PartnersINProgress SMACNA & SMARTâ€”Building a Future Together
HEROES Among Us Strike Force Training The Low-bid Treadmill Communication Skills
PartnersINProgress SMACNA & SMART—Building a Future Together
JOSEPH SELLERS, JR. JACK KNOX Co-Publishers KAARIN ENGELMANN email@example.com Editor-in-Chief
8 Photo credit: Local 46.
September 2018 - Volume 12, Number 5
3 MEETING THE CHALLENGE Communicate, commit, and deliver to recruit and retain the skilled workforce necessary to shape the future of the industry.
HEROES AMONG US The SMART Heroes program helps ex-soldiers find new, meaningful careers in the sheet metal industry.
8 STRIKE FORCE TRAINING
Manufacturers and the ITI bring architectural sheet metal training to Locals in anticipation of the growing market.
10 GET OFF THE LOW-BID TREADMILL It’s time to talk value instead of price and get companies off of the low-bid treadmill.
12 COMMUNICATION SKILLS
ommunication must be used with intent and strategy to ensure positive C relations and long-term trust.
JESSICA KIRBY firstname.lastname@example.org Editor POINT ONE MEDIA INC. email@example.com Creative Services ERIC WESTBROOK Cover Illustrator
Partners in Progress is a publication of the Sheet Metal Industry LaborManagement Cooperation Fund. All contents ©2018 by the Sheet Metal Industry Labor-Management Cooperation Fund, P.O. Box 221211, Chantilly, VA 20153-1211. Find Partners in Progress online at pinp.org or at issuu.com/ partnersinprogress. An archive of all issues is available and printed copies may be ordered for a minimal fee. For comments or questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
S HE E T M E TA L | A I R | R A I L | T R A N S P O R TAT I O N
How do we get the skilled workforce we need when we are competing with other trades, colleges, universities, and nonconstruction employers?
We can’t just talk to each other. We have to reach out to millennials, post-millennials, veterans, females, individuals in disadvantaged neighborhoods, school counselors, and more. If we don’t shape our future by communicating, committing, and delivering, it will be shaped for us. This issue of Partners in Progress again focuses on workforce issues and the programs being implemented to recruit, train, and retain talented individuals, those with a good work ethic, the right aptitude, and enthusiasm. Our cover story is about efforts related to Helmets to HardHats—a program designed to help military service members successfully transition into civilian life through a career in the construction industry—and SMART Heroes—a program that provides sheet metal industry training, free of charge, to enlisted men and women of the United States military prior to discharge. To help with such workforce efforts, SMACNA and SMART’s International Training Institute has prepared a number of resources to help local areas with recruiting and mobilizing short notice training on specific technologies that allow contractors— and their signatory workforce—to better compete. Check out recruiting videos available on smart-heroes.org/about-us/whatis-sheet-metal. Our article on page 8 describes implementation of a strike force training (SFT) module for installing metal composite material panels. Local 46 JATC Coordinator Mark Miller describes the need for the industry—and training—to be nimble enough to deal with constantly changing technologies. Don’t miss our discussion about how to keep those trained craftspeople busy no matter the state of the economy by getting off the low-bid treadmill (on page 10). Ronald Coleman, a contracting business consultant, reminds us that becoming reliant on low-bid jobs turns contractors and their signatory workforce into easily-replaceable commodities. He offers tips for standing out in areas that will make it worthwhile for general contractors to pay a premium.
Finally, it’s vital to remember that framing messages the right way is not only important when talking to customers and potential recruits. It is also essential when we talk to each other. Because we are speaking, writing, texting, and calling practically every minute of the day, it’s easy to take communication for granted. When we understand that “how” we communicate is as important as “what” we communicate, we can pave a path that leads to trust, cooperation, an aligned vision, and success for the signatory sheet metal industry. Get details about improving your process starting on page 12. The 2018 Partners in Progress Conference offered breakout sessions covering the topics in this issue. Presentations and handouts from the conference are available at pinp.org/ conferences/pinp18/schedule. We’re holding another Partners in Progress Conference in 2020 because we are All In when it comes to signatory sheet metal. We can succeed together—whether the task is recruiting and retention, leadership development, maintaining and increasing market share, embracing collaboration and new technologies, or entering emerging markets. Experience has shown that we cannot be complacent and hope for a good economy or the status quo. As President John F. Kennedy said, “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” Visit pinp.org to keep up to date and find useful resources available to SMART Locals, SMACNA contractors and chapters, labor-management cooperation trusts and committees, and training centers. Registration is required for full access. It is free but limited to members. Share with us on social media or via email (editor@ pinpmagazine.org) what you are doing to meet the recruiting and retention efforts in your area. Find us on Facebook @sheetmetalpartners, and on Twitter and Instagram @smpartners. Partners in Progress » September 2018 » 3
Among Us By / Deb Draper
SMART Heroes graduating class, August 2018. Photo courtesy of International Training Institute.
Every year in the United States almost 250,000 men and women transition out of the armed services and face an uncertain future. Where should they go? What will they do in the civilian world after years in the military? Meanwhile, the sheet metal industry, like all construction trades, is suffering the ongoing loss of baby boomers in the workforce. Charlie Mulcahy, SMART director of craft services, explains, “Many of our jobsite leaders, our foremen and superintendents, are from that generation; we’re going to experience a drought of leadership somewhere down the road.” SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Jr. came up with a concept that addresses how to strengthen the future of the industry while helping returning soldiers get jobs and settle into new lives. The SMART Heroes Program paves the way for those transitioning out of the military to find rewarding careers by offering fast-tracked first-year apprenticeship training free of charge to qualified veterans.
Mulcahy says Helmets to HardHats, which works through the North American Building Trades Unions to help veterans connect with a trade, is limited to being a referral program, with veterans treated like all other applicants for apprenticeships. “These veterans are high quality candidates,” Mulcahy says. “They already know how to be on time, follow directions, and work with teammates; they know how to problem-solve. Their strong work ethic, maturity, and discipline translate well to the worksite and leadership roles.” The SMART Heroes Program takes successful applicants through first-year apprentice sheet metal industry training and upon completion offers opportunity for second-year placement in more than 150 apprenticeship programs in the United States. This is where SMACNA came to the table. “SMART took the lead on the concept and development of the program,” says Vince Sandusky, chief executive officer at SMACNA National. “They approached us to partner with them after they’d done most of the research and all the legwork in working with the military. “We worked with SMART on a national basis to have our local apprenticeship programs amend their documents so they Partners in Progress » September 2018 » 5
The SMART Heroes class of summer 2018 fast-tracked first year apprenticeship training making graduates eligible for secondyear entry into more than 150 apprenticeship programs across the United States. Photo courtesy of International Training Institute.
could accept these candidates’ intensified one-year training and allow them to enter as second-year apprentices,” Sandusky says, explainiing that most of the Locals were not set up for direct entry into their second-year programs. “When you think about it, most of these people grew up in places other than the military base they transitioned out of,” he says. “Many want to go home, back to their families, so we wanted to make sure that option was available.” SMART had to find a base commander willing to work with the program before it could have its attorneys begin writing a letter of understanding with the Army. Everything fell into place when the commander at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State offered his support and suggested Soldiers for Life Transition Services could help identify and screen potential candidates for the program. “The base commander really wanted to work with us, and because our training facility was a mile from the base in DuPont, it was a perfect match,” says Don Steltz, executive administrator at Western Washington Local 66 JATC. Working with the International Training Institute (ITI), his team put together a curriculum that would run a bit differently from the normal apprenticeship program. “First we took a snapshot of what’s done across the country,” Steltz says. “Our goal was to give these students the basics of what all the other training centers are teaching.” The result was an intensive seven weeks of full-time instruction covering TAB, industrial welding, service, architectural, and building information modeling (BIM). As part of the curriculum, students complete an OSHA 30-hour construction training course and 40 hours in a specialty of their choice. Adding to the five valued instructors already at the training center, Steltz hired Kevin Thomas to work with the soldiers as they came in. The 6 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org
From the beginning, student Jerod Staidle admired the instructors’ patience and willingness to reach each student. “If you were struggling with something, no matter how many times they had to show you again, they didn’t mind,” he says. first SMART Heroes class of eight students began in August of 2017. In 2017, Jerod Staidle was in the process of transitioning out of the military where he’d served as a welder for the Army. “I had been looking into different welding jobs and programs, but none quite fit what I wanted,” he says. “Then at a job fair at the base, I sat down with Eric Peterson, administrative coordinator at the Local 66, Western Washington JATC training center. I really liked what he had to say, so I signed up and was accepted into the program.” From the beginning, Staidle admired the instructors’ patience and willingness to reach each student. “If you were struggling with something, no matter how many times they had to show you again, they didn’t mind,” Staidle says. “When I finished classes, one of the instructors helped me out with tools because I got work so fast, I hadn’t had time to get them set up.” Staidle was part of the first graduating class in October 2017. Two weeks later he cleared and exited the military and since then has been working as a second-year sheet metal apprentice. This fall, he will start his third-year classes, specializing in welding. Joshua Buckley, a 20-year veteran in the military, signed up for the SMART Heroes program the following spring. “I was in a specific organization within the Army, doing one type of thing and so trying to figure out what I was going to do once I retired
was difficult. The idea of working with my hands appealed to me,” Buckley says. “Right away, I loved the program. For seven weeks straight, every single day, I looked forward to waking up early and going to classes. It was a great fit, and I really enjoyed working with the metal.” On August 27, 2018, the sixth class graduated, and two more graduating classes are scheduled for this year. Student numbers are increasing as word of mouth gets out, and, looking to add to the pipeline of veterans coming in, SMART and SMACNA are actively working towards an additional location, preferably on the east coast.
Over the seven weeks, students learned TAB, industrial welding, service, architectural, and building information modeling, along with OSHA training and a specialty of their choice. Photo courtesy of International Training Institute.
“These are good people who have done good things for our country and for our industry by serving in the military,” Sandusky says. “We’re very proud of this program and happy to be partnering with SMART to help it grow.” The SMART Heroes program grew from the desire to help military men and women transition to the civilian workforce and strengthen the future of the sheet metal industry. Through hard work and successful partnerships between labor and management, that goal has become reality. From her desk in Calgary, AB, Canada, Deb Smith writes for trade and business publications across North America, specializing in profiles and stories within the hospitality, food service, mining, recreation, and construction industries. When not writing, she’s likely travelling, gardening, or taking long walks with her big white dog.
Combat to Construction: Partners in Progress Conference 2018 As the U.S. economy prospers, the need for a skilled labor pool increases, especially in the construction trades. To add skilled workers who can hit the ground running, there isn’t a better pool of candidates to choose from than the men and women transitioning from the military. Charlie Mulcahy, SMART; Darrell Roberts, Helmets to Hardhats; Kevin Thomas, Western Washington Sheet Metal JATC; and Joshua Buckley, SMART Heroes graduate, delivered a session at the 2018 Partners in Progress Conference exploring programs available to JATCs, Locals, and companies aimed at bringing military personnel to the sheet metal industry once they leave the service.
According to the panel’s presentation, the U.S. Army is expecting 120,000 personnel to transition out over the next 10 years. In the United States, there are about 18 million males and 1.6 million females with previous military service. As of December 2017, this population was experiencing a 3.8% overall unemployment rate. The rate for those who left the military after 9/11 was about 3.3%. It is only about 2.7% among veterans who are between 18 and 24. The SMART Heroes program is a dynamic recruitment and training program designed to attract highly-qualified candidates to the unionized sheet metal industry. It is sponsored by SMART, SMACNA, the International Training Institute, and Helmets to Hardhats. The program provides seven weeks of sheet metal industry training, equivalent to first-year apprenticeship training, to enlisted men and women prior to discharge. Helmets to Hardhats helps military service members successfully transition back into civilian life by offering them the means to secure a quality career in the construction industry. Over its lifetime, H2H has been responsible for bringing more than 27,000 individuals into the construction industry. Learn more about these programs and download the full Conference presentation at pinp.org/wpcontent/uploads/2018/02/Combat-to-ConstructionPresentation.pdf Partners in Progress » September 2018 » 7
Strike Force Training
Architectural Training for Locals through the ITI By Don Procter Photos courtesy of International Trianing Institute and Local 46
The growth of architectural metal wall panel systems
has prompted the International Training Institute (ITI) to offer sheet metal Locals short notice training on the assembly of these oft-times complex systems. The idea is to fill a training void where members need additional skills quickly, says ITI Director Mike Harris. “The projected growth of this architectural sector is huge over the next four or five years,” Harris says, noting that architectural wall systems will spread into regions without prefabrication shops or trained contractors. This impending trend has prompted the mobilization of what the ITI calls its strike force training (SFT). “We want to make sure the guys are productive when they hit the ground,” Hannah says. One of the SFT modules the ITI organized was for metal composite material (MCM) panels made by Citadel Architectural Products. Local 46, Rochester, NY, was the first to take the crash course. 8 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org
“Here’s the deal: Technology and the scope of work are constantly changing so we have to be changing, too, or we won’t be doing the work,” says Mark Miller, JATC coordinator, Local 46. For the cost of shipping, Citadel provided Local 46 with one set of the materials needed for the ITI mockup, which saved the Local $3,000. The company has extended that offer to any JATC. Detailed drawings of various mockups for wall panel and roof systems are available from the ITI. Miller says his Local would have organized a course on the assembly of Citadel’s panels on its own, if the ITI hadn’t already put one together because there is a burgeoning market for architectural accents. There is good reason for the growing popularity, he adds. “They come in all different colors, shapes, and textures. You can even make them look like stone.”
Unlike traditional siding installed only in large flat panels, the new panels can also be fabricated to match contoured or radius facades, Miller says. Improved energy efficiency and indoor air quality enhancements are other benefits. The panels work with a vapor barrier, protect against mold, and improve the insulation value of the enclosure, Miller says. “But this isn’t something that you can learn on the fly on the jobsite,” he adds. “If you lay the panels out wrong, you lose a panel and they aren’t cheap.” The ITI’s Daniel McCallum created a wood mockup for the Citadel kit and Local 46’s architectural instructor Mike Terzo taught installation techniques to 10 apprentices and journeypersons for the two-week course. Since its first SFT in the winter of 2017 for Philadelphia’s Local 19, the ITI has conducted four courses for new architectural systems, including one in Tennessee to train trainers from various Locals so they could go back and train their members, Harris says. Miller says it is paramount to prepare the workforce prior to contractors bidding on projects with new systems and technology. “Our intent for this type of training is to increase the skills of our craftspersons and give contractors the tools needed to capture new markets. It’s another feather in the cap for our sheet metal workers,” Miller says. He says there are four member contractors in Local 46 that do architectural contracts in Rochester. Much of their work includes historical restorations and renovations. Miller believes that as more contractors are brought up to speed on installation practices, more systems will hit the market. To organize a strike force training course, the ITI first gathers information and training materials from the contractor and the manufacturer and then sends an instructor or trains a Local’s instructors on installation methods, says Harris. Courses can sometimes be organized with a few weeks’ notice.
“Our intent for this type of training is to increase the skills of our workers and give contractors the tools needed to capture new markets. It’s another feather in the cap for our sheet metal workers,” says Mark Miller, Local 46 JATC coordinator. Class time varies, depending on the type and complexity of the training. “We usually ask the JATC to build the mockup (adapted to a specific manufacturer’s product),” says Harris. He encourages Locals to contact the ITI as soon as possible when a need arises. “If you need to train 40 guys, we can’t train them all in one class, so there would potentially have to be multiple classes scheduled.” The foundation for a course often comes about after contractors meet with JATCs or their local unions to discuss a job with a complex installation, says Harris. Miller says if a course takes too long to roll out – six months to a year – it could be too late for contractors to get on track with new systems, allowing non-unionized competitors to take the lead. Miller isn’t prepared to allow the signatory industry to fall behind the competition. He plans to host a second course later this year on the Citadel panel system. Several other manufacturers offer MCM, building envelope, and wall systems, as well as tools and equipment as part of the program. The ITI also offers strike force training for building information modeling (BIM) on various software systems. “We’ve seen a big uptick for training in 3D scanning of jobsites,” Harris says. Courses organized on short notice to meet impending demand are not new to the industry. In the early 2000s a concentrated welding course was set up during a welder shortage, he adds. Don Procter is a freelance writer based in Toronto, Canada.
Partners in Progress » September 2018 » 9
By / James Careless
Many trade contracting businesses are stuck on the ‘low-bid treadmill’. They make their living fighting for contracts where only the lowest bidder wins. The result for the winner is a skinny profit margin—if it exists at all—that keeps their firm in a chronic state of financial crisis— one where expansion, decent wages, and a nice income seem like impossible dreams. Fortunately, it is possible to revive your trade contracting business’ prospects and get it off the low-bid treadmill. With the right moves, you can advance onto higher margin projects that will pay you better while relieving your firm’s financial stress. The Low-Bid Treadmill Trap: How It Gets Sprung As an experienced contractor business coach, George Hedley spends his time advising contractors on ways to make their businesses more profitable. He is the person who coined the phrase low-bid treadmill—a term he applies to contractors who live and die by low-bid contracts. Hedley says contractors only have themselves to blame for being snared in this trap. “A company ends up on the low-bid treadmill when they hope and wait for potential customers or general contractors to phone them and say, ‘bid my work’,” Hedley says. “These companies don’t do anything pro-active to find new jobs or customers themselves. They spend zero time and money on marketing their companies to potential new clients, and they don’t improve themselves to access better job opportunities and higher-paying markets. They go for whatever gets offered to them.” By becoming reliant on low-bid jobs, these contractors turn themselves into easily-replaceable commodities. From a general 10 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org
contractor standpoint, the main thing that differentiates one low-bid qualified subcontractor from another is how low they’ll go on the price. Almost everything else is interchangeable. To say the least, it can be demoralizing to be a low-bid contractor. There never seems to be enough money, and the pressure is always on to find the next paying job. Wages have to kept down to stay within low-bid contracts, depressing the tradespeople who stay with the firm and motivating the better ones to move to higher-paying jobs whenever they can. In such a situation, it is not surprising for any contractor to go downhill. To revive their business, they have to take steps to leave the treadmill. Hoping someone will call with a highermargin contract is simply unrealistic. Getting Off The Treadmill The first step to getting off the low-bid treadmill is accepting that a change must be made. Specifically, business cannot be all about low price, says Ronald Coleman, a contracting business consultant and solutions provider. “Instead, to command higher prices from general contractors you need to stand out in one or more of four areas to make it worth their while.” According to Coleman, these four areas are completing jobs on time, staying within the job’s budget, doing all work to the contractor’s standards (not higher/not lower), and maintaining the customer’s goodwill to get future work. “You likely won’t hit all four of these outcomes but as you get better at it and get a reputation for meeting or getting close to these four outcomes you will raise the bar and get included in more invitation-only bids,” he says. “Doing that and improving your firm’s certifications and skills to compete for highly demanding and more exclusive jobs will certainly take you to the next level. It will also likely give you a better chance at doing design-build work, and that’s where the money is.”
© Can Stock Photo / kirstypargeter
Getting Your Trade Contracting Business Off the
In addition to these points, it is important for trade contractors to become specialists in well-paying, highly-skilled areas of construction. At least, this is important to contractors that wish to win higher-margin contracts and better pay. “There are lots of trade contractors who build schools, but not many who build hospitals because hospital projects have higher, more demanding standards and specifications,” Hedley says. “This is why general contractors who build hospitals seek out the small group of trade contractors who have the necessary skills and expertise to do the work, rather than looking for the lowest bidder.” Such specialized trade contractors get to charge more, raising their margins and leaving the low-bid treadmill. Even for trade contractors who don’t specialize, there is yet another way to get off the treadmill, and that is by investing in marketing and personal relationships with clients. “When you spend money on quality marketing materials and take the time to take your general contractor clients to lunch and hockey games, it pays off: people think of you first at contract time,” says Hedley. “In the same vein, looking for work when
times are slow can lead your firm to better jobs with higher margins, rather than waiting for the phone to ring with low-bid requests.” If there is a moral to this tale, it is that contractors have the choice of staying on the low-bid treadmill, or doing the work necessary to get off it, making more money and reviving their businesses in the process. The work involves: • improving the overall quality of your firm; • figuring out what makes it unique and selling that difference; • upgrading skills and capabilities to go after more exclusive, higher-paying jobs; and • getting serious about marketing your services to potential customers, including building and maintaining personal relationships with them. “You can get off the low-bid treadmill,” Hedley says. “Or not. It’s all up to you.” James Careless is a freelance writer with credits at numerous B2B publications. His work has also been published by the Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, and National Post. Careless is also a long-time contributor to CBC Radio, and a podcast producer in Ottawa, Canada.
Best Value Contracting: An Industry Revolution According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the United States has had 33 recessions, which tended to occur about every five years, between 1854 and 2018. The entire construction industry reels in leaner times since global economics, materials pricing, and labor supply become fluid and unpredictable. The sheet metal industry is particularly vulnerable since steel and aluminum tariffs are in flux, leading to supply chain disruptions, increased inflation, higher interest rates, and other economic implications. SMACNA’s Testing and Research Institute received a grant to sponsor a study through the University of Arizona (ASU) that evaluated performance-based procurement, now referred to as Performance Based Information System (PBIS), designed to develop an alternative to the low-bid system. The study compared union with non-union contractors, evaluating those with 10 or more references by 35 criteria to develop performance ratings. Of those 35, SMACNA contractors scored higher on 34, or 97%, including the following top 10: skill of craftsmen, quality of finished product, housekeeping, coordination, minimization of punch list, update of schedule, customer satisfaction, technical knowledge, minimization of lost time, and ability to install performing systems. The study determined the areas HVAC contractors could stand to improve were largely to do with customer-focused services—improving change order response, minimizing time lost on problem resolution, and timeliness in updating reports, in particular. These areas were evaluated as training opportunities, and service types contractors could improve to provide better value to owners. Most importantly, owners indicated they are interested in reducing risk by hiring high-performance contractors and they are willing to pay more for better performance. According to the study’s findings, the success of a PBIS for the procurement of construction services relies on an educated and committed owner and an objective implementation of the system.
It’s time for owners to think value, not price. Dean T. Kashiwagi, director of the Performance Based Studies Research Group at ASU’s Del E. Webb School of Construction, devised the Performance Information Procurement System (PIPS), which turns the low-cost bidding system upside down, weighing value and skill factors among contractors to determine best value contractors. Using PIPS, higher skilled firms have a competitive advantage because scoring well requires trained, experienced people who can minimize risks they do not control and address problems before the project begins. The first step in the bid process is submitting pastperformance information on team components including contractors, individuals, and supervisors. Next, contractors submit a bid identifying, prioritizing, and minimizing project risks that would negatively affect the budget or timeline, or cause change orders. They also propose a timeline, including milestones, and propose value-added options. In the final phase, contractors are short-listed and interviewed to establish their knowledge of the project and potential risks. Scores from these areas help rank contractors according to best value, and a successful contractor enters the pre-award period during which he or she provides a detailed schedule, coordinates requirements with the client and team, works out conflicts, and supplies quality control and assessment procedures. Based on these details, the owner awards a guaranteed maximum price or fixed-price contract, making performance and weekly reports critical components that will be evaluated at project completion. Kashiwagi says best value contracting is nothing short of revolutionary thinking. “Best value practices, such as those used in PIPS, allow contractors to differentiate themselves,” he says. “They can compete and be the best.” Learn more at bestvaluefoundation.com. Partners in Progress » September 2018 » 11
Critical Tools in Today’s Construction Industry
By / Jessica Kirby
Today’s construction professionals have far more than their projects to contend with when developing a solid and productive workplace culture. The entire Western hemisphere is experiencing an unprecedented demographic shift that leaves leaders managing generations that span decades, each with defining personalities, perspectives, and work ethic. The days of one-sizefits-all management are clearly over. Today’s construction industry is diverse, challenging, creative, and ripe with opportunity. Globalization has opened up mobility and information sharing to the extent that seemingly basic skills like communication can no longer be natural or practiced without intent. Instead, communication becomes an active, strategic tool, fine-tuned to create results and, most importantly, mitigate conflict. Traditionalists and baby boomers bring long-standing, pioneering knowledge to the construction industry and represent a fifth of the workforce whose knowledge we will struggle to replace as they retire over the next decade. Generation X/Y is the bridge generation, still willing to take accountability for their mistakes, but with a keen eye on technology, and, of course, millennials have turned the workplace landscape on its head, valuing work-life balance, creativity, collaboration, and attention almost as much as the technology that seems permanently attached to their fingertips. Can the generations, with their differences and shared values, come together in the workplace and become mutually binding strands in the fabric that holds a company together? Stephane McShane, author, teacher, and director with Maxim Consulting Group, says they can, but with these broad generational gaps comes conflict that appears to manifest as cultural or personality differences. More often, however, the problem lies in varying expectations and styles of communication. “We provide leadership to three or more generations with differing personalities and perspectives,” McShane says. “While we understand that there are significant differences in these generations, it is critical that labor and management 12 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org
representatives understand how to assess their own communication styles, as well as those they work with, for all to succeed.” It is easy to take communication for granted—we speak, write, text, call, and meet face to face, conveying ideas that are important to us without any real commitment to how we get our message out. This, says McShane, is one of the most important components of communication—the “how” rather than the “what” of our message, and it is critical we start by evaluating our own styles of communication. “Until we understand our own communication style, we cannot: 1. Know how our style affects our interaction with others; or, 2. Understand how to change the way in which we communicate in order to most effectively send the message in the way that the recipient needs to hear it,” she says. Step one in redefining the efficacy of our communication is identifying the challenges, both in our own communication styles and in others’, and putting in place an effective improvement program that establishes meaningful communication for the entire team. “The power of having roles and responsibilities defined creates the ability to have focused, positive interaction between the ‘silos’ that exist within construction operations,” says McShane. “The grey areas that are created by every person doing their job differently, along with deliverables not being standardized or expectations made clear, create conflict. The good news is that these communication challenges can be solved, and a smoother workflow, and more importantly, culture, will result.” According to McShane’s presentation at the 2018 Partners in Progress Conference, communication is one way leaders execute the immense power granted to them by their organizations. Poor leaders will abuse this power for their own benefit, while strong leaders will use it to inspire others to greatness. “People stand with leaders who stand with them,” McShane says. “Leadership leads to trust, which in turn garners respect.” Great leaders use their power to set direction among their
© Can Stock Photo / focalpoint
companies, tie actions to the bigger picture, and communicate the “why” of corporate vision and strategy. They use their influence to align resources, leveraging the company and workforce’s strengths to create meaningful benefit and create ownership among staff. Great leaders can’t help but motivate others when they take the time and focus required to know them deeply, provide encouragement, and understand their intrinsic and material needs. “There is a huge difference between someone using power as a weapon, and someone who uses their influence to raise the performance and engagement of their team,” says McShane. “Good communication is the core to this, but the focus must be on bettering others, not on what it does for ‘me’.” Addressing generation gaps is the foremost important issue facing communication today. In her presentation, McShane gives the example of how different generations of employees respond when something goes wrong and the employee is to blame: Traditionalist: “Sir, I made a mistake.” Baby Boomer: “Totally my fault.” Generation X: “My bad.” Millennial: “Didn’t you read my tweet?” Although meant as a humorous poke at generational differences, it points to a key aspect of effective communication leadership: know your audience. Understanding the changes that occurred between the hard-working, authority-respecting traditionalists and the technology-obsessed, dress-codeshunning millennials will help shape communication leadership across all industry sectors. In her presentation, McShane used a simple, four-factor cognitive map called DiSC for understanding and managing behavior—our own and that of others. It is a mental model used for identifying and quantifying differences, and for developing strategic and effective solutions to character clashes. DiSC identifies the defining characteristics of particular communication styles—dominance, influence, conscientiousness, or steadiness. Each style is associated with
specific personality traits, the understanding of which allow others to predict the kind of communication an individual will use and respond to. How can you be sure just what type of person you are dealing with? McShane recommends watching for clues: Does the person take charge of the conversation? Refuse to waste time on small talk? Want to get to the point or get results quickly? You are probably dealing with a person who runs on dominance. If the person dresses smart, reaches out, warmly shakes your hand and smiles, and expects small talk, preferably over lunch or drinks, you are probably dealing with an influencer. “DiSC is just one of many great evaluation tools available in the market to allow a person to first learn more about the intrinsic communication talents they possess, along with the challenges that their particular profile may have,” says McShane. “In addition, it allows insight into the communication styles of others so that, using this form of emotional intelligence, we can pave the path to stellar communication.” No matter who we work or communicate with, everyone deserves fairness, clarity, and honesty in our communications. More important than what we say is how we listen—listening well might be practical, but it also sets the tone for the other party feeling acknowledged and respected. This state of mutual respect breeds trust, the most important value of all. “At the cornerstone of all relationships is trust,” says McShane. “With trust comes openness, positivity, and a culture that fosters growth. There must be an intrinsic understanding of reliance on each other for all of the team to succeed. It isn’t about labor vs. management, leadership vs. staff, or anything of this sort. It’s all about creating aligned vision, creating positive culture, building trust, praising good work, and solving challenges as a team.” Stephane McShane began her career in the field as an apprentice, electrician, and foreman, and worked her way through each operational chair within a successful electrical construction firm. This experience and talent are what make her effective at operational and organizational assessments in today’s construction industry. McShane says communication challenges can be solved through role and responsibility definition, education, and coaching, all of which Maxim does. Learn more at maximconsulting.com.
EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUES McShane suggests eight points to remember in effective communication techniques for the 21st century: 1. C ommunication is more than putting thoughts into words. 2. Listen for the intonations. 3. The body doesn’t lie. 4. Perception is reality. 5. How things are said is very important. 6. Actions do speak louder than words. 7. The key ingredient of effective communication is trust. 8. Don’t judge a book by its cover. “Remember to always listen, listen, listen,” McShane says. “Together we thrive; apart we suffer.” Partners in Progress » September 2018 » 13
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