Creating a Successful Construction Leadership Program

The construction industry needs up-skilling in negotiation and cooperative practices, supervisory and management skills, according to the National Centre Vocational Education Research (2008). Also, a positive safety culture requires collaboration, relationship building and supporting behaviours.

Here we look at a Construction Leadership Program case study that addresses these findings, taking into account the four leadership characteristics that impact change implementation and innovation in the workplace, being:

  • Communication
  • Motivation
  • Inclusiveness
  • Coaching

This case relates to a Construction Leadership Program for an engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) client.

The employee relations and industrial relations (ER/IR) processes experienced three changes of legislation during the different phases of the project.

The EPCM contractor adopted a strategy of contractors managing their own employees under their own arrangements. This involved developing the minimum number of rules and policies needed to legally protect the project, to create order in the work force, and to enable the contractors to be responsible for their own people.

A critical initiative of the leadership program was to prevent subcultures, outside those expected, from developing.

The construction leadership program was designed to ensure:

  • Consistency in values, language and behaviour
  • Involvement in the program by all levels of supervision, from senior management to leading hand
  • Formal process to promote listening and understanding the capabilities of others in similar positions
  • Support and involvement from the client
  • Knowledge and ideas sharing by all individuals involved in the program

Key success factors for leadership programs

A leadership program cannot just tell: it must influence, as well as create, an environment for listening and psychological safety to question and challenge.

The complexity of the project construction environment will not create a “one size fits all” outcome: some flexibility and discretion, within clear boundaries, is required, as is on-going support and review.

Any leadership program needs to understand the importance of appreciating the individual, and individuals must be encouraged to participate and to recognise that successful knowledge transfer reflects on their self and professional image.

As a culture of sharing emerges, there is a greater exchange of information about what exists, what works, what practices have major problems, and what solutions have been successfully applied.

Getting employees to share knowledge willingly requires a change in mind-set, away from concern for individual success and towards concern with group success.

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