Leadership and Management
Written by Wally Adamchik
January 16, 2022
Tastes great, less filling.
This iconic slogan of the 70s paved the way for light beer to grow into its current popularity. Back then, regular beer tasted great, but filled you up too quickly. Light beer, on the other hand, was less filling — but did so by sacrificing taste.
And then Miller Brewing Company came along, and took these two mutually exclusive concepts — less filling, but great taste — and put them together into one beer, accompanied by an ad campaign that Advertising Age characterized as one of the top 100 ads of the 20th century.
What, you’re asking, does this have to do with leadership or management?
Everything, according to Adamchik.
Because yes, leadership is about change for better results, while management is about consistency for better results. But, like light beer, we need to do both. As Adamchik pointed out, leadership and management go together. And you just need to ask, what hat are you wearing at any given time?
Management: planning, organizing, and controlling.
Whether you’re a foreman, a superintendent, or a project manager, chances are, management stuff comes to you easily. The functions of management are what you do, because you can’t build a construction project without planning and budgeting, organizing and staffing, and controlling and problem solving.
Planning. Planning — and budgeting — is likely something you do regularly. Maybe, if you’re on the frontline, you’re not as involved in budgeting, but you’re most certainly involved in the costs.
Organizing. It’s the same with organizing. You can’t run a business without some level of organizational structure. This might look like various divisions: a dirt division, a pipe division, a water division. Or maybe it’s a geographic thing, with your North Carolina Division and your Virginia Division, for example.
And then there’s staffing. “I don’t know if you’re involved in staffing,” Adamchik noted, “but I can guarantee you this: You’re involved in de-staffing. And by this, I mean if someone wakes up and decides not to come to work, you’re going to be responsible for some part of that, no matter where you are in the chain of command.”
Controlling. Finally, there’s controlling and problem solving. “When I say controlling, I don’t mean micromanaging,” Adamchik said. “I mean standing back and letting the process do its thing. Meaning we have the right information and the right materials, and we have access and labor and machines all being utilized.”
And what about problem solving? “That happens when something goes wrong on the job so we can’t execute the plan,” Adamchik explained. “Most of the time, things go well and life is good. But when things go bad, that’s when you step up, and you problem solve.”
Leadership: setting direction, alignment, and motivation.
But then we get to leadership, and often, it’s a different story. One useful way to look at it is like this: management is black and white, while leadership is gray.
“And that gray, well, it can feel very uncomfortable,” Adamchik said. “It’s not the place you like to hang out. The majority of you are task-oriented and detail oriented. You don’t like fuzzy. You don’t like gray. Instead, you’re quick to look for the solution. And sometimes, you lose things along the way.”
Setting direction. Setting direction is pretty simple. It’s the big picture milestone on a construction project. For example, if you’re in Raleigh, North Carolina, and you need to go to California, you have to set your direction.
But what’s your plan? If you’re going to drive, what highways will you take? What parts and pieces do you have to put in place to go in that direction? “Leadership and management aren’t arch enemies,” Adamchik pointed out. “They’re mutual, intimate allies. We need to do both. So we set direction, but then we need a plan to get there.”
Alignment. And what about alignment? “You’re going down the highway, and your truck is out of alignment,” Adamchik said. “And when we say it’s out of alignment, we mean it’s veering away from the intended direction. Because you can’t have alignment without direction. And in the Dirt World, this can mean aligning to project milestones. Or maybe aligning to values.”
Motivation. The final function of leadership is motivation. Motivation is creating an atmosphere where people buy into your direction. But does that mean you need to be inspiring?
“Inspiring is a good word, but it’s not a great word,” Adamchik said. “Because some of you aren’t inspirational. You’re introverts. You love to build things. And yes, change is about inspiring others. And maybe you do this by being inspirational, but you do it more so by being passionate. Because if you care about what you do, I might care too. But if you don’t care, I won’t either.”
Leadership and management functions shift over time.
One key consideration is understanding that your level of involvement in leadership and management shifts over time. For example, if you’re a foreman on the frontline, about 80% of your time will be spent in management. The remaining 20%? You’ll be setting direction, aligning, and motivating.
But as you go up the chain of command, these percentages will shift. Eventually, when you get to the executive level, you’re looking at about 80% leadership and 20% management, depending on your organization and exactly where you are in the chain of command.
These changes can be tough for everyone, especially business owners. When you first start a business, it's usually just you, yourself, and you doing everything. It can be hard to let go and let your team take over managing things you used to do. But that's how you become successful. You have to let your business grow up if you want it to grow.
You’re not going to keep getting it done.
Here’s the key: when you move up the ranks, you’re not going to be spending the same percentage of time in management versus leadership as you did in the levels you were at before.
“You’ve always been rewarded for making sure it gets done,” Adamchik said. “So you’re thinking, I’m going to keep getting it done.”
But let’s say you’re promoted to superintendent. You’re used to diving in to do it right when your crew doesn’t. But now you’re overseeing three crews, and you simply can’t be in three places at the same time.
The conversation that needs to happen when you get promoted is this: You’re not getting paid to get things done yourself anymore. “If I promote a paving foreman who’s the best paver operator in the company, I’m not paying him to be the best operator anymore,” Adamchik pointed out. “I’m paying him to oversee a paving crew, and create good operators.”
When it comes to the functions of management — planning, organizing, and controlling — you get it right. These functions come naturally to you, because yes, this is what you do.
But as we move up the chain of command, we need to do more leadership. And often this means doing a 180 from what we were trained to do, and what we’ve been recognized for.
So one of the things to think about right now is, how much time do you spend in management, doing the planning, the organizing, and the controlling? And how much time are you spending in leadership: setting direction, aligning, and motivating?
As Adamchik said, “Leadership is change for better results. So yes, there are things we need to be doing differently. But management is about consistency for better results. So let’s keep on keeping on, too. Great taste, less filling.”
Written by Wally Adamchik
January 16, 2022