It’s taken me an inordinately long time to get this done, but here it is: the Premier Edition.
…Learning Leads to Advancement
Newsletter #1, April 2009
Welcome to the First Edition of Super Tips Newsletter: Training Tips for Construction Supervisors. I want to help you connect, learn and advance as a Construction Supervisor by improving your people skills, your technical skills and your trade skills. I love building things and helping others build better. This amazing construction business has been good to me and can reward you also if you’re willing to learn and grow.
People Skills: What’s the Secret of Success?
Ask Ned: An Advice Column for Construction Supervisors
Basic Technical Skills: Avoid Errors by Changing Inches to Decimal Feet
Trade Skills: Understand Soil Compaction Density and Proctor Tests
Super Tips Puzzler: Win $100
People Skills: What’s the Secret of Success? (see video here)
As a young man working in construction, I came across this concept of the secret of success. Over 25 years I’ve found it to be one of the most useful concepts I’ve ever learned. When I teach classes, I ask Construction Supervisors and wannabe Construction Supervisors, “What is the Secret of Success?”
How would you answer? Hard work? Choosing your parents carefully? Luck?
We can agree hard work is a component of success, but we’ve all seen people that worked tremendously hard and weren’t successful.
Being born into a family that provides solid teaching, helps you develop good habits and creates connections for schooling and jobs certainly is a huge benefit, but lots of people with great families have disappointing lives.
Of course luck plays a role in success, but it’s not the central role.
The answer is surprisingly simple. (follow the link to find out)
Ask Ned: An Advice Column for Construction Supervisors
Dear Ned: I’m a 30 year old Construction Supervisor working mostly on office buildings. My background is carpentry and some concrete, but I find myself in the middle of lots of mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) issues. What should my role be in managing MEP contractors when I barely understand what they do? Feeling Stupid in SC.
Dear FSSC: Many Construction Supervisors much more experienced than you struggle with this issue. The short answer is that you need to understand enough about the MEP work to effectively manage it. That means you need to have a good “Big Picture” understanding of what the systems are supposed to accomplish. You don’t need to understand exactly how to design or install the systems. Start with the drawings, even though you probably can’t really read them yet, and slowly go through and mark up what you can understand. Determine what the main system is and read about it in Wikipedia, ConstructionKnowledge.net or the manufacturer’s website. Jot down notes to help you remember how the system works. Then ask questions to the MEP foreman about reading the drawings. Learning takes time, but soon you’ll know how to manage the MEP work because you’ll understand the drawings, the systems and the work sequences.
Basic Technical Skills: Avoid Errors by Converting Inches to Decimal Feet (see video here)
Bud Caldwell, one of the best Superintendents I ever worked with, taught me the value of changing inches into decimal feet. We were reviewing a shop drawing for a piece of equipment with lots of anchor bolts, and everything was in feet, inches and fractions of an inch. In his head, he quickly converted the inches and fractions of an inch into decimal feet, so we could easily add and check dimensions. He showed me a wonderful little trick of the trade that I’ve used for over 25 years. The inches to decimal feet conversion table shows illustrates the information.
An example may help, follow the link for the example.
Trade Skills: Understand Soil Compaction Density and Proctor Tests (see video here)
A Construction Supervisor might say, “Soil engineering and Proctor Tests? I’m not an engineer and certainly not a geologist, why would I care about this stuff?” The practical uses for a basic understanding of soils engineering and geology might surprise that silly Construction Supervisor. For example, the placing of soil fill on a site generally requires testing the compaction. Most Construction Supervisors know that a “Proctor test” is used and that compaction usually has to be over 95%. But what does it really mean if well placed soil tests at 88% or even at 103%?
Unless the Construction Supervisor has a basic understanding of soil engineering, he can appear foolish. If the soil tests over 100% and he laughs at the impossibility of compaction over 100%, those that understand the test know that the Construction Supervisor doesn’t. It’s always best not to look like a fool…at least not too many times in one day.
To learn how a Proctor Test works, follow the link.
Super Tips Puzzler
Win $100 if you correctly answer the Super Tips Puzzler below. I’ll randomly select the winning entry from the correct answers that I receive. Make sure to include your contact information so I will know where to send the check.
Three tradesmen work on a jobsite, Bob is older than the redheaded guy, but younger than the electrician. Mike is younger than the blonde, while Joe is older than the dark haired guy. The carpenter is the ironworker’s younger brother. Can you give the hair color and job of each tradesmen in order of age?
A Construction Supervisor let the stress of the jobsite get to him and was committed to a mental institution. One day while out for a stroll, he saw through the fence a motorist changing a tire. The motorist, unnerved to discover a patient so near at hand, stepped on the hubcap containing his tire’s lug nuts, and watched in dismay as all four lugs clattered down a storm sewer inlet.
The Construction Supervisor cleared his throat. “Excuse me, sir. If you take one lug nut off each of the other three tires,” he said, “it will give you three extras to put on your spare. Then you could drive to a service station and get some more.”
The motorist was amazed. “That’s a wonderful idea! How did you ever think of that?”
“I’m here because I’m crazy”, replied the Construction Supervisor, “Not because I’m stupid.”