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Industry Perspectives: Lead with your heart in the company of hard hats

Janice Quigg
Industry Perspectives: Lead with your heart in the company of hard hats
Janice Quigg

The construction industry is under extreme pressure to deliver high-quality projects on time and within budget. In this high-stakes sector, there isn’t much time or inclination to talk about matters of the heart. But in Part 2 of this five-part leadership series, I want to explore the “L” in my leadership model: LEAD (Leading with your heart; Excelling at conflict resolution; Adding value by serving others; Developing trust).

One of my favourite quotes is from the late motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, who said: "People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care." If you want to become an exceptional leader, you need to show your employees you care.

If you ignore your employees’ feelings, you risk alienating your workforce and impacting productivity. Research indicates that job satisfaction in North America has been declining for some time now. Recent Gallup studies have found that people feel more negatively about their work, bosses and organizations than ever before. In fact, approximately 70 per cent of workers have become disengaged, translating into billions in lost productivity annually. The construction industry is not immune from the challenges of keeping their people engaged and this is why there must be a focus on both the technical skills required to complete a construction project and the softer skills necessary to keep your employees engaged.

Leading with the heart can foster positive attitudes, increase engagement and boost productivity and profits. The idea of leading with heart is virtually unheard-of in the construction industry. But while some managers and leaders may view it as a weak approach not well suited to the pressing challenges of the industry, the opposite is true. Research shows that, even in this tough field, emotions are a driving force in employee behaviour. To create a business with an exceptional culture that attracts and retains top talent, you must create a workplace where employees feel valued and appreciated. Who doesn’t want to feel appreciated?

Leaders, you develop credibility with your employees when you connect with them and show them that you care and appreciate them. It’s important to remember that when you are leading a team, you should still acknowledge each member as an individual.

There are many ways exceptional leaders connect with their employees. Here are just four:

Focus on the other person

Exceptional leaders know that to build trust and compassion in your work relationships, it is critical that you become employee-centric. When you focus on your employees, you begin to understand them and their particular needs. You begin to appreciate them more, and they will take notice.

Respect your employees

All workers, regardless of position, want to be respected and valued for their unique contributions to the construction project. Leaders can show respect for their employees in many ways such as appreciating their time, valuing their opinions and by being sensitive to family obligations and cultural differences. For example, leaders can provide some flexibility so that their employees can attend more of their children’s school events.

Create a safe environment

Unfortunately, some construction companies have toxic cultures, where bosses bully and intimidate employees. Naturally, toxic cultures do not foster an atmosphere in which employees feel safe to provide their opinion on an issue or offer a new way of completing a task. Leadership in the construction industry has typically been more authoritative. However, as a leader, it is your responsibility to create a culture where employees feel safe and comfortable sharing their thoughts and expertise, and your company will be better for it.

Provide opportunities for personal growth

Employers often assume that money is the only motivator of their people. However, research indicates that, in fact, opportunities for personal growth motivate people. Smart leaders provide their employees with new challenges on the job and consistent opportunities to improve their skill level.

Construction companies with leaders who understand the value of leading with both their head and their heart enjoy increased productivity and profitability. What can you do to bring more heart into a company filled with hard hats?

We continue next week with Part 3 of this five-part leadership series by exploring the "E" in my leadership model LEAD, being "Excelling at conflict resolution."

Janice Quigg has extensive experience as a lawyer, coach, speaker and author and is a Canfield Certified Trainer who specializes in not only constructively resolving conflict but also teaches how to embrace it and use it to serve an organization’s goals. For more information visit Send comments to

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