Wilhelm, Ben

By Ben Wilhelm, President, Carolinas Region

Construction is a stressful and disruptive experience.  Many projects have 30 or more contractors, hundreds of suppliers, multiple design team members, Owners with many stakeholders, and hundreds of people onsite during the course of a project.  Invariably, something is not going to work right.

In an imperfect industry, we often encounter tough decisions, challenging surprises, budget constraints, or just plain disagreement.  Oh, and whatever is being built will be the one and only like it in history because no two buildings are alike.  So how do we orchestrate our work and manage to develop productive relationships during the process?

The attitude we bring to the experience makes the difference in my opinion.  If we seek conflict for sport, we will find it; if we avoid conflict, we will fail; if we work to understand our differences and promote cooperation, we have a good shot at doing the challenging stuff right.

Judith Glaser recently wrote about conversation intelligence and I believe it has a lot of good insight for our industry leaders.  She recites good anecdotes to be cautious making assumptions and shifting from I to WE in our prospective outcomes.

A skeptic may dismiss this thinking to psychobabble, but that would be short-sighted.  The best aspect of this learning is simple but powerful – TRUST.  To create trust as a guiding principle there are five aspects: Be Transparent; focus on building Relationships; Understand others perspectives; seek Shared success; and commit to Truth telling and testing assumptions.  (Glaser, 2014)  Seeing our conversations through this lens enables us to unlock gridlock and diffuse tension easier than a win-lose perspective.

It is instructive to consider what we want out of our interactions with clients, partners and colleagues.  Before heading into your next meeting, think about who is going to show up.  Are you coming in with an agenda to win or an attitude to co-create the agenda so everyone walks away finding a path to be successful?

Bibliography: Glaser, J. E. (2014). Conversational intelligence. Brookline, MA: Bibliomotion, Inc.