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Merging The Generation Gap

Ask any business owner, executive or manager about their most powerful asset. The answer will likely be: our people.

Without question, this holds true for construction professionals.  Just like any workplace, our culture, relationships, and talents are critical for success.  Although construction has a unique set of challenges in the face of the rapidly-changing technological aspect of our society, the people in our industry will make all the difference when it comes to bridging this gap.

We’ll start with what we know: our people are our strongest asset.  Visit a construction site, and you’ll likely hear about the brotherhood that exists between every person working on that project.  And just like the people themselves, these close relationships – which have always been at the core of construction – are the key to getting our industry to embrace new technologies and ways of thinking that can benefit the individual worker, the project and the company.  

For example, in many other industries, some employers may assume they have a disaster on their hands when two workers separated by generations work closely together.  But the beauty of the construction industry is what sets it apart: despite the multi-generational makeup of construction job sites and projects, every person – from specialized labor roles up through management – is truly dedicated to helping one another succeed.

Let’s consider the makeup of our current workforce.  Our longest-serving employees are Baby Boomers, who display an admirable post-WWII ethic, specialized skill sets, and dedication to management and professionalism, but are also slow to adopt new technology.  (Not to mention that Boomers are retiring in droves, leaving a staggering 75 percent of skilled worker positions open, and contributing to the industry’s labor shortage).  On the other end of the spectrum, Millennials are coming into play.  They grew up on computers and technology, and are enthusiastic with innovation and visions of the future.  Then in the middle, you have Generation X. Gen Xers, born between 1961 and 1981, tend to be revenue generators and relationship builders who thrive with praise and feedback. 

It seems at odds, doesn’t it?  Three unique skill sets held by generations decades apart, existing within a single job site.  But Boomers can benefit with the adoption of technology, and younger generations can certainly learn all there is to know about professionalism and work ethic from their older colleagues.  Here is the recipe for success: management and companies must invest in their people to create a winning culture where all generations have an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of all generations, support generational cross-training and leadership, and work together to create synergy.

When combined with investing in technology, this cross-training approach will help address the labor shortage facing the industry by attracting talent – from all generations. Organizations that change with the times serve as industry thought leaders, with the unique ability to work successfully across all generations.  

Of course, everything is always more challenging in practice than in theory, but it becomes simpler as soon as we start with our people.  It will open them up to considering new technologies and professional techniques, as they work closely together and begin to talk across generations.  Once this happens, Millennials may find themselves with a Boomer willing to try new technology, and younger colleagues eager to show how a technology can provide a legitimate shortcut that still gets the work done in an optimal fashion.

Take, for example, the smartphone –  85 percent of adults in the U.S. own one, but only 35 percent of workers use their smartphones on-site for business needs.  For the innovative construction company, these devices are an incomparably powerful asset that is just beginning to be tapped. 

One primary way to use smartphones in the field is to leverage the power of voice. The power of voice means simply leveraging the effectiveness of voices, combined with technology, to increase productivity, efficiency and accuracy. 

Voice-driven technology applications have been around for years. In the past, such software has been unpredictable and challenging. But today, the technology has advanced to become more user-friendly, reliable, and widely available. And the benefits to voice- driven technology include productivity, accuracy, and time-savings for your team. 

Employees of all generations can use the power of voice for dramatically-improved, more robust documentation by harnessing this technology for reporting.

Each generation can now see the benefit of reporting incidents in real-time, versus the old days of waiting and calling between different locations.  With technologies on the market today, construction teams are able to report using simply their phone and their voice. Speaking notes into any smartphone, adding photos or videos, and generating professional daily reports. Such software also allows safety issues to be reported and escalated, ensuring action can be taken – all in real time.  

Beyond safety, technology now available in our industry can help reduce risk, thereby significantly reducing the occurrence of litigation and disputes.  Incidents can be reported as they happen, and information mobility means that all relevant team members are immediately connected on devices to manage the crisis as it unfolds.

In this industry, we are privileged to have a workforce made of people who love to help one another.  As technology becomes more and more a part of everyday industry life, leveraging the generational synergies by implementing collaboration will be of unparalleled importance for successful technology implementation.  And regardless of whether an employee stays at a company for decades or moves on, the seed has been planted: success is defined by investing in your people and by giving your co-worker bankable assets and talents they can use throughout their lives.  In our industry, our people make sure to always do the right thing for colleagues, and always take the extra time to help one another.  That’s what this brotherhood is all about.

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How to Embrace The Constraints – Intelligent Allocation an Aspect of Good Strategy

Author – Mark Faust Sr.

“Constraints beget greater innovation—not just because innovation is good but because it is a requirement for survival.” 

How often have you heard one of the following requests? “We need to hire more people. I’m overworked.” Or “We need the latest and greatest equipment. We’re losing too much time.” Or “I need more capital to invest.” But the fact is, communication and awareness ameliorate angst and frustration. 

People tend to support that which they help to create. You will get greater engagement from the team if you have open and quality dialogue about how all organizations have limited resources. A core management practice is to discern how to best balance those resources, not just hope for more. Involve your team in the decision-making process by asking for people to share opinions or asking them to prioritize and justify resource requests (quantifying the expected ROI, for example.) Teams are more likely to support final decisions when their voices have been heard or they have contributed directly. 

Like siblings who remember scraping by together, teams can develop camaraderie when you create a turnaround mindset and purposely point out the challenge of limited resources. Rather than being a manager who acts like a harsh parent, you can find great value in being a pioneer in the frontier who proposes, “No matter what this environment dishes out, we’re going to beat it—and not just survive but thrive!” 

Constraints often birth advantage. “Necessity is the mother of invention. If it weren’t for the lack of ___, then we would have never achieved ___.” 

You hear it all of the time. Small organizations bootstrap their way to success. But the fact is, this isn’t just in spite of their lack of resources. It is frequently because they lack resources. Constraints beget greater innovation—not just because innovation is good but because it is a requirement for survival. 

My firm kicks off innovation sessions with clients using questions like: 

  • If our company were legally unable to sell to any of our existing customers and markets, then how could we adapt to keep the company afloat? 
  • If we were legally unable to sell to anyone other than existing customers, then how could we adapt to this constraint and grow the company? 
  • If we were required to cut expenses at X% but could not lay off one employee or stop one production area, then how might we achieve that objective? 
  • If we were prevented from having access to ___ resources and could only use ___ resources to deliver ___ results, then how might we accomplish our current production targets? 
  • If we eliminated the following products and services, then how could we still hit our current growth objectives? 
  • If we had no access to any new capital, then how could we still grow the company by X%? 

Don’t fear your constraints, but embrace them. Any company, military or other organization can benefit from being the underdog—smaller, younger or constrained in resources. Embrace the turnaround mindset, and leverage your weaknesses into strengths.  

For more ideas on how to facilitate profitable innovation at your company, you can listen here to the innovation section of Growth or Bust! Proven Turnaround Strategies to Grow Your Business https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-9xgqf-acfb6b

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Leveraging the Momentum of Crisis By Mark Faust The only author & speaker on the Turnaround Mindset

What we can learn from Turnaround CEOs

Author – Mark Faust Sr.

“Reading your book one chapter a week with my executive team has literally had a 9-figure impact to our bottom line, in just one quarter and we’ve added over 100 jobs to our team. This has been the best exercise I’ve been involved in with any management team in my entire career.” 

– Tim Murphy, Pres., of Nortrax $17b division of John Deere

“Mark’s strategies show how even businesses in the most dire of times still have a set of responsibilities, a path, and processes, that they can follow that will optimize their chance of turnaround and long-term success. These are wise concepts from which most any business would benefit.” 

– Dr. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

“A practical and inspiring resource loaded with new and highly effective tools for developing a culture of innovation, purpose, and success. You’ll be amazed at the results!”

—Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Triggers

Your Team & Customers Are Feeling Grief 

& Need Compassion & Action 

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Can you recall a time when you or someone close to you was stricken with a level of fear so intense, that there was a thought of, “how convenient it would be to just die”? Obviously, you didn’t follow through, life is worth living, leaders always find a way. Fear focuses.

At any point of time, and especially in times of turbulence, there are people, customers, prospects, employees, vendors and friends, that are at a level of concern and fear that you might not totally appreciate. In any time of turbulence, the fear of change and the loss of normalcy, at the very least causes grief. In times like these you need to be as compassionate as you are with friends who have lost a loved one. While the grief is not as intense, the loss of normalcy in economic turbulence causes a type of grief that can be like that with the death of a loved one.

I believe that the first decision you should make as a leader in a time of turbulence is to have compassion for the grief that others are feeling. From much experience I know first-hand, that those at an echelon like yours, and even Fortune 500 CEOs experience grief in these trying times. I’ve counseled dozens of high-level CEOs in turbulent times about the agonizing decisions they must make and implement. But there is a power you and they have that cannot be left on the table.

The power of reassuring words can do wonders, here is one real life example: 

“You need to know that your jobs are secure, I am not going to lay you off in this turbulent time. I need you for the inevitable uptick, and in fact you and I are going to innovate like never before in this down time and we will hit the ground running when the inevitable comeback takes place as it ALWAYS does.”

Nearly those exact words were recently shared by several of my clients. They weren’t initially realizing how powerful they would be, but when they finally said them out loud and in person and/or in video to their team, the impact was palpable. There were tears. The quality of the virtual meetings and innovation sessions with which I was involved afterwards took a leap to a new dimension of performance.  

I call it innovation Jujitsu, it is the momentum of some amount of fear, grief and/or external uncertainty being redirected toward a vision of hope and change. It creates an energy that can be aimed toward devouring problems, challenges, and opportunities with an intrepidness like nothing you’ve ever seen.

Are you going to waste this opportunity of turbulence or are you going to seize it?

In the worst of times you learn who your friends are. You know this, your clients know this. Now the question is, are you ready to leverage this momentum to help those whom you most love to serve?

Reaching people in this time of turbulence is actually easier than ever. Several of my clients executed calling blitzes and even my CEO clients have made literally hundreds of calls in just a couple of days. They have been shocked at the great response to the personal touch and the simplest of questions.

Forget about all these sappy emails going out, “In the wake of…we want you to know that you are in our thoughts…” CRAP! Pick up the phone, call your top 100 contacts and after finding out how they and their family are doing just ask a simple question: 

“Is there anything I or we could do for you?”

Get a free copy of either of my books, Growth or Bust! or High Growth Levers both sold out on Amazon. Just send your email and one or more of the emails of the team mates. 

Mark Faust works with CEOs and owners who have decided that healthy growth and innovation is what they want regardless of the economic environment. Since 1990, Mark has worked with over 300 companies and over fifty 3rd generation family owned businesses and helped them to grow and become much more profitable during the most turbulent of times. He is also a professional speaker, author and strategic growth coach to successful yet humble CEO’s. For a free copy of one of Mark’s books send an email to Mark@em1990.com

“These guiding principles are what grow great and enduring companies!”

—Dave Mawhinney, executive director, Carnegie Mellon Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship

“Management teams reading this book together couldn’t help but become more innovative and strategic.”

—Dr. Clark Gilbert, president of Brigham Young University–Idaho, board advisor to Harvard Business School’s Dr. Clay Christensen’s Innosight

“This book is filled with a ton of what to do in a very, very leveraged way.”

—Dr. Frank Wagner, cofounder of Stakeholder Centered Coaching

“The turnaround mindset is the key to sustainable growth for any company.”

—Ralph O’Dell, turnaround CEO

“One of the most pragmatic books on strategy, innovation, and culture I’ve read.”

—Dr. Jeffrey C. Bauer, dean and professor of management, University of Cincinnati–Clermont College