What Does Real Change Entail?
STORY INLINE POST
Surely we have wondered what is the most urgent demand from the construction industry today, and the answers that will arise include higher quality of work, reduced waste, and being more organized in construction procedures. If we personalize the question to our company, we could perhaps add the renewal of our machinery, obtaining the best technology, or training our people. And in all or almost all cases, I dare say that we will be right, particularly when it comes to training our people; that is something we need and sometimes even urgently.
In this last point, training our people, it seems appropriate to pause for a moment and reflect that no one could claim that this is not necessary. But the important answer to give is: in what areas do we train our people? In many cases (if not all) we always start with hard topics like those related to project planning and control, new available software and new construction methodologies.
I can safely say that training that focuses on soft skills for our executives, project managers, or even the initial levels of our staff, will almost never appear. Why is this? Because our mindset formed in technical environments makes it seem as if that were the most important thing. But in my years of experience, I have become convinced that the true transformation of the industry will come when it is led by people whose human, more than technical, skills are what characterize us. Mexicans in particular have gained a good reputation as great technicians in soil mechanics, seismic engineering, and building in the middle of the living and bustling city. For the record, in no way do I mean that these achievements are not essential for progress or that no more is required; but it is not these human skills that will transform our industry into what today’s circumstances, clients and the market de}mand and what will project it forward in this dizzying 21st century.
What are those soft skills and how will they lead to transformation?
We can enumerate them, and it would be a long list. However, I will only mention what I consider most important for our industry and for any human company:
Leadership: Leading a group will always be more effective than merely managing it. The latter can achieve specific goals, but if the environment changes, that person will not know what to do. Leading a group means making people solve almost any problem that arises, because leadership modifies willpower, not just understanding.
Constructive communication: Teams working on a construction project, by their very nature, often have conflicting interests. Although clients and their contractors are looking for the same thing at the end of the road, interests frequently generate controversial situations that become insurmountable when these skills are not present. Constructive communication seeks, until found, the points of coincidence from which agreements can be reached and the multiple problems that a project has can be resolved.
Adaptability: We grow when we adapt to circumstances. If we remain still, waiting for things to "be as they were before," we do not move forward. That reminds us of the incredible story of the little mice in Who Moved My Cheese, by Spencer Johnson. Changing and moving forward. The right approach is again to grow in the relationship, not to weakly give in or arbitrarily impose. Adapting also means knowing how to stay in the market despite new trends and styles.
Creativity: create something new from the previous one that better solves the current problem. The technical knowledge of our profession must be the basis of the result, but not the result itself, because such an approach quickly makes these results obsolete. Creating is undoubtedly the vocation of the construction professional, now we must bring that enormous quality to human relations.
Empathy: One of the most important! To get along, agree, put ourselves in each other's shoes. It means looking in the same direction but with different eyes. It is an act of sincerity but also entails accepting real differences in points of view. It is built from our differences. We are empathetic when we build a new agreement that includes the opinions of both and leads to a better one, while continuing the relationship. I wish it was just about being nice and in a good mood, but that is not the case. It is necessary to build a common foundation from the bottom up.
All of these skills are developed from negotiating differences. We are not born knowing how to do it; it can and should be learned. There are many methodologies to achieve this.
Everything stems from accepting that we have this enormous area of opportunity and that with maturity and determination, investing in our people, we can make it a fact.