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‘Egg-sucking dogs’ must go

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by Patricia Williams

Colorado consultant and lecture-circuit fixture Charles Vander Kooi knows a thing or two about people management, paricularly when dealing with “egg-sucking dogs,” i.e., formerly “good and loyal” employees who go bad.
Vander Kooi
Vander Kooi

Human Resources

Construction managers should cut their losses when a good worker goes bad

Colorado consultant and lecture-circuit fixture Charles Vander Kooi knows a thing or two about people management.

The president of Vander Kooi & Associates Inc. is convinced that it takes a certain type of person to be able to motivate and effectively manage a construction crew.

He recently shared some of the insight he has gleaned during his four decades in the industry with members of the Mechanical Service Contractors Association of Canada.

Vander Kooi, whose credentials include 15 years as an estimator and a member of senior management in companies, said management of both a construction company and individual projects requires a team effort.

The team must be made up of four distinct personalities.

“Everybody has one or two of these personality traits that are dominant,” Vander Kooi said.

“If you want to build a stronger management team and run your company effectively, you need all four personalities.”

He classified these as:
•The idea man: People like architects, engineers or interior designers “who are always coming up to you saying ‘I’ve got an idea.’ ”
•The happening man: Action-oriented personnel “who take people’s ideas and make them happen.”
•The managing man: The people who orchestrate the details, like coaches of sports team.
•The maintenance man: These personnel, the ones doing the actual work, make up 70 per cent of the workforce. “Their credo is, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Vander Kooi, whose people management seminar has been ranked in the top five at the World of Concrete for 11 years running, said managers have a tendency to recruit staff “who are just like you.” But that should be avoided, he said.

Vander Kooi, who speaks at some 80 trade shows and conventions a year, also provided some tips on “the good, the bad and the ugly” of employee bonus systems and on dealing with “egg-sucking dogs,” formerly “good and loyal” employees who have gone bad.

A bonus system is one tool for recognizing staff for a job well done, he said. Contractors must determine which method will motivate staff to do their best work. Vander Kooi said firms should be hesitant about any system that is too strongly tied into profits.

“I’ve seen contractors start up bonus systems that have blown up in their faces,” he said.

When determining bonuses for field personnel, Vander Kooi recommended staff be evaluated by a three-person committee on performance in seven key areas.

These relate to customer satisfaction, cost awareness, attitude, handling of company equipment and tools, taking care of paper work, safety, and work quality.

“The focus should be on doing the job right the first time,” Vander Kooi said.

“There is a great profit robber in this industry — callbacks.” As for those egg-sucking dogs, personnel who have become “a cancer” in an organization, Vander Kooi advised contractors to avoid playing “the blame game” and instead draw a line in the sand.

“When the dog crosses that line, he’s gone,” Vander Kooi said.

“You’ve got to know when to hold your cards and when to fold. Sometimes, good people who have gone bad just need a new beginning somewhere else.”

The workshop was held during the 66th annual national conference of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada.

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