Diversity: It’s Not What You Think

August 10, 2017

When I start talking to the mostly white male audiences about diversity, many think the following:

  1.  I’m calling them racists and misogynists.
  2.  I want them to blindly hire more women and minorities with no regard to talent or skill.
  3.  I want them to admit their sins and repent.

None of these are true.  In fact, my focus on diversity has very little to do with women and minorities.  Don’t get me wrong, the AEC industry needs more women and minorities.  It not only will make us stronger and better with more diverse ideas, it will go a long way to solve the current workforce development crisis.  We’re currently driving away millions of women and minorities because they don’t see the opportunities.  Take a look at most boards and C suites.  It’s mostly white males.  Take a look at middle and top managers.  Again, mostly white males.  There are few women and minorities coming into the industry and many of the ones who enter don’t stay.

My focus is more about embracing differences of all types.  The lack of women and minorities are just a symptom of a much larger issue.  We are not good at disruptive change and embracing new ways of working.  It shows up in the typical emotional profile for the industry.  As a group, we have high problem solving skills and reality testing (right/wrong thinking) and low flexibility.  This profile indicates a tendency toward control and perfectionism.  Great for specifications and processes.  Not great for innovation, creativity and diversity.

So when you hear the word “diversity”, check it out.  This concept of embracing new ways of doing things and new ideas will propel us into the next decade, and the industry will become stronger, more resilient, more agile, and more innovative.  And the by product of more women and minorities will be icing on the cake.

Our course on diversity and inclusion explores these mental models and biases and gives you tools to be able to overcome them. And our course on innovation and creativity explores how to break down the barriers to innovation in yourself and your company.  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.

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.  

 


Stereotype or Generalization?

August 3, 2017

 

Let’s discuss the difference between stereotype and generalization.  Stereotype is when you react to an individual or group in a certain way based on your values, how you were raised, or your association with a particular group based on education, geographical area, or socio-economic background among others.  A generalization is your reaction to an individual or group based on your past experience with an individual or group.

A few weeks back, we viewed the clip from Up in the Air:

Click here to view

Is George Clooney’s character racist as his young traveling companion expresses?  He says he learned from his mother to stereotype.  He says, “It’s faster”.  His response to the various people in the security line were generalizations.  They was likely based on his past experience.  He likely noticed that many times, the line with mostly Asians tended to go faster.  So he generalized.  Generalizations can help us.  They can protect us.  But they can also set us up to distance ourselves from people or groups that we don’t need to distance ourselves from.

If you were in line at an ATM and the following people were behind you, how would you react to each?

The first one is a Caucasian, male, biker in full regalia, covered with tattoos, wearing dark sunglasses and has a scowl on his face.  The second is a well-groomed, middle-aged, African American man in a suit on a phone call.  The third person is a young, Caucasian man listening to music in headphones, dressed in the latest Hip Hop fashion, baggy pants, ball cap, sunglasses, and lots of bling.  The fourth person is an elegant Hispanic woman in a business suit.  The fifth person is a Caucasian woman dressed in a maid uniform.

What if you changed their race, age, ethnicity, gender, or clothing?  Would your reaction be different?

What comes into your mind when I say the following?:

Female project manager

Minority Contractor

African American Male Project Executive

Indian Female Structural Engineer

Chinese Male Plumbing Contractor

Female Engineer

Pakistani Male Estimator

Grey-haired Engineer

Are there positive and negative generalizations and stereotypes that come into your mind?

How do these mental models affect your interactions with these folks?  Have you generalized to the point where you don’t give the individual a fair shake?

Our course on diversity and inclusion explores these mental models and biases and gives you tools to be able to overcome them. 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.

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.  

 


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.


Are You a Racist?

July 19, 2017

When I made a lunch date with an African American friend of mine, she told me to meet her at 12:00 noon CPT.  For those of you who don’t know what CPT is, you can Google it.  This refers to the cultural stereotype that African Americans tend to show up late.  Is this racist?  I submit to you that it is not.  First, let’s go through some definitions.  Stereotypes are assumptions made about a group of people that is not based on personal experience.  Generalizations are assumptions made about a group of people that is based on personal experience.  Because you have that experience, you have a tendency to generalize a certain characteristic about everyone in that group.  Take a look at the following clip from the movie, Up in the Air:

From the movie, Up in the Air

The young person in the clip tells George Clooney’s character that his stereotyping of people in line for airport screenings is “racist”.  He says he learned from his mother to stereotype because it is “faster”.  Is he racist?  Would the line with people with children, older people, and people who look Middle Eastern have moved slower?  Does this justify his stereotyping? He doesn’t hate these people because of who they are, he has simply learned from past experience which line usually moves the quickest.

I have been exploring these issues over the past year during the creation of my latest online course on diversity and inclusion in the AEC (Architecture/Engineering/Construction) industry.  The basis of this course is that we all have biases.  All of us.  Without exceptions.  Based on our past experiences, our upbringing, where we are from, our social networks, our religious background, and our world view, we all have biases.  The course focuses on recognizing those biases and doing our best to overcome them. And having biases does not necessarily make you racist or misogynist or misandrist or homophobic.

You can determine your unconscious biases by taking various IATs (Implicit Association Test).  It’s available online for many different groups including African American, Muslims, and women.  Through your response times for incongruent photos and associations, the test determines if you have unconscious bias.  Google Project Implicit IAT to take these tests.  It is a good place to start recognizing your unconscious biases.  This is the first step.

The second step is to start having these meaningful discussions around race and gender and other stereotypes and generalizations.  I have been teaching these diversity and inclusion classes in a live format and one common response from the mostly white male audience is that they “don’t see color”.  I’m sure they are trying to be nice and I’m sure they are sincere.  The only issue is that this type of response shuts down the dialogue that needs to be spoken.  A young African American male in the AEC industry can have a very different experience than a young Caucasian male. A female project manager can have a very different experience than a male.  We need to explore these experiences, better understand them, and have some of those difficult discussions about race and gender.  If you are offended by something or having a difficult time because of another’s bias, it is your duty to let this person know, allow them to correct the behavior, move on, and continue to grow through these experiences.

Stay tuned for more discussion on diversity and inclusion in future blogs.

If you want to take a look at this course and the other courses in our Total Leadership Library, click here or email me and I will send you some free demo license keys.

Also, for a free white paper on project success that includes two of my books and another white paper, go to brentdarnell.com/whitepaper

 


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.”


Emotional Intelligence Questions Answered Part 3

February 13, 2017

Angry businessman ready to fightCan emotional intelligence be learned?

Seabiscuit was just a broken down horse incapable of winning until someone saw his potential and developed it through training. It was only then that he became one of the greatest racehorses in the history of racing. The trick is to be able to identify individual potential and develop it with effective techniques. But how do you teach something like empathy? We have developed a methodology targeted for the construction industry called “Emotional Intelligence – Foundation for Your Future”. It was co-developed with Kate Cannon, a pioneer in the field of emotional intelligence.

After the initial EI evaluation and feedback, we begin with a half-day program where each participant creates detailed, individual development plans. The participant targets specific competencies based on their future needs and then chooses development strategies from different categories depending on their learning style. They also create plans for mental and physical peak performance that are tied into their emotional plans focusing on nutrition, exercise, and stress management. We utilize many different types of exercises and development ideas and use various media such as books, fables, movies, television, magazines, operas, plays, and websites.

We also emphasize the day-to-day application of this learning and provide inspirational quotes for each competency. In addition, we build in many levels of accountability. In a group setting, everyone has an accountability partner. They also provide me with accountability partners above them, beside them, below them, family and friends, and clients. After the six month mark, I call these accountability folks to see if they have seen any changes.

These are all powerful ways to keep the learning in the forefront, but the key to this learning is in the follow-up and coaching. We contact individuals every week to check on their progress, offer encouragement, and provide coaching. We also do several face-to-face coaching session during the program. Without this individual coaching and follow-up, the participants tend to set aside their development plans. But if they know they will be re-evaluated and that someone will be checking in with them, they are much more likely to work on their development plans and create fundamental behavioral change from within. One participant said this about the process, “I thought that people are who they are by their mid-twenties. I definitely feel that people are capable of significant change.”

I love to tell the story of Bryan, a superintendent in his late thirties with an anger problem. He told me that this problem had troubled him since he was young, and that if I could help him find a way to control it, he would be most grateful. This issue showed up in his EQ-i 2.0®. He had low emotional self-awareness along with high assertiveness and low impulse control. His low emotional self-awareness didn’t allow him to feel himself getting angry, and eventually, with his low impulse control, it just boiled over.

The first thing we did was work on his emotional self-awareness. I suggested that he try to become aware of where he felt anger in his body and identify it as early as possible. We also worked on basic breathing and meditation techniques along with centering techniques to help with his impulse control.

I gave him a book to read and told him that it may be a little “out there”for him, but to try and find something he could relate to. In the process of reading the book, he found a centering technique that worked for him. He created a focal point by putting a photograph of his two small girls on his mobile phone. When he felt himself getting frustrated, (with greater emotional self-awareness, he felt it in his body), he excused himself from the situation, took ten deep breaths, flipped open his phone, and looked at his little girls. This allowed him to decompress and control his anger.

In his words, “Leaving a bad situation, even briefly, has allowed me to not act in anger or impulsively.” He improved his emotional management and changed his behavior, making him a more effective leader. With this shift, he has learned to listen more without being so reactive. He told me that the people who work with him have noticed these changes. As he puts it, “Listening, not reacting to people I encounter has led to a more positive approach to my professional life.” In addition to improved leadership skills, there has also been an improvement in his mental and physical performance. He is less stressed and better able to handle difficult situations without compromising his health.

The first course in our Total Leadership Library is an introduction to emotional intelligence where learners take our Ghyst EI test and create detailed development plans that create positive, lasting change.  Check out the Total Leadership Library and what we offer at:

http://www.brentdarnell.com/tll-online-courses


Emotional Intelligence Questions Answered Part 2

February 6, 2017

construction problems

Is there a correlation between emotional intelligence and performance?

I facilitated a program for a top 100 contractor based in the southern United States using emotional intelligence as a foundation for leadership development. After the managers were evaluated, I ranked their interpersonal scores (empathy, social responsibility, and interpersonal relationship skills) from the highest to the lowest. This company had their own ranking system in order to identify their star performers, the ones who contributed most to the success of the company. The astonishing fact was that the company’s overall ranking and the ranking of interpersonal skills correlated almost one-to-one. This told us that the managers who had the best interpersonal skills were also the company’s stars. They were the managers involved in the most profitable projects who contributed the most to the company’s bottom line.

Multi-Health Systems has a program called Star Performer where companies look at the EQ-i® profiles of their star performers for particular departments or positions and determine with statistical accuracy which emotional competencies are essential for high performance. Then it is just a matter of recruiting, hiring, and training for those competencies. The drawback to this approach is in the performance criteria, which must be objective. For sales, performance is objective and clear. For project managers, it is less clear. You may have a high performer that loses $100,000 on a project that would have lost $1 million. Or you may have a low performer that makes $500,000 on a project that was supposed to make $1 million.

But if you can decide on some fairly objective performance criteria, it soon becomes clear which emotional competencies are required for that level of performance.  And think about where the industry is going.  Project delivery methods are moving toward more collaborative environments:  IPD, ILPD, LEAN, Design Build, Design Assist.  With these more collaborative methods, it takes a different set up skills to be successful. According to a recent ENR article, the Construction Industry Institute recently did a study and found that “working relationships and team dynamics have emerged as the leading variables affecting the cost and schedule of industrial projects, according to a research report from the Construction Industry Institute.  If you want a high level of performance on your projects, perhaps it is time to start paying attention to your project teams’ emotional intelligence.