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 Casey@brentdarnll.com and mention this blog. She will send you the PDF version of the third edition of The People Profit Connection for free.