People skills of a project manager

project manager leading blindly

Mastering communications with people both on and off-site will make all the difference to how smoothly your build goes. You need to ensure that instructions are clear, everyone understands them and that everybody is working to a common goal.

You will need to ensure that everyone is working to the same plans. Keep a laminated master (and a few dry pens) in the site office. Number and date any updates, collecting and destroying any old copies so nobody is working to out-of-date plans.

You’ll be working with all sorts of experts, including planners, site inspectors and tradesmen. Combined, they’ll have experience of most problems that come up on a build. You don’t always have to follow their advice (and be prepared for the odd bit of flannel because someone doesn’t want to do it your way or is upping the cost) but on the whole most professionals will want to help you out.

Don’t be put off if you don’t understand something – ask questions. Similarly, tradespeople who reciprocate with questions of their own are a boon as they are likely to hold a genuine interest in the build. Be prepared to explain your philosophy – especially if your way is different from the norm, for example if being green is more important than cost.

You know the ‘big picture’ in a way that no-one else does. Make sure instructions are clear, understood by both you and the other party and confirm them in writing – either in a site diary, an email or even as a printed sheet if need be, pinned up in the site office.

Work out which methods suit your team and your site. For some, a Monday site meeting is essential, for others a chore to be got through that they will resent. Some may prefer an email report, while for others a chat will suffice. Figure out what works for them and what you can rely on as being sufficient.

As the prime decision-maker, the project manager needs a set of skills to help make the right decisions as situations crop up on a day-to-day basis.

You may need to question the quality of work, or even dismiss a trade if they fail to redress the problem, either by a general improvement or through redoing any poor work. Managing people can involve a delicate balance of getting on with them while maintaining a professional relationship.

Be clear about who is doing what. Let the trades know if you plan to do something yourself so they can adjust their costs. You will not be available at all times. Make it clear who on site is responsible for making decisions/ordering materials in your absence, and ensure they know what they can spend and when they need to let you know about minor changes.

Be clear about what you expect – hours, quality of work, safety equipment and how you expect the site to be left and secured. Be diplomatic if you have an issue and appreciative if you’re pleased with something. Goodwill gets work done, so consider using rewards for targets met rather than punitive measures for any missed. A bonus of money or even a crate of beer can help sweeten a deal if you’re trying to catch up on work in time for the next stage to go ahead as planned.