Good employees make good project managers

YEAH, AS IF A bad employee could make a good manager or a bad employee would help make a bad manager better or a terrible employee would somehow train an awful manager to become the star project manager of your company. Every employee you lead makes you the manager you are! Just like the clich "a company is known by the men it keeps," every project manager is known by the employees who eagerly seek

YEAH, AS IF A bad employee could make a good manager or a bad employee would help make a bad manager better or a terrible employee would somehow train an awful manager to become the star project manager of your company.

Every employee you lead makes you the manager you are! Just like the clichè "a company is known by the men it keeps," every project manager is known by the employees who eagerly seek him out when it's time for him to assemble his next crew. Or, on the other hand, by the employees who run for the hills rather than be " volunteered" by upper management to be on his team when nobody else wants to work for him on the next job.

Just as every employee learns (we would hope) from his manager, every manager (if he's not blind stupid) listens as best he can to all employees within his charge and learns from them as well. All I know is that after a lifetime in this business running projects in size from an outhouse to the White House, I still don't know it all and never will. Every day presents a new learning opportunity for me, if I check my ego at the door and pay attention to what I'm hearing from my crew, peers and bosses.

Face facts, gentlemen and ladies, just as you know enough about how to manage your projects, you couldn't handle all the front-or back-office tasks if it weren't for your head office team of support personnel. You probably know how to manually install every component of every system you typically find on one of your jobs, but the fact remains that there are not enough hours in the day for you to actually do so. You are 100% dependent on the quality, motivation, honesty and skill sets of your field employees.

Still, do you think you can take a bunch of substance-abusing, spouseabusing and life-abused misfits and somehow whip them into shape through fear, intimidation and pure unadulterated greed and get your projects installed on time, on budget and on warranties? Really, do you? Stop for a moment and take a look outside your own little world at your competitors who try to do that and see the quality of their work and their bottom line too.

My dear father, who was one of the smartest businessmen let alone contractors I ever knew, always semi-bragged about being as successful as he was with just a "seventh-grade education." He emphasized an important lesson to me: "Son, I might not be the smartest person in business, but I'm smart enough to hire people smarter than me to make me more money than I actually could make myself!"

When you hire the best quality personnel you and your company can afford, not only is such upfront investment quickly repaid with short-term gains in job productivity, but also longterm because of reduced warranty issues and increased positive reputation of your company within your locale.

And when you hire the best people possible for your support positions, whether those positions be office or field support, guess what you are also hiring: Your eventual replacement.

Now, don't freak on me. It would be extremely unusual if you hired an allstar field guy who performs so spectacularly on a couple jobs and brings them in so far ahead of schedule and under budget that upper management immediately looks at promoting him to your job and pushing you out. Nevertheless, the fact is that within our industry — while it's not as commonplace as it once was — the field is still a viable path for career advancement. Project managers, estimators and others of our fellow middle-management ranks often come from the pool of field help.

The fact is, eventually, you're going to be replaced, either by your own hand or by someone else's, so always have an exit strategy. It's better to be grooming and mentoring a hand-picked successor to your position within the company, someone who is a model employee and who will make a good project manager, than leave it up to the fates or your boss's bookie or wife to choose your replacement for you. By helping train your replacement, you and your company immediately benefit from incremental increases in job productivity, which, if you're like most of your colleagues, directly affects your quarterly or year-end bonus check.

Don't fear the reaper and don't fear the good employees within your organization. Just as your professionalism makes them money, they, in turn, make you your money. Embrace the fact that the next generation of good managers needs to be good employees first. Help teach them the "correct ways" of our business, and you'll be rewarded in time on more levels than merely financial.