For Construction Owners: 10 Perspectives to Take to Heart /03-05-2014

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Since starting the Contractor’s Best Friend I’ve written for leaders but have not yet focused an article on construction company owners. So this week’s article is aimed at them. It’s not that construction leaders might not also benefit from the following perspectives, but I just feel compelled to speak to owners! 

So, without any further admissions of guilt or before I ask forgiveness from the non-owner reader, let me offer some interesting (and perhaps a little surprising) perspectives that can speak to the heart of an owner in this crazy industry we call construction.

10 Perspectives

1. Be careful how much you invest in others with regards to how you really feel about the company, the direction of the company and your leaders. 

Even I have shared in the past the need to be open with leaders -- yet sometimes the best person to know how you really feel about the company, its future and even the leaders themselves…is you!  What you might intend as harmless “getting it off your chest” can do serious harm. Keep your most intimate of thoughts and worries to yourself.

2. Be sure to lead with those at the front lines also.

Don’t depend only on your leadership team to keep the lines of communication open and to maintain solid relationship building.  As any growing contractor knows, it’s harder to maintain that “family” feel with those who might even have started with you when you birthed your company.  You should expect your immediate leadership team to reach “down” to the front line folks but don’t forget about jumping in the hole with them on a regular basis. The folks on your front lines will forever be impressed and remember your visits.

3. Ownership, and the leadership needed, is “24-7.”

The “clock” of ownership never stops…unfortunately.  Be careful what you say and more careful what you write…such as in an e-mail.  Do not send out negative or challenging remarks or thoughts when you are personally down or upset.  Such messages rarely sound the way you intended and it can take weeks, months, even years to gain the forgiveness of those you take to task.  Be tough but don’t be negative!

4. Maintain open ears and a willing heart; be teachable!

Listen, listen, and listen!  As my mom once told me, “God gave you two ears and one mouth…use them in that order and you’ll be fine!”  Owners, listen to everyone you can…even to those who might not always be positive.  In fact, if you can get the negative person to really share her mind, you might not like what you hear but you’re bound to hear something that your immediate reports haven’t told you.  Mingle with the entire work force once or twice a month.

5. Be careful about your use of jokes or trying to be funny; most owners are not as funny as they think.

This isn’t to suggest that you can’t laugh and poke some good-natured fun at others -- but remember that folks can take joking personally.  Without working too hard at it, don’t be afraid to be the “butt of the joke” occasionally.  It’s good for your soul and really good for employees to know that their owner can laugh at himself.

6. Keep yourself, and others, focused on what is really important.

It’s not uncommon for even senior leaders to get a little off track about what is needed during the week.  Keep yourself and others “on point.”  Don’t let early disappointments tempt you and your leaders to begin to look for alternative plans or fast-changing strategies.  Most really good plans need time to mature and must often navigate treacherous waters.  Don’t be slow or timid about explaining your vision, strategy and goals often…even more often!

7. Keep your complaints to yourself.

Complaining owners (and leaders) come across as whiners who are looking for scapegoats.  Don’t be caught complaining to others.  Listen and remain neutral when others bring their complaints to you…especially if you have not heard both sides to the story or situation.  Better to delay responding to a problematic situation than to respond too quickly and then find out that you are wrong. No one wants to listen to a complainer, even if that complainer is the owner.

8. Trust your closest leadership team – but don’t think they are infallible.

You hired or promoted your leadership team so you need to trust them.  However, no one is infallible.  We’re humans and we make mistakes.  Learn to “triangulate” among a few resources including your leaders, statistics, wisdom from the experience of other companies etc.  If your leaders fail you don’t take it out of their hide. Remember, no one is infallible – including you!

9. Start putting “10” or “W” on the foreheads of others.

If owners truly saw the potential for their workers to be a “10” on a scale of “1 – 10” or a “W” for “Winner,” their culture would reflect such positive thinking (not to mention the energy that would be unleashed).  Remember, some of our employees have been put down or criticized by a multitude of others (some of them even during their growing-up years).  The owner who views his or her workers as winners and a “10” will be rewarded with loyalty and enthusiastic effort. You’ll experience more wins than setbacks.

10. Be thankful for your workers and be the first to offer “grace” to those who need it!

Everyone screws up…sometimes the mistake is huge and expensive.  While we don’t want repeat mistakes, in most cases what is needed is an owner who can sit down and uncover the real issue and encourage its correction.  We need to be thankful for those who have chosen to work with us, to give us their best, and to be loyal as they stick it out.  We can’t accomplish truly great things without them so let’s first feel grateful for their employment. But let’s also practice the art of giving grace – forgiveness when needed.

Ownership is hard work; there’s nothing easy about being an owner in today’s construction world.  Be true to your initial reasons for beginning your company or for taking your company forward.  “Followers” want to believe in their leaders and thoughts about an owner can be almost deistic like. 

While most owners I know are quite humble about their success, realizing that they could not have achieved any success without the assistance and input from others, they are also very competitive about wanting to be better.

Take your ownership responsibilities seriously but make sure to keep a sense of humor about yourself; life is way too short to be serious all the time.  Enjoy your role as an owner and enjoy taking your company, and the people who represent your company, to higher levels of success and enjoyment!

I raise my glass to owners who are worthy of following!

Brad Humphrey  

© 2014 Brad Humphrey, Pinnacle Development Group/The Contractor’s Best Friend™