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What Soft Skills Does a Construction Manager Need?

08/25/2022 Blog

Business wisdom dictates that workers don’t leave jobs — they leave poor managers. Fortunately for leaders, soft skills can be developed over time. Knowing how to handle human beings is a must for those in charge, especially when it comes to project management.

Additionally, project managers need to keep construction running smoothly due to time and budgetary constraints. How can work continue when supply-chain issues slow down requisite supplies? What happens if unexpected snafus result in a job costing more than the budget projected? While technical skills will help a lot here, so will practicing composure and critical thinking in the moment.

It takes the right balance of toughness and compassion to succeed as a supervisor in the building trades. What soft skills does a construction project manager need? Here are the top five.

1. Communication

People have various communication styles, and great construction project managers recognize this reality. For example, take training communication. Some traditional required safety training may entail sitting at a computer screen, watching a video and answering questions. Those who did well in school may find it easier to fly through such exercises, but kinesthetic learners could struggle.

Good communication skills mean managers can adapt training concepts for the whole team. Management can embrace all learning styles by incorporating hands-on demonstrations of core concepts.

Furthermore, managers must speak with everyone from day laborers to property owners. They should feel as equally at ease in a boardroom among decision-makers as they do giving direction to their crew. Communicating effectively with the different stakeholders in a construction project will make leaders better at their jobs and help them advance in their careers.

2. Resourcefulness

What if a job comes in over budget, faces an unexpected delay or a worker unexpectedly needs to take off? Construction project managers need crisis management skills to understand their best chances of weathering the storm. Resourcefulness will be key to navigating these issues with grace.

Digging into alternative sources for building materials, working on scheduling conflicts with other employees and creating a documented plan with clients and stakeholders all require adaptability and coolness under pressure. Finding a way forward when the original plan needs to change is an excellent quality of a construction project manager.

3. Empathy

There are a lot of misconceptions about the construction industry. Some people think it’s a “man’s job,” where tough language and unforgiving tasks mean employees need to show no vulnerability. However, those who work on construction teams and take on leadership roles know the opposite — empathy is a critical soft skill for success in the industry.

Empathy entails stepping into another person’s shoes and seeing the world from their perspective. Perhaps a crew member is struggling to balance caretaking responsibilities at home, or another feels they aren’t given opportunities to develop new skills. Unaddressed, these concerns could lead to workers needing to leave a job.

Good managers let others know that the door is open to be vulnerable so you can work together. Practicing empathy helps open up these conversations and find solutions before these issues become bigger concerns.

Project managers can develop empathy skills by working on active listening and making sure their initial responses to information aren’t reactive or judgmental. Weighing decisions carefully and communicating them with empathy help build trust in a team so work can be done more effectively.

4. Decisiveness

Someone ultimately must choose which subcontractors to use, what action needs to be taken to keep a project on track and what they should charge for their services. Construction project managers need keen decision-making skills to make tough calls.

Decisiveness is a valuable soft skill to develop in an industry where lots of moving parts need to be managed. Project managers need to trust their technical expertise and job experience rather than waffling over the many small decisions that have to be made each day.

Being decisive does not mean you’re arrogant or always right. You can develop decisiveness by quickly collecting the necessary information for each choice, setting a timeline for yourself and trusting your instincts. Ultimately, delaying a choice for too long is a choice in itself.

5. Inclusivity

Construction crew members come in all ages, genders, skin colors, ethnic backgrounds, religious faiths and sexual identities. Some may also need assistive devices to perform certain tasks. None of these factors impacts their ability to do their jobs well.

Inclusivity is more than a buzz term managers must embrace. In the construction industry, especially, it has a real impact on helping workers do their jobs effectively. Project managers with Spanish-speaking team members, for example, create a safer and more efficient workplace by posting communications with Spanish translations.

Another example of effective inclusivity in the industry is providing female construction workers with PPE that’s built to fit their bodies, rather than assuming default sizing on the job site is the best option for every worker.

Ultimately, inclusivity is an extension of other soft skills — communication, empathy, and resourcefulness all contribute to making everyone involved in a team feel welcome and valued. Project managers who understand and accommodate differences among the team will be more equipped to keep things running smoothly.

Develop These Soft Skills to Become a Great Construction Manager

Why do workers leave jobs? It often has less to do with their position and more with their team’s leadership.

Construction managers need the five soft skills above to maximize productivity and profits while keeping their crew members happy. Leaders should do their best to cultivate these abilities to achieve extraordinary results.


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