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March 29, 2012
Leadership does not just happen; it’s an individual choice. Once a person has made a commitment to follow that path, it’s necessary to create an environment in the organization in which he or she can succeed.
To start, leaders in the construction industry must know how to build. Construction companies should create continuing education opportunities so their employees become experts in the technical aspects of the construction trade to deliver work at the level of quality specified; are efficient at managing the construction process to deliver the project on time and within budget; and deploy best-in-class methods to deliver the project without any safety incidents.
Construction leaders create value. They are good negotiators and contract administrators. They understand all the rules and regulations and how to comply. They understand how their clients define success and, in turn, design the best service so their company is seen as more valuable and therefore selected to win and build the client’s projects.
High-performing organizations are clear on what their value proposition is in the marketplace. They are excellent at articulating why they are different from their competitors. Involving and educating the team of employees in this process is a best practice for developing leaders. Leaders create the conditions for others to win. If organizations are helping their clients win, they will win too.
Another best practice in developing construction leaders is to put them in charge of a project and mentor them on what it takes to be the best they can be. This exercise will result in both successes and failures. The successes will build employees’ confidence, and the areas where they fail serve as opportunities to learn.
High-performing organizations define the desired behaviors expected of the team. Good leaders are trustworthy and have good character. A trustworthy person can be relied on to stay on task and take complete responsibility for his or her actions. An individual with good character will be a team player, perform his or her duties ethically and follow all the rules, especially when it comes to jobsite safety. The desired behaviors must be rewarded while undesirable behaviors must have consequences.
Each construction project is a dynamic process that involves different team members, contracts, regulations, materials, technology, equipment and schedules. But in the end, the common link is the goal to produce a project that meets or exceeds the owner’s needs. Creating value with the desired behaviors is the challenge that all great leaders take on and deliver through their organizations.
Developing industry leaders doesn’t just result in the construction of safer, more sophisticated projects; it also gives individuals an avenue to achieve their dreams so they can leave a legacy. This could mean a laborer working his way up to company ownership or an apprentice working her way up to senior superintendent on a multi-million dollar project.
Michael D. “Mike” Bellaman has been president/CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors since January 2011.