Mentoring With Our Backs Turned

Flash back 30 years or more in the construction industry and you will find that the majority of the individuals that started at that time had to, as it was called, “pay their dues”.   The interesting part about that is they speak fondly of that time today.  Listening to those that talk about that period in their life, they share with you the special person or people that poured knowledge into them, not always with the best bedside manner, but with the goal of making sure they knew the construction process, profitability and constructibility.  Inside their tough exterior lay a heart that cared enough about the company they worked for and their subordinates to want to teach them all they could.  They were mentored.

Many companies had formal or informal rotational programs that allowed these graduates to learn and experience the full construction cycle.  Prior to graduation, internships were required by the majority of the universities offering a Construction Management or Building Construction degree. The norm in the industry was to advance an individual, but to have qualified and engaged accountability partners around them to teach or shore them up as they were exposed to new challenges.  These individuals also included them in meetings and conversations so they were up to date on the players within the project and their expectations, good or bad.

What has changed today?  The biggest changes in the construction industry are technology, ecommerce, the litigious factor, project financing and contract delivery options.  What hasn’t changed?  Egos, action, communication and experience.  Knowing possible pitfalls of building a high rise only comes from previous experience building a high rise.  The pitfalls of building a bridge only comes from having built bridges before.   Even with all the other changes, the biggest change today is leadership insecurity and selfishness.  Many leaders are so worried about saving their own butts and keeping their own jobs that they miss the opportunity to pour into others and leave a legacy of more than a structure that will wither away with time.  Why, because they themselves may not have continued to learn new technology, new delivery systems and to grow in their ability to communicate and lead effectively for results.

Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.   The best mentors in our industry do this with their backs turned.  It comes so naturally to them to serve others they do not have to be physically beside them to guide them.  They have accountability measures in place to check on progress.  They have the ability and willingness to communicate what they know with honesty and diplomacy.  They are approachable, available and take time to listen.  They ask questions not to interrogate, but ask to be prepared and informed to guide their subordinates or peers for success.

As an employer it is invaluable to you to have mentors within your organization.  How do you get those mentors?  Hire those with a heart to mentor.  Provide an environment for the mentor to have time and a connection to their own mentors.  Encourage and require your employees at all levels to participate in continuing education, not just with processes and technology, but with leadership and communication skills.   Staff your projects appropriately to allow the team to come up for air long enough to be able to think and process, not just react, but be proactive.

You first need to be a mentor yourself.  What does that look like?  Make time for those people that are direct reports to you.  Listen to their challenges, stressors and needs.  Don’t jump in and solve them, but provide guidance to them to find the solution to bring back to you.  Teach them how to do this with those under them.

Ask yourself these questions?

  • Am I available?
  • Am I approachable?
  • Does my team trust me to make logical vs emotional or reactionary decisions?
  • Do I have someone to go to if I need guidance or encouragement?
  • Do I know it all or am I always learning?
  • Do I apologize when I am wrong?

In John C. Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, the first law, “The Law of the Lid”, tells us that the leader’s lid, his or her maximum ability to lead, will determine the potential of his team.  Let’s say the leader is (on a scale of 1 to 10) a 4 as a leader.  The team’s potential will never be more than a 3.  However, if that same leader can increase his leadership ability to an 8 or a 9, the potential of the team will raise to a 7 or an 8.

Over the years I have placed mentors within organizations, only to have them leave because the owner or managing executive that said they wanted to hire a mentor sabotages the mentor due to they themselves not being coachable or trainable, and so they are either jealous of or can’t recognize the value of what they have.

This subject is a never-ending subject.  If you are already a mentor and have built an executive team under you who are also mentors, “hats off to you as you!”  I am honored to have so many of you as clients.

If you want to become a mentor, want to develop mentors within your organization and learn how to implement mentorship programs, we are here to help.  With willingness to learn,  you can become approachable, trustworthy, logical, accountable  and humble and a great mentor to others leaving a lasting legacy in our industry.  It starts with opening your heart to be coachable so you can then coach others.

It’s the Law of the Lid.  If you aren’t developing others don’t be disappointed when those under you aren’t either, and the top players in this business already get that!

For mentorship discovery questions for interviews please click here.

The best way a mentor can prepare another leader is to expose him or her to other great people. John C. Maxwell

Leader and Mentor = Legacy

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