Transition from Witnessing Change to Effecting Change

Improving your management style can mean improving the success of your project


I get asked a lot of questions in the construction industry. You would be surprised how much the same commonalities emerge from different parts of the country. They often revolve around questions about management, leadership, and skills training. Everyone wants to run their operation in the best way possible to attract the best people possible. This takes having the best possible management team in place.

One trend that I have noticed over the last decade or so is the upgrade in the education quality of Project Managers. Curriculums at schools have been upgraded immensely to meet the challenges of today’s construction projects. Potential Project managers attain a knowledge base that is very strong. Applying those learned skills as well as developing optimal management skills to lead others to do the work at their most productive levels is the challenge at hand.

Last year I had such a great experience in Orlando, I am really looking forward to being a part of IBS 2019. I present at many conferences across the U.S. and Canada, and the energy and enthusiasm of the attendees at IBS is special. People come prepared to learn, to soak up new ideas, and to attain new knowledge and approaches on how to do their jobs better.

My session at IBS 2019 is “Are you a Project Manager or a Project Witness?” This session will focus on what it truly takes to be an effective Project Manager in today’s construction climate. The highest functioning form of management is leadership. Great managers synthesize all the necessary skills into a form of personal leadership. That is what separates the great from the good. That is what I teach.

I teach this because there are inefficiencies in the marketplace – not many people know how to manage and lead. Managing change is a true art because change happens at such a fast pace in today’s world. Too many people look at just the bottom line. Most of them do not look at the process you need to get to that bottom line. let alone how your people are doing the work, and whether they are happy while they are on the job.

I have people come up to me all the time after programs and say, “Thank you Norb, I have been a witness, and I did not even know it!” We need to transform witnesses into actual managers.

An image that captures what I am talking about is the “lengthening shadow” approach. As a Project Manager goes, so goes the organization. If a Project Manager is uptight, angry, hostile, and disrespectful, the rest of the team will soon take on that personality. Everyone
is a lengthening shadow of the leader they are following.

Lengthening your shadow requires a deep focus on the following:

  • Rising to daunting challenges when times are tough, budgets are tight, and the field is “feeling the pinch.”
  • Balancing demands on your time while boosting creativity, enthusiasm, and commitment of others on your team.
  • Winning the cooperation and trust of everyone you deal with throughout the construction process.

In the end, motivating your team is the best thing you can do. Knowing what makes people tick means knowing their internal driving forces. Good leaders know how to satisfy needs and wants, which can include the following:

  • Sincere appreciation for a job well done.
  • Involving them in decision-making.
  • Supporting them when the going gets tough.
  • Letting them know how they are doing and coaching them when improvement is needed.
  • Giving them all the information they need to do their job effectively. For example, labor budget, scope or work, blueprints, shop drawings, addendums, copy of the contract, adequate tools and equipment, etc.
  • Treating them as key members of the team.

I look forward to meeting and helping all of you attain the skills you need to be the best leaders you can be. See you in Las Vegas!

Norb Slowikowski is a Productivity Consultant who has worked in the construction industry for over 30 years. He wrote “Hard-Hat Productivity: The 9 Critical Factors for Maximizing Profits,” and now works at his consulting company, Slowikowski & Associates. To learn more, visit 

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