Why Most of Your Projects Suck and How to Un-Suck Them

July 26, 2017

Tracey Kidder said, “Building is the quintessential act of civilization.”  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? There is a link to a white paper and other resources at the end of this blog, but here is a recap:

Step 1: Get as many people involved in the process as soon as possible from owners to facilities folks to end users designers to contractors to trade partners to materials vendors. Get them in a big room.  Build a sense of team and trust and collaboration.  Note:  This cannot be done in a day.  One day “partnering” sessions are a waste of everyone’s time and energy. Lean, IPD, ILPD Design-Build, and other collaborative project delivery methods are perfect for having a framework to achieve this.  Forget IPD-ish.  Just do it!

Step 2:  Make this focus on team, relationships and trust ongoing.  Every meeting should start with the team stuff.  Bring folks in to reinforce team and collaboration and communication and trust throughout the entire project from inception to demolition.

Step 3:  Give everyone tools in order for them to achieve their peak level of mental, physical, and emotional performance.  Think about it.  We throw people in a big pot that has high stakes and crushing stress without any tools and expect them to perform like a well-oiled machine. This is ludicrous.  And they don’t get enough sleep, eat crappy food, and have really poor health habits during a demanding project.  As part of your ongoing team building, have discussions about stress and nutrition and sleep and other things that will inhibit performance.  Give them the tools they need to succeed.  It also creates a sense of connection and team because everyone is looking out for each other and their well-being.

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.  It will give you the tools you need to make your next project a huge success!  Click here to download the white paper.  

And 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.


Emotional Intelligence Questions Answered Part 4

April 11, 2017

collaborationIsn’t this just another management fad?

I have given much thought and introspection to this question. As a matter of fact, I considered this possibility when I first started this work. But after seeing the results and seeing the supporting data, the answer to this question is a resounding NO! The shelves are filled with thousands of self-help books for managers. And many of these books contain good information. So, why do management fads come and go like the tides?

Because there is a fundamental flaw in their application. They pile generic information on top of generic problems without regard to the individual. No matter how good the information is or how valid the approach, without addressing the fundamental emotional makeup of the individual, the application of this information may never take place.

Every company we have worked with agrees that communication is essential in the construction industry. Companies spend millions of dollars on training to give their people better communication skills. But because of the typical EQ profiles of most people in the construction industry, they are often incapable of applying this training. If they have high assertiveness, independence, and self-regard, and low empathy and interpersonal relationship skills, they will likely come across as someone who doesn’t listen, won’t ask for other’s opinions, and does whatever they think is best regardless of any group input. You can put that person in a communication seminar or buy them books to teach them how to communicate, but it is very probable that they will still be unable to communicate effectively when the seminar is over.

If someone has high reality testing and problem solving along with low flexibility and optimism, they may have issues concerning change. This person will have a very rigid approach to life and work. This person can go to a seminar on change management or read a book like Who Moved My Cheese?, but his lack of flexibility usually prevents him from truly embracing change. He will have difficulty in the construction industry because of the constant change, but if his flexibility and optimism are increased, he will be much better able to deal with this issue.

Using emotional intelligence as the foundation for development programs is a different approach. Instead of starting with a particular area of training such as communication or team building, we address the fundamental emotional developmental needs of every individual. Then we address these needs with specific, targeted learning modules. By addressing the emotional competencies first, the participants can develop the emotional makeup to be able to apply the concepts of the learning modules. All future training can be related back to the employees’ emotional intelligence development plans, which also make any subsequent company training more effective.

As Lisa Fanto, the the Vice President of Human Resources for Holder Construction Company put it, “I’ve been in and managed corporate education for a long time, and I’ve seen all of the fads du jour come and go and suffered through many of them. This is the only thing I’ve seen ever in my career that actually changes lives. I know that sounds dramatic, but it does. It actually changes people. And in order to change the way people manage, you have to change the way they live.”


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!

 


Innovation, Part 2: Top 10 Outrageous Ideas for the Construction Industry

February 19, 2015

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“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein

 

 

Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” quote is usually taken out of context.  By “fittest”, he didn’t mean the strongest.  He meant the one who could adapt.  Those are the ones who survive.

The movie, Moneyball, is a great reminder of this concept.  It is the tale of someone who truly thought about how to do things differently.  Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics, wanted to “change the game” of baseball by abandoning the traditional scouting process and use statistical analyses and to find the “right” players to attain the correct number of runs to attain the correct number of wins to attain a playoff slot.  And it worked quite well.  The Athletics won 20 in a row, setting a new baseball record.  There is a downside to the story.  They never won any championships, but they consistently have good teams even though their budgets are 40% less than some other big league team’s budgets.  The ROI on this approach is undeniable.

So how do we think differently about the construction business?  I have a few ideas.  Many of these are not my concepts.  There are companies who do these things already.  But can we find a way to adapt these ideas to this industry and our business?

Here are my top 10 crazy ideas for the construction industry:

10.  Make every employee do anything other than work for one hour a day.  It can be anything from surfing the web to rollerblading.  This gives them some downtime and clears their head for thinking in innovative ways.  Your employees will be more creative, less stressed, and more satisfied.

9.  Put in nap/recharge rooms for employees so that they can restore themselves throughout the day.  There is study after study that shows that this improves the bottom line and the health of your employees.

8.  Let employees bring pets and/or children to work.

7.  Create a ROWE (Results Oriented Work Environment).  Let employees set their own work hours and also self direct as to what they want to work on.  You can set work goals, but not tell them how or when they need to be done.

6.  Collaborate with each other (throughout the industry, even competitors) on best practices for marketing, purchasing, procurement, delivery, etc.  Help each other and share the rewards.  Come from a place of abundance that there is enough work for everyone.

5.  Find as many ways as possible to create a positive emotional experience internally and externally.  Have fun.  Laugh.  Do office chair races, have games in the office.  Give people a sense of purpose.  Your employees should have a blast every single day!

4.  Take the risk.  We are all so risk averse in the industry, it stifles creativity and innovation.  Let it all hang out and innovate like nobody’s business.  Reward it, cultivate it, revel in it.  Don’t condemn ideas that didn’t work.  Go to the next one.  Edison found 999 ways that a light bulb didn’t work before he came up with one that did.

3.  Give employees as much time off as humanly possible during the workweek and for vacation.  Let it be one of your main incentives.

2.  Put some love in everything that you do.  It’s not that serious!  Spread love inside and outside of the company.

1.  Re-brand your company and fill it with spirit.  What does your brand say to your clients?  If you are like most contractors and engineers, it says, “trustworthy”, “reliable”, “stable”, “ethical” and probably a list of very nice words.  First of all, MOST contractor’s and engineer’s brands convey these things.  But these words are a bit stuffy.  Look at most commercials on television for a variety of products and services.  All of them are filled with positive emotions:  Coke:  Open Happiness.  Love:  It’s what makes a Suburu a Suburu.  Harley Davidson doesn’t sell motorcycles.  They sell freedom and independence.  We have really missed the boat in this industry.  The company who figures out how to brand themselves with fun, love, great times, humor, innovation, and creativity will slay the competition.

Owners are starved for this type of approach to building.  Owners will choose you because they like you, trust you, and respect you.  In that order.  You may be saying that it’s all about low price.  But there is a backlash of the low bid mentality.  The only ones making money are the lawyers.  And according to Herb Kelleher, the CEO of Southwest Airlines, those intangibles of spirit are not only a moral imperative, but they are much harder for your competition to replicate.

You may dismiss these ideas.  You may think they are ridiculous.  You may say that there is no way to do any of these in the construction business, especially on projects.  But I can tell you this:  The companies who figure these things out and actually implement these kinds of radical changes and find new ways of working  will dominate the industry.  It may not be the ideas listed above.  You will likely have to adapt and change them to fit company culture and industry standards.  But I can tell you that those who continue to limp along with ideas and concepts that are hundreds, perhaps thousands of years old, are doomed.


Inspire Genius in Yourself and Innovation in Your Company

February 12, 2015

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“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” Albert Einstein

 

You only have two competitive advantages:  Your people and innovation.  And your people are the ones who will be coming up with innovative ways to do things.  Companies must innovate or they may not be around in the near future.  Companies like Google, Apple, Zappos, and Cisco all invest a lot of  time and energy on two things:  1.  Making sure that their people are engaged and excited about what they are doing.  and 2.  Creating an atmosphere of innovation.

How do they do this?  The first thing is to pay attention to the needs of the employees.  They continuously talk to employees about how they appreciate what they do.  Managers walk around and interact and get to know the employees and their passions, likes, dislikes, and motivations.  Secondly, they create a climate where innovation is rewarded.  There are no bad ideas.  Everything is considered.  They don’t negate new ideas.  They embrace everything as a possibility and discuss the options.  They create an environment where people can come together formally and informally to share ideas and thoughts on how business is done and how to make it better.   Employees are taught to silence that inner critic and mangers are taught to say “yes” and “thank you”  instead of “no, but” and “we tried that before and it didn’t work.”  Let me be clear.  “Yes, and . . . ” doesn’t mean that you agree with everything.  “Yes, and . . . ” creates a healthy dialogue of meaningful discussion.

What is the atmosphere at your company?  Is it open to new ideas and innovation?  We all must think very differently to survive in this economy.  Early designers of flying machines used movable wings because it emulated a bird in flight.  But it wasn’t until the paradigm was shifted with fixed wing aircraft that manned flight became possible.  There are artificial hearts that emulate a real heart with chambers and a flow of blood that causes a heartbeat.  But the latest innovation in that arena is an artificial heart with continuous flow.  There is no beat.  It is a simple pump that continuously flows the blood through your body.  This paradigm shift is leading to very efficient and simple artificial hearts.  But it took someone to look at the way things were being done and say, “What if?”

What is your expertise?  What are your people’s talents?  How can you leverage that in a business setting to create new revenue streams?  Don’t think about how you’ve always done business.  Think about what value you and your people bring and see if that is applicable in other areas.  Get a group discussion going and brainstorm this concept.  You never know where it will lead.


Forget About Your People and They Will Certainly Forget About You

January 30, 2015

Big person with small businessman concept

 

It’s all about your people.

This concept may seem trite and redundant and many of you will say, “Duh!”  But I think it bears repeating because during this economic turnaround where companies continue to procure more work, but have not hired back to capacity, we tend to forget that your employees are stretched to capacity.  Even if it is unintentional,  many companies neglect to truly take care of their people.  Employees are busy, they are focused, they are working very hard.  Keep in mind that, as a business owner, many of your hard working people are are likely approaching burnout.   Get up right now and go talk to someone near you.  Ask them how they are doing, and perhaps more importantly, how they are feeling.  Check in with them often and address these issues!

During these stressful times, we crave connection with others, so do everything within your power to create those connections.  The golden rule says to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  We talk about the platinum rule which says,  “Treat others the way that they want to be treated.”  Remember, others may want to be treated differently than you would want to be treated. The platinum rule honors that difference.

Both individuals and companies can focus on ways to create more connections with others. Increase the social activities during work hours and after work hours. Involve the families. Let people know you care. Celebrate the wins. Celebrate the personal milestones of births, anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, and graduations.  Mourn the losses personally and professionally with your people.  Let them know that you not only know about their life, but you care about what happens to them.  If you don’t take these steps, be prepared for a mass exodus.  People will go where they feel cared about and nurtured.  Period.  And if you have leaders in the company who don’t subscribe to this notion of taking care of your people, remember that the number one reason people leave their jobs is because they don’t like their boss.

This isn’t hard to do, but it takes effort and focus.  And the payback can be tremendous!  If you have any success stories with this people approach, please share them.  I would love to post it on the BDI Blog!


Someone called me a thought leader. Go figure.

October 30, 2014

thought leader

 

I was googling around the other day and had a whim.  I always wanted to be a thought leader in the construction industry and wondered if anyone had ever put me in that category.  I typed in “brent darnell thought leader” and a blog actually came up from Carol Hagen.  I think Carol is pretty innovative with her take on what’s going on in the industry and is a thought leader in her own right.  Check out her blog:

http://carolhagen.wordpress.com/tag/thought-leadership/

This will also give you some good links to folks are are truly the thought leaders in the construction industry.  They are the ones on the cutting edge of what the future holds.