Investing in Your People

The Role of a Foreman


As a foreman, you know you play an important role. But just how crucial is your role to the project as a whole?

Consider this: the people out in the field are the ones doing the necessary, value-added work that makes the company money. And the foreman is the one leading them. All the other positions? They’re support roles. “God bless them — we love them — but while they’re necessary, they’re not value-added positions,” Schroeder pointed out.

The bottom line? “We’re going to live or die by the success of the foreman,” he said. “And by that I mean, it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, or what your experience is, or what crew you’re leading. As the foreman, you’re crucial to the success of the project.”

This means a foreman has to be the best: at leading, at communicating, at connecting. As a foreman, you need to understand and see the flow, and you have to lead the work safely all while ensuring it’s quality work. In this lesson, Schroeder explores the importance of a foreman, and how to be effective in that role.

A key tool? The morning huddle.

So what does daily success look like for a foreman? Schroeder had some pointers. “First, no matter what you’re working on, you need to always plan ahead for the next day,” he said. “You find a way to win the next day with flow, and you put together a plan that has your workers adding maximum value in the shortest amount of time with the highest level of quality, all while keeping everyone safe.”

Once you have your plan for the day, you need to start that day off with a morning huddle or meeting with your crews. “We build people first and then we build great things,” Schroeder noted. “That sounds cliché, but it’s crucial. As a foreman, you have to build your team first. And that means your morning meeting with your crews is absolutely critical.”

He outlined what this morning huddle looks like in action. “You’re asking your crews, hey, what kind of help or advice do you need? And you’re showing them, here’s the plan for the day, here’s how we’re going to do it safely, and here’s how we’re going to do quality work. And then you give them time to clean and organize their area, and make whatever improvements need to be made.”

By holding this morning meeting, you’ll hit the ground running. The end result? More fulfilled workers, more quality product, and more money for your company.

You are the leader, not the doer.

One of the biggest struggles for a foreman is the temptation to get their boots on the ground. Maybe it’s a bit of sweeping, or a bit of shoveling. Whatever it is, you’re going to be tempted to get right in there and put in the work alongside your people.

“That’s not where we need you,” Schroeder advised. “You’re a leader. You’re no longer a doer. You need to be leading your people, and that means you need to be constantly mentoring and constantly watching. You’re leading your people when you’re observing, when you’re explaining what needs to be done, when you’re making sure they have the materials, the information, and the equipment they require to get the job done.”

Schroeder illustrated this with a story from a digging job he was on in Austin, Texas, where the crews were digging down into 35 feet of limestone. On that job, there were two foremen. The first one was always right in there, working beside his people. And his crew was always behind. The other foreman’s crew, however, stayed on track and hit their targets.

“So I asked the second foreman, hey, how are you doing this? What’s the key? And he looked over at the first foreman, and he said, do you see what he’s doing? So I’m like, yeah, it looks like he’s working pretty hard. So then he said, what else do you see? And I took another look, and I realized some of the other foreman’s workers were just standing around while he did the work.”

Instead of doing the work alongside his crew, the second foreman spent his entire day getting his workers the materials, the information, and the equipment they needed.

“Foremen have to steer the ship, instead of sweeping the floors below the deck,” Schroeder said. “No matter how much you want to get in there with your crew, no matter how much you want to show them your humility, you can’t go in and do the work with them. Your job is to lead your people.”

Takeaways.

As a foreman, you have to build your team, and you have to lead them so that they can be their very best. Here are the key takeaways to help you be effective in this crucial role:

As the foreman, you have to be everything. This means you have to be the best communicator, the best coach, the best connector, and the best teacher. You have to know everything that’s going on, so you can lead your people to do quality work, safely and effectively.

Prime yourself for success with a morning huddle. Plan for each day, and then start your mornings discussing your plan with your crew. Ask them what they need from you, and lay out how they’ll accomplish everything that needs to be done.

You can’t be doing the work. You need to be leading 100% of the time, and this means you can’t be working alongside your crew. Instead, your job is to make sure they have everything they need to do the work themselves in the most efficient manner possible.

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