The Construction Industry is Finally Focusing on People!

April 23, 2015

Improve soft skills

“Emotional intelligence emerges as a much stronger predictor of who will be most successful because it is how we handle ourselves in our relationships that determines how well we do once we are in a given job.” Daniel Goleman



Okay, by now most of you know that emotional intelligence is my thing.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not the ONLY thing.  I’m not a hammer looking for a nail in everything that I see.  There are other things that make people and projects successful.  Things like technical knowledge, education, experience, creativity, innovation, and a resourceful project team among many others.  All I am saying is that we have become so automated with how we market, bid or negotiate, budget, schedule, and build that this people thing seems to be the only thing left that can be dramatically improved.  It’s the final frontier.  And ask yourself a question:  Are most problems on a project process related or people related?  Everyone knows the answer to that one.  Even safety, quality, and productivity have much more to do with relationships and motivation than some technical procedure that someone doesn’t follow.

I attended Penn State’s PACE Conference this week.  PACE stand for Partnership for Achieving Construction Excellence.  It’s a consortium of students, faculty, and industry.  And the amazing things is that EVERY SINGLE PRESENTATION talked about soft skills, emotional intelligence, trust, collaboration, and all of those things that 13 years ago, when I started my business were WAY out there.  I guess I was just a little early.  I imagine 13 years ago, the focus was mostly on technical subjects and research.

From strictly a business point of view, think of emotional intelligence as a differentiator.  Most contractors and engineers have the same reputation, the same brand identity, and the same marketing.  They are reliable, responsible, technically excellent, and they can execute a project like nobody’s business.  But it seems to me that everyone is bringing that to the table.  Contractors get the same vendor and subcontractor and material prices so there is no competitive advantage there.  So what is your competitive advantage?  It’s your people.  Period.  And it’s not their technical expertise or experience.  That is an expectation.  That is the price of entry.  What owners are looking for are people who can create great relationships, who are easy to work with, who create a sense of team.  And many of the owners want the process to be more fun and engaging.  Life’s too short.  That’s why we teach our clients how to create a positive emotional experience instead of transaction.  The book, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Kahneman tells us through a lot of research that people make buying decisions based more on emotion, memory, and ease than anything else.

If you are focused on the numbers, reducing margins and overhead, looking for technical solutions for a competitive advantage, then you may be looking in the wrong place.  Owners will choose you because they like you, trust you, and respect you.  They will choose you because of the way you made them feel during the last project.  I know what some of you are thinking.  It’s all about the low bidder.  That is rapidly changing.  Defaulting subcontractors and contractors, rising material prices, high risk, and low margins make everyone fight for every nickel.  And many of these projects are ending up in court.  The lawyers will be the only ones making money on those projects.

If you want to know more, contact my admin, Casey at and mention this blog.  She will send you the PDF version of the third edition of The People Profit Connection for free.


The One Thing You Can Do to Make Your Life Better

April 14, 2015

worker in zen position

“The mind is everything. What you think, you become.” Buddha



Take a look at this video from the movie, City Slickers:

When I do these leadership programs, the participants always ask me,  what’s the one thing that I could do that would make the biggest difference?  I understand the question.  We are all busy.  We can’t do dozens of things.  We can’t commit to an hour in the gym, seven days a week.  We can’t go on a sabbatical for a month.  So what is that one thing that can make a huge difference?  It’s meditation. We strongly emphasize this in our courses.  In order to create well-being, in order to be productive, in order to tap into that higher power, we must have reflection time each day.  It doesn’t have to be long.  It can be as little as 10 minutes.  But it has to be consistent.  I probably average four to five days a week where I sit down and be quiet and not do any planning or worrying or problem solving.  Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, says that anyone who is trying to attain personal mastery should practice some form of meditation.

Studies have shown that meditation increases focus and changes physiology.  It reduces cortisol, the stress hormone, and increases DHEA, the “youth” hormone.  It relaxes you.  It increases problem solving.  It increases your energy levels.  Harvard Medical recently found that regular meditation actually changes the expression of genes and lengthens the telomeres.  Shortened telomeres indicate aging.  So it actually reverses the aging process.  So if it does all of these amazing thins, why doesn’t everyone do it?  For some it seems too “new age”.  For some, it seems cult like.  They think that it conflicts with their religious beliefs.  But think of it as just an exercise in concentration.  You can apply your own belief system to these techniques so that you are comfortable with it.

Here is a very simple meditation technique:

Take a deep breath in.  Breathe out and think the number one.  Breathe in again.  Breathe out again.  Think the number two.  Breathe in again.  Breathe out.  Think the number three.  Breathe in a fourth time.  Breathe out and think the number four.  Then start again at one.  Other thoughts will enter your mind.  Politely dismiss them and go back to breathing and counting.  Do this for around 5 to 10 minutes.  Set a timer if you need to.

You will no doubt find this hard at first.  But the more you do it, the more you will be able to focus.  Not only during the meditation, but in all areas of your life and work.  You will be more relaxed and more resilient to stress.


All of Your Emotional Intelligence Questions Answered!

April 9, 2015

People ask me all of the time about emotional intelligence and its relevance to them and their businesses.  This recent podcast answers tons of those questions.

First, I’ll answer what emotional intelligence is NOT:

It’s NOT:

touchy-feely, psychobabble, mumbo-jumbo, theory, being nice to people, group hugs, or singing kumbaya!

It is:

discerning and managing your emotions and managing the emotions of others for the best outcome for yourself and that situation.  It’s vital for your health and well-being and your success in life and work.  It’s based in neuroscience and physics.  It’s about energy and the way your brain works.

Here is the link to the podcast for more:

If you have any other questions, just ask!

Top 10 Tips for Tough Guys for Tremendous Success in Life and Work

April 2, 2015

Angry businessman ready to fight

“You were born with potential. You were born with goodness and trust. You were born with ideals and dreams. You were born with greatness. You were born with wings. You are not meant for crawling, so don’t. You have wings. Learn to use them and fly.” Rumi



Many of you know about my “Tough Guy” series of books:

Communication and Presentation Skills for Tough Guys

Relationship Skills for Tough Guys:  The 12 Steps to Great Relationships

Stress Management, Time Management, and Life Balance for Tough Guys

And make not mistake.  The term “guy” is gender neutral.  There are plenty of female tough guys out there.

I also have The Tough Guy Survival Kit, which includes all three books.

These books were written especially for all of those tough guys out there.  I work mainly in the construction industry and help contractors, architects, and engineers with their social competence and “soft” skills.  But there is nothing soft about these skills.  They are essential for success in life and work.  Is there a tough guy in your life?


Here are the top 10 Tough Guy Tips for knocking off the rough edges and becoming better with communication and relationships:

1.  Avoid the use of I and me in your conversations.  This forces you to make it all about the other person.

2.  Avoid starting questions with the word “why”.  It sounds like an interrogation, and the other person will likely be put on the defensive.  Find a way to ask the same question with the other reporter questions:  what, where, when, how.  And “What the hell were you thinking?” doesn’t count.

3.  Smile.  I know it’s tough.  But it puts people at ease and opens them up.  It also reduces your stress.

4.  It’s not about the information.  It’s about making a connection with others.  Instead of a transaction, try to create a positive emotional experience.  Whether it is your spouse, your kids, or the person at the grocery store, this makes your encounters with others much more meaningful.

5.  Try this empathy exercise:  Get rid of the kids for a while, sit your spouse down and ask them to tell you about their day.  You can’t offer any suggestions, comments, or criticisms.  You can’t tell them what they should have done.  All you have to do is listen and try to determine what emotions they were feeling throughout their day.  And that is the only comment you can offer:  “That must have made you feel . . . ”

6.  An old man told me before my wedding a sage piece of advice:  “You can be right or you can be happy.  And the choice is yours.”  Think about this one.

7.  Whenever anyone gives you advice or a comment or criticism, just say thanks.  Nothing else.  Just thanks.

8.  Build in personal reflection time EVERY DAY!  This can be prayer time, meditation time, quiet time, vision time or whatever you want to call it.  It doesn’t have to be long, but it has to be consistent.

9.  Lighten up.  Don’t take things so seriously.  This too shall pass.  In the movie Stripes, there is a soldier who tells everyone he will kill them for any minor infraction.  The Sergeant tells him,  “Lighten up, Francis!”

10.  Spend more time with your spouse, kids, and pets.  Check in with them often.  Don’t sacrifice you or your family for work.  Remember, when most people are on your death bed, they rarely if ever say, “Gosh, I wish I could have worked a little more!”

There will be more tough guy tips to come.  And tough guys, once they get it, really do make the positive changes in their lives.  So for all of those with tough guys in their lives, hang in there!


Team Transformation: Use Your Social Connections to Create Lasting Change

March 26, 2015

Man changing his mood

“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.” Viktor E. Frankl

Check out the book, Change Anything by 5 different people.  It’s an empirical study of how people create change.  What are the factors involved?  They narrowed it down to three:

1.  Personal

2.  Environmental

3.  Social

Each one has a  motivational component and an ability component.  You have to be motivated to change, then attain the ability to do so.  You have to take personal responsibility. Jesus asked one person, “Do you want to be healed?”  Then you have to create the environment for change.  Don’t buy a bunch of snacks at the grocery store and think that you can use your will power to not eat them.  The last part, and I think likely the most important part, is the social aspect of change.  Let people in your life know what you are trying to do.  Build in the accountability, connection, and encouragement.  We have found that we get much better results with groups than we do with individuals.

We work not only with emotional intelligence, but mental and physical peak performance.  It all works together to create amazing, lasting changes personally and professionally.  One recent group of 21 top leaders lost over 200 pounds as a group and significantly increased their emotional competence, especially their interpersonal skills.

A couple of the guys decided to bring their family in on the fun.  As a family, they decided on some goals and put them into a spread sheet. One of the guys called it The Family Smackdown.  It was a competition.  The family members who did the most activities over an eight week period won cash prizes.

The items were:

Sleep (7 hours)

Water (8 glasses)

No sugar

No junk food

Fruits and vegetables (2 servings each)


Scriptures (15 minutes) and two prayers

No eating after 9 pm

Act of kindness

It energized the family and helped the participant and his family members to make those positive changes.  And these initiatives tend to linger long after the end of the program.

There is a friend of mine on Facebook who I have known for 30 years.  One day, she put on Facebook that she was going to start walking.  She wrote every single day after she finished her morning walk and created quite a following.  Some days, there were more than 50 comments, encouraging her and reinforcing that behavior.  And she kept walking.  At the one year mark, there were over dozens of people who commented on her status, encouraging her and congratulating her.  One person gave her a very expensive pair of walking shoes as a gift for making the one year mark.  She lost a lot of weight and her outlook has totally changed.  She now helps to plan reunions and travels with a group of women she reconnected with on Facebook.  Would she have attained these results without that social aspect?  Perhaps.  But it is a powerful testament to adding the social into any change endeavor that you have.  She has inspired many others to walk.  And another friend who has encouraged her has put on Facebook that he is going to quit smoking.

Change is hard.  Period.  And we need all the help and encouragement we can get.  So accept the personal responsibility, create that environment for change, and get as many people in on the process as possible!

What if You Knew You Were Dying?

March 12, 2015


“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” Mark Twain

Guess what?  You ARE dying.  At many of these inspirational events, they ask, “What would you do if you had 30 days to live?  How would you spend it?  What would you do differently?”  I never really took those questions very seriously because the end of my life seemed so far out into the future.  But the truth is that we are all dying.  Some will die more quickly than others.  But we will all end up in the same place.  Worm food.  Take a tape measure and roll it out to 80 inches.  Let that represent your life span.  If you have great genetics, roll it out further.  Now look at where you are now.  30?  40?  50?  60?  In any case, I am always struck by the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of tape left.

If today were the last day of your life, would you do the same thing that you are doing today?  It is something to think about.

A few years ago, four of our very good friends left this earth, all in their fifties.  All of their lives were cut short.  It made us examine what we were doing.  And we found out that we talked and thought about work way too much.  We worried about money too much.  We obsessed over things that really didn’t make that much of a difference in our lives.  We came to the not so profound conclusion that life is too short.  So we decided to do something about it.  We decided to take every Friday off.  We also decides to take at least three weeks of vacation this year.  When you add up the Fridays, that is seven weeks.  Add the vacations and that’s ten weeks that we are taking off.  That’s even more than some Europeans.

Don’t get me wrong.  We are not perfect at it.  We have worked some Fridays.  We have had stretches of financial worries and other trivial worries.  It is a constant struggle.  But we are making the effort.  And perhaps, over time, we will become proficient at it.  With managing your time, it comes down to this:  There are choices and there are consequences.  What choices are you going to make?  How are you going to spend your remaining days?

Steve Jobs’ commencement speech to Stanford discusses death as a motivator.  Look just after 9 minutes and listen as he talks about his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer.   It’s an eye opener.

We are all dying.  We are all marching toward death.  What are you  going to choose to see along the way?

The Age of Relationships

March 5, 2015


Pay attention.  We are coming to the end of the Information Age and have  now entered the Age of Relationships.  The signs are everywhere.  It permeates every industry.  It is part of the globalization of everything from business to governments to resources to weather to our very survival.  The younger generations were raised with collaboration and that sense of being interconnected.  Relationships give you motivation, inspiration, ideas, and encouragement.  Yet, in many industries, including the construction industry, this is something we have yet to embrace.  Perhaps it is because of the technical nature of the industry.  Perhaps it is because of the typical emotional intelligence profile of the people in the industry.  Empirically, relationships are not our best thing.  Every single group I have ever worked with over the past 12 years have the same profile.  The three lowest scores on the EQi are ALWAYS emotional self-awareness, empathy, and interpersonal relationships.  The three highest scores are ALWAYS assertiveness, independence, and self-regard.  This is a recipe for relationship disaster.  No wonder it’s such a hard business.

It’s time that we tackle these tough people issues and embrace these collaborative concepts.  Focusing on relationships is no longer touchy-feely.  Neuroscience is verifying many of these concepts of connection from a physiological standpoint.  We all have mirror neurons in our brains that mirror the emotions of the person sitting across from us.  They light up and connect us together whether we are aware of it or not.  We can no longer ignore these interpersonal connections.

In South Africa, they have a philosophy called Ubuntu.  It is a sense of being connected to everyone else on the planet.  When two people greet each other, the first person says, “I see you.”  The second person responds by saying, “I am here.”  There is real significance in that exchange.  Without the acknowledgement from the first person, the second person doesn’t even exist.  Imagine the power of that if you walked down the hallway and was pre-occupied with something and didn’t greet the other person.  What you would be saying is that they don’t exist.  I believe that this philosophy prevented South Africa from devolving into a bloody civil war after apartheid ended.  The black South Africans merely moved on and embraced the end of apartheid without retribution, without punishing the whites.  It is because they feel so interconnected.  They believe that if they harm someone else, they are harming themselves.

Can we move toward this sense of being connected?  Can we embrace this new way of collaborating?  Can we change the industry for the better by focusing on people and relationships?  Time will tell.  As Ben Franklin said, “We must hang together or we shall surely hang separately.”


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