admit that there is always something new to learn
The construction industry has never been static. It is always on the move in terms of both economy and technology, so no matter how high up the tier you reach, there is always something new to discover and learn. It could be a new software, certification, building code, site protocol, construction approach, technology, etc. Superintendent certifications like OSHA Safety Certificate, Certified Construction Professional (CCP), and Certified Construction Manager (CCM) offer ongoing learning opportunities to acquire new skills and keep yourself updated, so you can pursue these gradually throughout your career.
If you are a new, post-pandemic construction super, you can learn how different superintendents coped with the drastic changes in the past two years. This should include experiences like using drones for remote site supervision, shifting to Zoom offices, working with travel and import bans, creating a socially distanced jobsite with a limited workforce, and so on. With change comes a need to adapt, and survival of the fittest in construction depends entirely on your ability to learn and adjust. For these reasons, being a curious learner goes the extra mile and in turn helps you address knowledge/technical gaps within your jobsite teams via training.
4. Be an early bird
And we don’t just mean waking up early in the morning – although that too is a good advice for a new superintendent! Be an early bird in general. Be early when it comes to researching your current project, meeting vendors, reviewing documents, identifying gaps, addressing safety aspects, and planning timely backups. This will aid your role as a construction jobsite leader and give you a good head start ahead of everyone else.
In addition, be an early bird and visit your site way before anyone else so that you can evaluate the completed work, compare it with the project scope, highlight issues, and brainstorm solutions – all within the comfort and silence of an empty jobsite. This will also give you the peace of mind you need to anticipate future problems and plan the necessary initiatives for a smooth project flow. The early bird catches the worm, after all!
5. Get used to the rising pressure
Site management is a very diverse and taxing role, and it can be overwhelming for new superintendents to find some balance as they stand in the eye of the construction storm. The pressure is at an all-time high regardless of the project size, so the sooner you get used to it, the better. This comes from an ability to work and thrive under pressure through strategies that make your job easy. You can use a construction management software to track progress and stay informed. You can discover and appreciate talents within your workforce and delegate tasks accordingly – which both reduces your workload AND gives your employees a chance to grow. Problem-solving skills go hand in hand with managing your work pressure, so always look for ways to go with the flow rather than against it if you want to keep your project headed toward the finish line.
Leading a construction jobsite can be overwhelming without the right skills for the job. This is also because there are so many people depending on you for getting updates, discussing alternatives, submitting approvals, answering doubts, planning solutions, implementing technologies, addressing gaps, etc. You have to be many things at once to truly succeed in this multidimensional role, which is why it is important to build an overall problem-solving attitude that helps you focus on creating solutions.
Our final advice will be to remember not to overwork yourself, as it is equally important to “switch off” and step away from the busy site at the end of the day. If you make yourself accessible even after your shift ends, at first, it might feel rewarding and productive, but eventually, you will reach a burnout just a couple of years into your superintendent career. Becoming a construction super takes time, effort, dedication, continuous improvement, and most importantly, a passion to work at the jobsite.
It can be very easy to compromise this zeal if you are constantly connected to your work, so keep a good balance of work and normal life, and do not auto-pilot your way into the rest of your career!