Exploring Gray: Site Manager
A construction site at Gray operates much like a living organism: separate systems with complex roles, all working in unison to fulfill a larger purpose. Amid these many moving parts, one role serves as a cross between the central nervous and immune systems—the Gray site manager.
What Does a Site Manager Do?
In short, a construction site manager directs and protects all aspects of project construction. The role oversees all work at the job site from start to finish: coordinating man and material, maintaining project schedules and budgets, and ensuring safe, secure operations. While these tasks are essential, the energy that sustains them comes from fostering strong relationships and leading by example.
To get a better sense of what this example looks like, we spoke to Clayton Wilkerson, a Gray site manager since 2016. According to Wilkerson, you can’t truly lead your team without investing in your people. “You’re responsible for your team and for everything that happens on the project site. That’s why it’s important to build relationships and earn the respect of your people.”
Because of the site manager’s daily presence, they are often the face of Gray to customers. On Wilkerson’s current project for a facility in Sweetwater, Texas, the customer has ample on-site representation, as well as a construction manager that Wilkerson communicates with several times a day.
“Having complete project team alignment is extremely important,” says Wilkerson. This need for clear vision and alignment extends well beyond customer interactions. The site manager plays an important role in design development, developing scopes of work, hiring subcontractors, procuring and purchasing equipment and materials, assessing project risk, and tracking the daily activities of tools and teams. Such a breadth of focus requires the site manager to work effectively with everyone associated with the project—not just those on site, but the Gray project and design managers as well.
Running a Successful Project
So what separates a Gray site manager from others across the industry? “The greatest difference is the culture we create through our presence on site,” says Wilkerson. “My success depends entirely upon my team’s success.”
Wilkerson recalled his days as an HVAC subcontractor before his time with Gray. “With a lot of GCs that I worked with, you may not ever see [the manager] at the project site. Gray has very clear expectations on how we manage our projects; from safety to quality, we take a lot of pride in our work.”
Despite all the time spent on site and the industrial-scale work happening around him, Wilkerson says that one of the most crucial tools at his disposal is not a piece of heavy equipment, but the project schedule.
“The project schedule affects everything and everyone from beginning to end. It allows you to plan and sequence tasks and mitigate safety risks as well as financial risks.” By knowing the project schedule, the site manager can remain aware of dozens of tasks occurring simultaneously, as well as which teams need the most attention and how they all work toward a common goal.
Safety Above All
The biggest responsibility of serving as a site manager is ensuring that all personnel—those of Gray as well as our trade partners, customers, and guests on site—are operating within the parameters of Gray’s No. 1 core value—we put safety and quality of life first.
“Safety is paramount—nothing is more important,” says Wilkerson. “Gray’s safety calls each week draw us back to the fundamentals, where we can learn from each other and hold one another accountable.”
When a site manager has cultivated a culture of safety and accountability, maintaining project schedules and high standards of craftsmanship are the natural result.
The Power of Relationships
According to Wilkerson, to succeed as a site manager demands not only a strong work ethic, but also a willingness to learn and adapt to changes, and a belief that you’re making a difference in people’s lives by caring for your team. It also requires a healthy dose of on-the-job training. “You can’t go into the role of a site manager without having gotten exposure at various levels of the construction industry,” says Wilkerson. This familiarity with all aspects of a project is how a site manager can recognize potential problems, manage risks, and keep each team focused and motivated to complete tasks.
One aspect that distinguishes Gray within the construction industry is Gray’s principle of cultivating leadership through trust, empowerment, and direction. Just as Gray develops site managers with the skills to make effective decisions, so too do site managers build up less experienced team members.
“Executive leadership empowers us to make the right decisions without having to call and get approval,” explains Wilkerson. “If we have an idea that will make the project safer, we can act on it. In turn, if there’s a task that my team can accomplish independently, I’m responsible for empowering them to lead that opportunity. My job is to provide a support role and help my team in every way that I can.”
The Rewards of Responsibility
Perhaps the most obvious reward of serving as a site manager is the pride that comes with creating a tangible product—a finished facility that serves as an inviting space and a productive place of work for members of the community.
For Wilkerson, however, it all comes back to relationships and growth. “What makes it worth it is seeing other people satisfied with what they’re doing and achieving their goals. It makes me proud to see someone who interns for Gray and then comes back after finishing school. It’s one-on-one relationships that lead to those moments.”
As for his own growth, Wilkerson summed up with an anonymous quote that he says has helped to guide him in his role as a responsible site leader.
“When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is.”