Are you a Misogynist?

August 23, 2017


On my quest for more diversity and inclusion in the AEC industry, I have focused on women as well as minorities.

The title of the blog is Are You a Misogynist?  Let’s look at the dictionary definition of a misogynist:  a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.

I’ve been in the AEC industry a long time, and I don’t think I’ve ever met a true misogynist.  I’m not saying they don’t exist. I’m saying I never met one.  From my point of view, most of the mistakes the men make with women in the industry are because of a typical emotional profile which includes high self-regard, assertiveness, and independence and low emotional self-awareness, empathy, and impulse control.  With this combination of emotional skills, men may say or do inappropriate things and most of the time, do not even realize it. The profile also contributes to biases men may have toward women.

This is not an excuse, simply data that we can’t ignore.  Part of our diversity and inclusion training includes emotional intelligence training and mindfulness, which helps these white males to be present in those moments, fully understand the reactions of others, truly understands when things get off track, and make adjustments for better outcomes through meaningful dialogue.  Although this isn’t a total solution, many of these issue concerning women in the AEC industry can be made better through emotional self-awareness and emotional management.

Women have a tough time in the industry.  They have to walk a very fine line between assertiveness and empathy.  If they are too assertive, they are labeled a bitch.  If they are too empathetic, they are dismissed.  Most men don’t have to deal with this dilemma and are not aware that their experience of working in the industry might be different than a woman’s. Many white men tend to pull out the performance card.  If you are a high performer, you will rise in your career no matter what your gender or skin color.  This is an excellent thought, but with personal biases (conscious and unconscious), and the current culture of the industry, and based on several key studies, the reality is that women and minorities don’t get the same opportunities.  This is really coming out now in the tech industry with the debacles at Uber and Google.

I hear women in the industry discuss the likability/credibility dilemma and that fine line between the two.  Carol Bartz, the former CEO of Autodesk and Yahoo, was asked at a recent women in construction conference about this likability/credibility issue and which was most important.  She responded as only Carol Bartz could.  She said, “If I had to chose one, it would be credibility.  But if you’re an asshole, you lose credibility pretty quickly.”

I put out a survey with the following question:  As a woman in the AEC industry, what is your biggest challenge? The number one answer?:  Lack of respect.  I have worked with a woman who has a PhD from MIT in Civil Engineering, and she is still treated like an administrative assistant on some of her projects.

Let’s do a quick experiment.  If you are a white male, what comes to mind when I say Woman Project Manager?  If your mental image is filled with reservations or negative thoughts, then it’s probably time to take a look at yourself and work on your biased thinking.  Does this make you a misogynist?  That is for you to decide.  But how you define yourself is less important than what you do with your bias.

If you are a white male, I challenge you to address any biases that you have toward women in the AEC industry and promote and support them as best you can.  If we aren’t able to elevate more women into higher management positions, the women coming into the industry will continue to leave after a short period of time.  If you were a woman, would you stay if you saw no opportunities for advancement?

One more note:  The one point of discussion at all three of the women in construction conferences I’ve attended is how women sometimes undermine each other instead of supporting each other.  It seems there is such a thing as women who are biased against other women. So, women out there, especially those in leadership positions, it’s up to you to overcome any biases that you may have and help to promote other women in the industry.

Our course on diversity and inclusion explores these mental models and biases and gives you tools to be able to overcome them. If you want even more resources on emotional intelligence and all of the critical people skills your folks need to succeed, click here  for information on our online courses called The Total Leadership Library.

If you want more free information and resources, download my white paper that includes two of my bestselling books and another white paper on how to build the people before you build the project.  Click here to download the white paper.  





On Death and Dying

July 9, 2015

Friends & Family Photo24 copy

“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” ― Shannon L. Alder


This is my mom with two of my brothers.  That’s me on her lap.  Mom is dying.  We’re not sure when this will happen exactly, but the decline is accelerating.  I know that sounds really sad.  And there is sadness when some someone you love leaves this earth.  But there is also a sense of celebration.  Mom has been suffering from Dementia/Alzheimer’s the past few years and she has gradually left us over time.  A decade ago, mom was vibrant and alive.  She was loud and brash and bigger than life. She loved life, and yet she was a paradox. She could be difficult and angry and she could also be extremely warm and funny.  She never met a stranger.   She was and is loved by many. The Dementia has softened her, weathered her, and made her quiet and content.  Now that her time is near, she is gentle and easy, not in any pain.  She professes to be happy and she professes love.  She still lights up whenever me or my brothers walk into the room.  She knows us.  She knows that we love her and she knows that she loves us.

I had a realization that although this is very sad for us, there is reason to rejoice.  She will transition into what we all believe to be a better place where she will be coherent and free and connected with those who have gone before her.  We are asking all who knew her to think of a time when she made them laugh.  Think of one of the many jokes that she told so well.  Tootie Green comes to mind, or when she would sing, “She’s got freckles on her but she is pretty”.  Think of a time when she opened her house to you and let you stay without question or judgment.  Think of the time that she served a wonderful meal.  Think of how she decorated her house for every holiday. Think of her at work having fun and creating a sense of play.  Think of her as she was in your mind, share a story about her, and send those positive thoughts her way as she transitions into the next wonderful place.


A Waitress and a Lesson in Gratitude

November 29, 2014

waitressI published this previously, but wanted to post it again during Thanksgiving week:

I was in a small town in North Carolina.  I had taken a week to write up in the mountains, and a good friend of mine kindly gave me his luxurious cabin just for that purpose.  I lost an entire day of writing due to a Mac freeze up, so I decided to get out of the cabin and enter the small town of Sparta for a meal.  I pulled into the place that was the most packed.  It was a small diner.  I sat down with the regulars and decided what to order.  The waitress was very friendly and nice.  She asked me how I was and took my order.  I asked her how she was doing.  She said she was fine.  Then, she waited on the couple behind me, who appeared to be regulars.  When they asked about how she was, she told them that her dad was in the hospital recovering from triple bypass surgery.  She went to the hospital yesterday to see her dad and be there for the surgery.  She also told them about her dad’s initial visit to the hospital when he was having chest pains and shortness of breath.  She said that when they asked him what he was doing there, he told them that he just wanted a flu shot.  They laughed.  They actually laughed.  She told the couple that he had such blockages in his arteries that they scheduled him for surgery immediately.

I kept eavesdropping.  The surgery went well and her dad was in the ICU recovering.  They may be able to move him into a room by tomorrow.  The couple told her that it must be hard to be at work while her dad is in the hospital.  She told them that it was very hard because she is such a “daddy’s girl”, and she was really worried about him.  But she added that the bills didn’t stop just because her dad had triple bypass.  She had to work.  She had no choice.

It made me think really hard about my circumstances.  I think I’m the luckiest human being on the face of this earth.  If my mom was in the hospital, I could take off as much as I wanted to be able to be with her.  Don’t get me wrong. Having my own business has its challenges.  I remember a time when I borrowed $80,000 against the house to be able to stay in business.  Those were scary times.  But lately, the blessings have been almost too much.  Work is booming and there are opportunities for more work in the future.  Finances are looking good and I don’t have to worry so much any more.  I wanted to leave her a big tip, but I didn’t want to come across as a creepy old man.  So I left a tip on the table of the couple behind me.

So no matter what is going on in your life, I encourage you to stop and take inventory.  Count your blessings and see where you are.  Reach out to those who are struggling and help them if you are able.  We have to take care of each other.  If you would like to share your story of gratitude or helping someone else, I would love to hear it.

Zen and the Art of Dementia

September 25, 2014


Scan 2014-8-21 0019-1


There are many horrible things about dementia and my mother’s mental and physical decline.  She can’t walk any more.  She sleeps most of the day.  She can’t remember things.  She still remembers me and my brothers, but can’t remember details of her life and the other people in it.  She can’t carry on detailed conversations any more.   That is the downside of dementia.

But there is something else that we are experiencing with this decline.  With dementia comes a send of mindfulness.  Mom is totally in the moment.  She is not worrying about the future or dwelling on the past.  Each week, my brothers and I meet for brunch, then stop by Quick Trip to buy Mom an ice cream.  When we arrive, she is so happy to see us.  Genuinely happy.  In the moment.   There are still glimpses of the mother I grew up with, and those glimpses are always “in the moment” moments.

She still can be very funny, cracking jokes here and there, playing off something that we said.  Mom and Dad were always having fun.  Check out the picture to the left.  When she eats her ice cream, she is totally focused on it, telling us how good it is and savoring every bite.  She eats it like a child with simplicity and full engagement.

But the most astounding in the moment moment is when there is music in the air.  There is a church group that comes once a month to her assisted living place, and they always start with several hymns.  When they try to hand Mom a hymn book, we tell them that she doesn’t need it.  She knows every word to every verse to every hymn they sing.  Of course, she grew up in the church and played piano for years.  And that part of her brain is completely intact.  When the music starts, she is completely in the moment, singing not only the words, but the harmony.  Wow!

I could dwell on the loss of Mom’s memory and her physical decline or I could be in the moment with her and cherish those “in the moment” moments.  It’s a decision.  And this not only goes for my time with her.  This goes for all of the folks I come into contact with every single day.  Are you in the moment, fully engaged, fully present with the people you come into contact with?  Or are you checking your phone, your texts, Facebook, email, or some other technology that only pulls you away from the present?  The choice is definitely yours.

Never Underestimate the Impact You Have On Others Part 2

September 18, 2014

sad man


I heard the news this week that a friend of mine from high school had died.  His name was Terry Bryson.  In high school, Terry was teased a lot.  He looked like Barney Rubble from the Flintstones, so everyone called him Barney Bryson.  He hated that.  He would get angry.  He would lash out.  He started drinking heavily in high school.  I saw him drunk at parties on more than one occasion.  That’s what killed him.  At the end of his life, he was homeless and living under a lifeguard stand on a beach in Florida.  The authorities said that is was death by alcohol.  Although I wasn’t close to him, I was deeply saddened.

It made me think.  I felt ashamed that I had teased him along with the others.  I don’t blame myself for his death.  Everyone has choices.  But I keep wondering if someone had showed him some kindness, if someone had made a connection with him, if someone had taken some interest in him, would his life have turned out differently?  Simple phrases like “You’re not good at math.” or “You’re not very pretty.” or “You’ll always have big hips.” can shape how we think about ourselves and how we interact with the world.  So again, I ask you the question, “What impact are you making on the people you encounter every day?”  Do you lift them up, encourage them, help them move on from a difficult time?  Or do you criticize? Make fun?  Show them anger?

This is one of those things that is simple, but not easy.  We all have bad days and we all have our stuff and we all get off track and trample our fellow man at times.  But you can get back on track.  You can turn this around.  You can create impacts that have ripple effects far beyond what you can ever imagine.  And all it takes is one positive encounter with another human being.  Go forth and find that person today.


Never Underestimate the Impact That You Have on Others

August 21, 2014


Recently I received the following in a Linked In message:  “Just wondering what you are up to these days. It’s over 11 years since our session in Callaway Gardens, which I still remember as fundamentally life-changing. Since then, I have faced many challenges, and I fall back on those lessons-learned fairly often (perhaps too often!)  Regards,  John”  The name has been changed to protect the person’s identity.

Wow!  That was 11 years ago and this person is still deriving value from our few days together in a program.  Those small life lessons, those kind words, those insights have stuck with him, and changed his outlook and responses to life’s ever-changing landscape.

The opposite is also true.  My wife, Andrea, was told by one of her teachers that she “wasn’t a science person”.  That stuck with her.  She never thought she was good at science and became a counselor.  Years later, she went to Life Chiropractic and became a chiropractor, and has been practicing for over 30 years. She is an amazing chiropractor and heads up the part of our leadership programs that focus on physical well-being and performance.  Chiropractic is highly technical and you have to remember minute details of human anatomy and physiology.  And she did it despite her teacher’s ludicrous proclamation.  Imagine if he had told her that with some hard work and effort, she could be amazing at science and that she could be anything that she desired to be?  What would the outcome have been?  Andrea overcame that assessment of her and has done very well.  But what about all of those people out there that have been beaten down by authority figures, parents, and teachers?  What untapped potential are we destroying with our words?

Words are very powerful.  Choose them carefully.  You can either build people up and set the foundation for a future that is full of possibilities or you can tear people down and set the tone for their life that diminishes their potential and who they are as human beings.  So, make up your mind today to take every opportunity to build people up and increase their potential.  Together, we can create a world where everyone is valued for their unique talents.  Together, we can help to unlock the limitless potential that is in every human being.

How to Create Sustainable Change: Have a Plan A, B and C

July 10, 2014

changeAt the beginning of our programs, all participants create development plans.  Many times these plans are grand in nature.  I’ve seen things like “I’m going to run a marathon.”  or “I’m going to do an Iron Man Triathlon.”  or “I’m going to work out EVERY DAY!”  These are amazing goals to have.  And I applaud these participants for allowing themselves to dream big.  At the same time, some of these folks are starting from nothing.  They are doing no exercise at all and yet their goal is to do an Iron Man.  For those folks, we tell them to start small and always have a plan A, B, and C.

Plan A may be to train for the Iron Man.  Plan B may be to run three times a week.  Plan C may be to walk every day for 10 minutes at lunch.  Another example is:  Plan A is to work out every day.  Plan B is to work out three times per week.  Plan C is to do 25 push ups in the morning.  While these lofty goals are admirable, sometimes they can be discouraging.  When the participants don’t accomplish these goals, they feel like failures.  And they are not failures.

Real, lasting, sustainable change comes from tiny things done consistently.  If you can choose to eat right most days, if you can commit to walk for 10 to 20 minutes most days, if you can commit to meditate or manage your stress well most days, you are going to create some amazing, lasting changes in your life.

So have those lofty goals, and always have a plan B and C to fall back on and do those consistently.