Things I Learned from the Groundbreaking Women in Construction Conference

January 16, 2017

Celebration Community Cheerful Happiness Success Concept

This was a post from several years ago and is so much more relevant now:

Yesterday I was on a panel discussion at the ENR Groundbreaking Women in Construction Conference in New York.  It was a great experience for me.  A couple of things that really stuck out:

1.  This was the first time EVER that I was in the minority.  And I mean THE MINORITY!  There were probably five men there out of 300 attendees.  It was a very different feeling.  I never felt out-of-place really, but I did feel outnumbered.  It was a little intimidating.  I finally felt what it must be like for women and minorities at a normal construction conference filled with mostly middle-aged, white men.

2.  I experienced bathroom discrimination for the first time.  I say that with tongue planted firmly in my cheek.  How many times do we men sail in and out of the bathroom at intermission or the seventh inning stretch while the line at the women’s bathroom snakes around the corner for miles?  There were so many women and so few men that they actually put a sign over the men’s restroom that said “WOMEN ONLY”.  I had to go down two floors to use the bathroom.  What a shift in perspective.  Women probably get really frustrated by those long lines and think to themselves, “When are the mostly male architects going to wake up and put in twice as many stalls in the women’s bathrooms?”

3.  Women interact differently than men, at least in construction and engineering.  Men will gather and greet with a cool and somewhat forced confidence.  The interactions are low-key and low energy and the topic of conversation is mostly about business.  When a large group of women interact, the energy is amazing!  It is palpable.  The room is buzzing!  They are animated and talking and exchanging business cards and discussing lots of different things, including non-business topics.

4.  Women have some of the same issues as men.  There are some difference such as childcare that are quite different for men and women, but what I took away was that the skills for a woman to be successful in the construction industry are exactly the same skills that men need.  It’s just in a different context and should be taught in a slightly different way to address their specific needs.  Leadership, presence, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence skills are at least a part of those success factors.  Individuals will likely just be working on different areas.

I look forward to more of these kinds of conferences and hope that other industry organizations will reach out and invite this group to the table.  They deserve a seat at that table.

Check out my ENR Viewpoint article on diversity:

CLICK HERE

Also, I am in the process of finishing up my latest online course on diversity and inclusion as part of the Total Leadership Library. Click here for more information on that.

 


Why Project Relationships Go Horribly Wrong and How to Prevent it

June 7, 2016

a skyscraper with glass walls and the reflection of landmarks on the opposite side

“Building is the quintessential act of civilization.” Tracy Kidder

Think about it.  If three people washed up on a deserted island, the first thing they would do is collaboratively build a shelter.  Unless, of course, the three people were an architect, owner’s rep, and contractor.  Then, they would have to wait for two lawyers to wash up on the beach so that they could proceed with the project.

There is a project that I read about recently where the parties involved hate each other. I don’t say that lightly.  You can tell from their comments that they truly loathe and despise each other.  Here is a link to the ENR article titled  A Hospital Job Dispute Reaches Fever Pitch:

http://enr.construction.com/business_management/project_delivery/2015/0918-A-Hospital-Job-Dispute-Reaches-Fever-Pitch.asp

How did this project get to this point?  Could the parties involved have seen this coming?  How did they begin the project, and more importantly, what can you do on your projects to avoid such a fate?

We have created a program called connEx, which creates high performing teams who care about each other’s personal and professional success and well-being.  Click here for more information.


The Problems with Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) and How to Overcome Them

June 18, 2015

Dude x 9 the builders at puzzle construction site.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” ― Helen Keller

 

 

The big buzz phrase in the construction industry is Integrated Project Delivery or IPD.  Disney has a concept called ILPD or Integrated Lean Project Delivery.  This uses not only a collaborative approach to projects, but also uses the Last Planner System and Lean concepts to eliminate waste, focus on adding value, and continuously improving.  Everyone on the project signs an integrated form of agreement that commits to shared risk and reward and cooperation throughout the project.

This is a very good concept that is getting a lot of attention.  There are incredible success stories and stories of unmitigated disasters that have used the IPD model.  So what is the secret sauce?  What contributes to success as opposed to failure?  My gut feeling is that the people dimension of this process is a critical factor to its success.  Take a look at the typical emotional profile for a large group of folks (over 500) who manage the construction process:

average EQ for third edition-graph only

 

As you can see, the relatively high scores are self-regard, independence, assertiveness, stress tolerance, and reality testing (black/white thinkers).  The relatively low scores are impulse control, flexibility, emotional self-awareness, empathy, interpersonal relationships, and social responsibility (the ability to work in groups and teams).  This is a bell curve distribution, so 100 is the mean.  Let’s put it this way.  This group of construction managers couldn’t get any of the interpersonal skills to the mean.  That means that all of the interpersonal skills are BELOW AVERAGE!

This does not bode well for collaborative project delivery methods.  We must address these emotional competencies first.  Then, we must cultivate the relationships and create trust.  Then, and only then, can we properly plan the project.  We have a program called Beyond Partnering.  We developed it because we found that our leadership programs created a lot of trust and close relationships that increased the effectiveness of project teams.  So we do our normal program spread out over time, we just do it in the context of a project.  The tag line for Beyond Partnering is “You have to build the people before you build the project.”  If you would like more information on this approach, email me and I will send you our Beyond Partnering outline.


The Secret of Life: What ONE THING should I focus on?

June 5, 2015

Meditation illustration

“Meditation is a way for nourishing and blossoming the divinity within you.” ― Amit Ray

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.  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.

Harvard Medical School recently completed a study on mediation.  The study published in May in a prestigious medical journal showed that one session of relaxation-response practice was enough to enhance the expression of genes involved in energy metabolism and insulin secretion and reduce expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress.  This means that meditation actually helps prevent autoimmune diseases and inflammation that is linked to many diseases.

As if that weren’t cool enough, regular mediation actually lengthens the telomeres on our genes.  These shoelace-like structures shorten with age.  So meditation is a bonafide way to reverse the aging process!

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.

I have created a guided meditation CD that takes you through a progressive relaxation followed by visualizations.  If you are interested, you can contact my Executive Assistant, Casey at casey@brentdarnell.com.  We should have it on the store on brentdarnell.com very soon, but we can find a way to get it to you if you are interested.

You can also check out my book, Stress Management, Time Management, and Life Balance for Tough Guys if you want more information:

http://www.amazon.com/Stress-Management-Time-Balance-Tough/dp/0979925843/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1318936277&sr=8-2

Let me know if you want to learn more about meditation and the various techniques.


Things I Learned at the Groundbreaking Women in Construction Conference

May 7, 2015

Celebration Community Cheerful Happiness Success Concept

“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities” ― Stephen R. Covey

 

Yesterday I was on a panel discussion at the ENR Groundbreaking Women in Construction Conference in New York.  It was a great experience for me.  A couple of things that really stuck out:

1.  This was the first time EVER that I was in the minority.  And I mean THE MINORITY!  There were probably five men there out of 300 attendees.  It was a very different feeling.  I never felt out-of-place really, but I did feel outnumbered.  It was a little intimidating.  I finally felt what it must be like for women and minorities at a normal construction conference filled with mostly middle-aged, white men.

2.  I experienced bathroom discrimination for the first time.  I say that with tongue planted firmly in my cheek.  How many times do we men sail in and out of the bathroom at intermission or the seventh inning stress while the line at the women’s bathroom snakes around the corner for miles?  There were so many women and so few men that they actually put a sign over the men’s restroom that said “WOMEN ONLY”.  I had to go down two floors to use the bathroom.  What a shift in perspective.  Women probably get really frustrated by those long lines and think to themselves, “When are the mostly male architects going to wake up and put in twice as many stalls in the women’s bathrooms?”

3.  Women interact differently than men, at least in construction and engineering.  Men will gather and greet with a cool confidence.  The interactions are low-key and low energy and the topic of conversation is mostly about business.  When a large group of women interact, the energy is amazing!  It is palpable.  The room is buzzing!  They are animated and talking and exchanging business cards and discussing lots of different things, including non-business topics.

4.  Women have some of the same issues as men.  There are some difference such as childcare that are quite different for men and women, but what I took away was that the skills for a woman to be successful in the construction industry are exactly the same skills that men need.  It’s just in a different context and should be taught in a slightly different way to address their specific needs.  Leadership, presence, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence skills are at least a part of those success factors.  Individuals will likely just be working on different areas.

I look forward to more of these kinds of conferences and hope that other industry organizations will reach out and invite this group to the table.  They deserve a seat at that table.

Check out my ENR Viewpoint article on diversity:

CLICK HERE

 


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 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.

 


How to Create Harmony on Your Projects, in Your Workplace, and in Your Life

January 22, 2015

children world

“Be kind to everyone you meet. Everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” Philo

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Sherwin B. Nuland:

“When you recognize that pain — and response to pain — is a universal thing, it helps explain so many things about others, just as it explains so much about yourself. It teaches you forbearance. It teaches you a moderation in your responses to other people’s behavior. It teaches you a sort of understanding. It essentially tells you what everybody needs. You know what everybody needs?

Everybody needs to be understood.

And out of that comes every form of love.  If someone truly feels that you understand them, an awful lot of neurotic behavior just disappears — disappears on your part, disappears on their part. So if you’re talking about what motivates this world to continue existing as a community, you’ve got to talk about love… And my argument is it comes out of your biology because on some level we understand all of this. We put it into religious forms. It’s almost like an excuse to deny our biology. We put it into pithy, sententious aphorisms, but it’s really coming out of our deepest physiological nature.”

So, as Covey put it, “First seek to understand.”  I can’t tell you how powerful this is.  In most cases, in most places (work, home, projects), we want to convince, to cajole, to overpower, to make our argument, to “win”. We are convinced we are “right” and the other person is “wrong”.  But if you have the strength and compassion to first understand the other person, you will be amazed at how the situation will right itself and you will maintain harmony.