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.

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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


How to Improve Your Relationships by Increasing Your Oxytocin

January 23, 2015


Oxytocin is an amazing hormone.  It is called the “cuddle” hormone and is secreted by mothers and babies when mothers are breastfeeding.  It is also released during orgasm and when we have basic human contact with others.  From handshakes to pats on the back to massage, that human touch starts the production of oxytocin.  It gives us that feeling of warmth and connection.  We naturally mirror the emotions of the person sitting across from us.  Mirror neurons in our brains fire without any conscious thought.  Emotions are, indeed, contagious from a  physiological point of view.  Try this experiment.  Get a partner and try not to show any emotion.  Then ask them to put a great big, genuine smile on their face.  What happens? Your mirror neurons kick in and you WANT to smile.  It’s involuntary and automatic.  Can you look at the following photo and not smile?

Think of the power of that connection and what you can do to affect it during your next encounter with another human being.

There was a study done where men sorted pictures of angry faces.  Normally this triggers a response in the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain.  These negative faces trigger a negative emotional response.  But they took half the men and had them inhale oxytocin.  The other half  inhaled a placebo.  The men who inhaled the oxytocin showed far less activity in the amygdala and far less negative emotions.

So, short of breastfeeding, how do we boost our own levels of oxytocin? There are no supplements or foods that naturally boost this amazing hormone.  But there are some things we can do.

1.  Smile.  Smiling not only releases lots of good hormones in your body, including oxytocin, it will excite the mirror neurons of the person sitting across from you.  They will be much more likely to “catch” your emotion that you are sending them.

2.  Make an emotional connection.  Ask the person how they are truly feeling.  Try to empathize with their situation.  Show real concern.  Remember, treat everyone kindly because we are all fighting epic battles.  This concern for another human being starts the oxytocin pumping.

3.  Reach out and touch someone.  What do they do every two hours to premature babies?  They hold them and feed them.  Humans need human touch.  One story from a Romanian orphanage tells of a child that survived in a room full of kids because he was near the door.  As the attendant turned out the light and shut the door, she touched the kid on her way out.  He was the only one that made it out alive and owes his life to human touch.  So look for appropriate ways to impart touch to someone else.  Ken Blanchard talks about the literal pat on the back.  Take every opportunity to give a good, warm, open, inviting handshake (and it won’t hurt to smile while you do it).  Hugs are also great things and I find myself hugging more, even in business settings.

4.  Send love.  I know this sounds a little esoteric, but emotions create energy and that energy will affect the outcome of any situation. So if you put yourself in a good emotional state of love or even a state of positive thinking, the people across from you will pick up on that energy and it will affect them and the outcome.  I have found that this works even with the most hard boiled people and the most contentious situations.

If you try these ways to increase oxytocin and improve your relationships, you will find that people will be much more receptive and open.  I would love to hear about your experiments with this approach.  Post here or let me know via email.

 


Beyond Partnering: How to Create High Performing Teams on Projects

November 13, 2014

blue angels

 

Traditional partnering sessions are a waste of time and money. Period. I have developed a methodology that goes beyond the traditional partnering session and contributes to the success of all of the project stakeholders and the project. Here is the step-by-step process:

  1. We start with an introduction to emotional intelligence and the basics of beyond partnering. Everyone learns what emotional intelligence is, how it can be measured and improved, and how it relates to project and personal success. We also introduce the concept of physical well-being and the mind-body connection and how it affects emotional, physical, and mental performance, which contribute to project success.
  2. Project team members take the EQi 2.0 evaluation and Symptom Survey (physical evaluation). We will take the project team through their results and how it affects team dynamics, communication, stress management, relationships, and ultimately, personal, professional, and project success.
  3. Each project team member will create their own personal, professional, health, and project goals. While we are in this process, it’s a good time to focus on areas in the project stakeholders’ lives that they want to change-finances, health, a new hobby, quitting smoking, eating better, etc. We will take the group through project goals so that everyone is clear on the overall goals and how their personal goals and company goals tie into this entire process. We will also discuss the basics of communication, roles, and responsibilities for each project stakeholder and company. We will set metrics for project success and measure these throughout the project.
  4. This preliminary work will give participants a better understanding of themselves, their limitations, and what to work on. We also do some initial exercises to set a baseline. One is called the Four Quadrants. Participants divide a piece of flip chart paper into four quadrants and label them family, this project, personal, and future vision. At the top, they put their name and their favorite piece of music. At the bottom, they put some of their challenges for the project, personally, and professionally. This is a great exercise. It breaks down barriers and creates a lot of emotional threads among the participants. We keep this information for each individual forever so we can check in occasionally to see what has changed.
  5. We also have them write a letter to themselves dated the last day of the project that lists all of their accomplishments that they have attained as a result of the program as well as the results of the project. This future diary plants all of their accomplishments and project success in their subconscious so that even if they aren’t thinking about them consciously, they are still working on them. Recently, we have given the participants the option of making a mind movie, which is a visual future diary.
  6. There is much accountability built into this process.  We have cross function accountability partners.  For instance, the architect representative might be the accountability partner of a contractor’s project manager.  The owner’s representative might be the accountability partner of a superintendent.  They hold each other accountable throughout the course of the project.
  7. We also teach everyone how to coach each other.  There is a simple methodology where project stakeholders perform peer-to-peer coaching and group coaching, using the project as a backdrop and catalyst to help each other attain all of their goals and overcome any issues.
  8. We determine the group scores and address any group developmental needs as well as the project needs.
  9. We deliver learning modules spread throughout the project on various topics such as team-building, innovation, communication, relationships, stress management, time management, presentation skills, etc.  We create an atmosphere of learning, not an atmosphere of training. We also use the latest studies in neuroscience that tells us how people learn and retain information. We involve as many of the senses as possible during the learning process. We utilize reflective learning continually because repetition creates retention. We reflect each week we meet upon personal success and project success and measure the metrics that we have designated to determine progress.  These learning modules may also include areas specific to the project or group such as business strategies and vision. The programs we provide are truly customized to each individual, to each group, and to each company, and each project. And with minimal lecture and self-directed, experiential learning, activity-based learning, each program is truly unique.  This ongoing learning and checking in ensures success of individuals and the project.
  10. It is our experience that these leadership programs that we do for individual companies create a lot of closeness and trust and high performing teams.  We have taken the outcome and now applied it to projects.  When we apply this same methodology to projects, we create high performing teams and successful projects that go beyond partnering.

 


Top Questions about Emotional Intelligence and the Construction Industry – Answered! Part 4

October 23, 2014

EQ IQIsn’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 teambuilding, 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 Questions about Emotional Intelligence and the Construction Industry – Answered! Part 3

October 16, 2014

EQ IQCan 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 EQ 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 three or four weeks to check on their progress, offer encouragement, and provide coaching. We also do at least one 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 every few weeks, 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®. 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.

Even if the scores from the EQ-i® do not increase; there still can be some very useful information for the participant. Annelise, a purchasing manager from Denmark, decided to work on her social responsibility, which was relatively low. Eleven months later, at the end of the program, when she took the EQ-i® again, she found that her social responsibility score was even lower. Interestingly enough, her self-actualization, happiness, and optimism had increased dramatically.

When we discussed these numbers, I asked her why she chose to work on social responsibility. She told me that she believed that it was the right thing to do, that she thought her family and friends wanted her to spend more time with them. I asked her if she had spent more time with family and friends in an effort to increase her social responsibility. She replied that she had not. She told me that work had been particularly hectic, and she had been working non-stop since the beginning of the program. She usually worked alone rather than in groups or teams. She also indicated that she felt a little guilty for working so much.

I asked her if she enjoyed working and she responded by saying that it was the most important thing in her life. She loved the challenge and felt that the company needed her during this particularly difficult period, which made her feel valued and important. That was the reason for her significant increases in self-actualization, happiness, and optimism. I suggested that perhaps this second evaluation revealed that during this period in her life, her work, which gave her great joy, was something that she would do well to focus on. In addition, since she worked alone, this way of working did not contribute to increasing her social responsibility. This conversation was a great relief to her. Perhaps all she needed was permission to enjoy her work life without guilt. So, in this case, although the competency she had originally chosen decreased, the results of the second EQ-i® gave us some real insights into the direction she wanted for her personal and professional life.

To sum up, people do learn about themselves and shift behaviors that are troubling by working on specific emotional competencies.  They actually learn these emotional skills, which are not only reflected in the numbers on the re-test, but in the comments of accountability partners who have actually seen the changes.


Things My Dog Taught Me: Forgive the Little Things (And They Are All Little Things)

March 13, 2014

foirgiveness
Forgiveness is a tricky thing.  You don’t want to be taken advantage of.  You don’t want people to walk all over you.  So the tendency is to hold onto things.  Hold that grudge.  That person was WRONG!  They should not have treated me that way!  All of these arguments may be true.  But what are the consequences of this attitude?  Does this attitude make your life better?

In Eastern philosophies, the concept of anger toward someone else is addressed in many different ways.  One of my favorite sayings is, “Being angry at someone else is like taking poison and hoping that they will die.”  That anger, that resentment, that storm of negative emotions only hurts one person.  You.  It rarely hurts the other person.  Many times, they don’t know or understand your attitude toward them.  

Dogs have this down pretty well.  They don’t hold grudges.  They don’t hold onto anger.  If you have a negative reaction to your dog because they have chewed up your great American novel, the next time you enter your house, they are right there with their tail wagging, acting as if you had been gone for a month.  They aren’t plotting against you.  They don’t wait until you apologize or make amends before they love you again.  They just forgive.

Forgiveness isn’t easy sometimes.  But the rewards for forgiveness are immense.  It makes you a healthier person.   It makes your relationships better.  If there is someone in your life that you are having trouble forgiving, contact them now and make it right.  Lift that weight of anger off of your shoulders and forgive.  You’ll be glad you did.