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Want to be a Great Construction Leader? Manage Like a Coach

A contractor turned business consultant says winning coaches are inspirational leaders who set the vision and let their assistants implement the strategy.

October 17, 2023

3 Min Read
football coach.jpg
CHRIS ARJOON / Alamy Stock Photo / Miami Hurricanes coaching staff

What do all great coaches have in common? They are inspirational leaders who set the vision and have their assistants implement the strategy and call the plays. That’s what contractor turned consultant George Hedley said contractors must do to be great construction leaders who can develop employees into strong managers and supervisors. 

“Pete Carroll doesn’t have the playbook; he is not even calling the plays,” Hedley said. “He is the motivator, inspirer and leader. He delegates to key people to do the jobs for him.” Carroll led the University of Southern California football team to two national championships and won the Super Bowl as coach of the Seattle Seahawks. 

Construction leaders need to continually improve, change and have “bold new plays,” Hedley, founder of Hardhat BizCoach, said during a WOC construction show session. But, he added, company executives do too much themselves.  

“We just put out fires all day … instead of being a head coach with assistant coaches who take full responsibility for results,” he said. “Rethink your current job description. Winning coaches have a vision, a clear picture of where they want to go, a written strategy plan that might include a schedule, a mobilization checklist and a scorecard for crews. 

On winning sports teams, Hedley added, “the head coach delegates and gets off the field. They push the decisions to the assistant coaches, managers and supervisions.” 

Traits of effective leaders  

Hedley said that an effective construction coach is not “a dictator, a bully, a control freak and a dominating, nasty, always-right, make-every-decision boss.” They also don’t scream or yell.  

Effective leaders and coaches:  

  • Are honest. 

  • Have integrity. 

  • Are experienced. 

  • Are innovative and disruptive. 

  • Have outstanding communication skills. 

  • Provide solutions. 

They also share their vision regularly with emerging leaders and other staff. “They are communicating the big picture that will inspire people to want to follow,” Hedley said, and “seek better people, strategies and solutions.” 

Change yourself first 
The No. 1 problem in business is the lack of leaders, Hedley said, adding leadership starts at the top. “Your job is to encourage and develop more leaders or for them to become more effective leaders. It’s about (your company’s) future," Hedley said. 

“We always try to get people to change their behavior first, but how many of you go to your meetings and say, ‘I’ve got to change in order to change you?’” the business coach said. “If you are not willing to try new things, why would they? Why would the follower want to change?” 

Do you have a bad player on your team?, asked Hedley. If so, look at yourself first; what can you do to get them to want to reach the next level? The more you tell workers what you want them to do, the more they’ll come to you for answers. “But the more you let them provide solutions, the more they become leaders,“ he told contractors attending the session.

“Leadership isn’t about your title; it’s about your results,” Hedley concluded. “If they don’t do what you want them to do, they don’t trust you as a leader.”  

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