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What Does a Construction Manager Do…

…And what does it take to be one?

Construction team discussing management processes

Wonder what expertise you need to be a construction manager? The skill set is both specific and extensive. In this article we’ll have a look at what CMs do, and who they are.

The construction manager, or construction project manager (six of one, half dozen etc.), is the person who acts as the owner’s or developer’s representative in order to ensure that their building project is executed as smoothly as possible from conception to delivery and beyond. Planning, coordination, evaluation, communication and completion are all within the CM’s purview.

What this means is that CMs and their teams have to understand exactly what each player will contribute to a project and who is responsible for what; how much each step should cost; and probability and range of potential risks. They monitor progress and look for best practices in terms of cost-effectiveness. It’s estimated that construction managers have well over a hundred different responsibilities for every project.

At Stonemark our focus is exclusive residential and commercial projects, as well as restoration of sacred spaces. Other kinds of project management might include industrial, roads and civil. Whatever the project, the CM will have an eye on planning, quality, contracts, risk, budget and schedule. When there’s a hiccup, CMs are there to find solutions so that the clients who are funding the project don’t have to.

How to be a good construction manager

There are so many qualities that define a good construction manager that it can be hard to narrow them down. Here at Stonemark, our short list might read something like this:

  • Integrity
  • Outstanding managerial and leadership skills
  • Ability to listen (and understand what’s left unspoken) to clients and team
  • Appreciation of challenges, puzzle-solving and creative solutions
  • Technical expertise, including:
    • financial options
    • construction project management software, including BIM
    • security and safety, legal logistics, data analysis, etc.
    • construction document management, etc.
  • Ability to determine who can best address challenges and delegate accordingly
  • Fluid, precise communication skills
  • High level planning strategies
  • And last but not least, a talent for being the calm in the storm (and not losing sleep over the tempest).

Especially in residential construction management, where clients’ emotional investment may be as important to them as financial parameters, that third quality—the ability to listen—is crucial. An exceptional CM will participate in their clients’ visions and adjust seamlessly when those visions change.  

Indeed, in construction project management, the ability to adapt to change is essential. Most everything about construction projects is subject to change. Laws and safety guidelines change, natural disasters happen, people get sick and aren’t able to honor their commitments, construction project management software evolves. Expectations can be unreasonable. Accidents may happen. Relationships can change and sometimes turn sour. The CM’s job is to roll with the punches, find cost-effective and timely solutions, handle problems and possibly arbitrate.

Therefore, another essential quality is the ability to work with people. The larger the project, the more people are involved. Yes, there are construction management requirements that center on tangibles like design, choice of materials, environmental sustainability, documentation, safety management and engineering. But when push comes to shove, it’s all about people.

Good construction managers know that client satisfaction ultimately depends on how well everybody does their job, and in big projects that can mean literally thousands of people. Whether choosing the design team, liaising with the general contractor, making sure that workers are safe or assessing and insuring against risk, there’s no construction management software that can replace years of experience and human-oriented motivation. That’s our business.

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