Steering Through The Storm

Every year I tell myself that the construction business can’t get any harder.  But every year it does….  

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It’s a crazy business.  Added code requirements, crazy hoops to jump through to get approvals, complicated designs, unrealistic expectations, volatile material and labor costs and availability are just a few of the issues.  Getting a project finished in today’s construction world is a major accomplishment.  I am very thankful for this fact:  Our staff is the very best in the business.  They never give up.  When it gets tough, they just buckle down and work through it.  They are an extremely tough and dedicated bunch.

Yet, sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming.

You can only take so much abuse.

You begin to loose sight of the finish line.

You begin to doubt if you will ever finish.

I visited one of our sites recently during “crunch time” and our field staff appeared exhausted and defeated.  You could see it in their eyes.  It was a combination of overwhelming fatigue and shame.  I know their hearts are right.  I know they are engaged in the battle.  I could sense that they felt like they were letting me down.  They made commitments to me that they were not going to make.  This put the company in a bad position and they knew it.  So what did I do in this circumstance?

I encouraged– When they can’t see the end of the tunnel you must help the group to visualize the path so that they can see the way out.  Even though things were not good, I was upbeat and did my best to pick them up.  It would have been much easier to come in like a tornado, completely change the program and whip them harder.  But I knew this would not be good for them and it would not help the situation.  Yes, mistakes were made and we can talk about them later.  For now we needed to dust ourselves off and keep going.  I encouraged some of the younger employees by telling them that it’s always a struggle and this was not unusual.  They were blaming themselves and it helped that they know that the mad dash at the end was part of the business.  It’s normal.  Not at all fun, but normal.

I made suggestions– I viewed the situation and gave input on several problems that were hurting progress.  A fresh view can be very helpful.  I provided this in a way that was not condemning.  In fact, I left it up to them to decide what was best.  They have superior knowledge of the situation- even though I outrank them.  The suggestions showed that I cared.  It showed that I was looking for a way to help and not criticize decisions or strategy.

I provided extra resources– We made some personnel moves to provide more help.  They needed help.  They were running out of gas.  New faces and fresh attitudes help to pick up the entire team.  It’s like the cavalry riding over the ridge to save the day.  A new influx of energy.

I defended them– Questions were swirling about decisions and processes.  For the time being, I defended our personnel.  I respect them and for now, they need to be supported.  Strengthen what you have and support the weak areas and get through the battle.  Avoid the whispers and gossip.  The team needs to be cohesive and separating and pointing fingers will only divide the team.  For now we need to be united.

I believe the worst thing you can do when leading through a storm is to come in and try to shake things up.  There are times when immediate moves need to be made, for instance, if there is a person who is a cancer to the group.  Generally, the best moves are to provide support until things begin to smooth out.  There is plenty of time to analyze and criticize, but the first order of business is damage control.

Guard your tongue.  Stop the bleeding.  Get the energy level back up.  And get the boat pointed in the right direction!

So what  do you think?  Have you been in a situation where you had to get through the storm?  Do you my approach is correct?  Click on “Leave a Reply” and tell me what you think!



Last week I met with a woman on our team at work.  This meeting was long overdue.  We have been very busy lately dealing with problems and putting out fires.  This was a meeting to discuss process improvement, which seems to take a back seat when you are busy doing “the work”.  I had several items that I knew that we needed to work on.  None of my stuff was really dramatic.  Mainly just tweaking what we were doing now.

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I reviewed my items and she also shared some things that were helpful in refining our processes.  After we completed our review, she turned to me and said, “I have a couple more things that are not on the list”.  Then she started to share how she felt that our on-boarding process has been poorly executed.  She also shared that she felt a disconnect between the field staff and the office staff.  She shared that the office didn’t have the feeling of family that we had before the recession.

Ouch!  This caught me a bit off guard.  I was ambushed!  Yet, after considering her observations, I was in complete agreement.  And, it was exactly what I needed to hear.  Things are different, and not necessarily in a good way.  And most disturbing- I have always championed team building.  My boss calls me the cheerleader.  This is what I do.  And I have been seriously neglecting this role.

Isn’t it funny how we will often overlook something that is one of our strengths? Like it will just take care of itself? 

We wrapped up our meeting and I realized that the process improvement stuff was really minor compared to the things she shared.  I was very grateful that she had the courage to call me out on these items.  It was exactly what I needed.  A wake up call.  A reminder to refocus.  Get back to what I do that really matters.  Get back to serving and quit worrying about “feeding the beast”.

The reality is that problems will come and go.  They rarely make a lasting impression in your life.  What really matters is the story that you are writing as you touch the lives of others.  It’s so easy to let the activities of life cloud your focus.  Every so often it’s good to stop and assess where your at and where you are focussing your efforts.  If you ignore what is good, healthy, and lasting-  be prepared.  You are likely to get ambushed!

What do you think?  Have you been “ambushed” before?  Click on “Leave a comment” and tell me what you think!

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