Getting Better at the Same Job 

Over fifty percent of candidates with whom we connect tell us they are “looking for growth”. When we ask them what growth looks like, they often state titles. For example, a project engineer will state that in 2 years he plans to be a project manager, in 5 years a project executive, and in 10 years a Vice President. While titles should define responsibilities within a company structure, they should not define growth, value, or stability. The “up (in title) or out” mentality amongst professionals and company culture oftentimes leads to unnecessary turnover.

If you have worked on a project that staffed an assistant project manager and project manager, both of whom were (in years of experience) qualified to hold the project manager title, you understand the benefit of the arrangement. It typically occurs when the person holding the Assistant Project Manager title recognizes he does not relish the pressure of being the lead, but excels all the other project management responsibilities. A seasoned assistant project manager who has no problem with the tributary title on the organizational chart demonstrates that he is confident and comfortable in his own skin. Solidifying the cultural fit comes by others respecting him and appreciating his maturity on the job.

Presently we are interviewing for administrative roles at Florida Construction Connection. The best candidates freely tell us that they really enjoy administrative responsibilities and want to continue in a role where they can take on more responsibility with time. These candidates do not say they want to be office manager, controller, etc. They clearly state what they are good at and what they do. The expectation for financial growth with time is a separate discussion and will be based on their ability to take on more responsibilities as required.

How do both employers and employees eliminate the “Up or Out” Mentality?

1. Recognize skill can be taught – attitude and aptitude cannot.

If a potential or existing team member is focused on what his responsibility is and can clearly articulate where they may need support and/or training, that is good. You can’t teach someone who is not coachable or trainable.  Coachability and trainability start with knowing who you are and recognizing what you don’t know or are not best to lead in.

2. Is he conflict-adverse?

Support roles in construction may be excellent at all the responsibilities associated with their role, except handling conflict. The ability to navigate through healthy conflict is a necessary trait for those in a senior leadership role. Also required is the ability to communicate solutions. Notice I did not say come up with solutions. Leaders provide solutions with input from others who may know the particulars better than them.

3. Does he have extraordinary vision and foresight?

Typically, lead roles require a person to stay ahead of the team. This does not mean others do not have vision and foresight, but rather that others are supposed to be focused on the day-to-day tasks at hand.  The lead roles know how to “Hope for the best, plan for the worst”.

Some of the best construction companies I know employ long-term (key) personnel who may not hold the senior titles, but who help hold the fort down. Without them, a senior’s job would be much more difficult and the overall success of the company may be lacking.

To Responsibility Within A Title,

Suzanne Breistol


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