BY BRIAN WASAG Of CONTRACTOR’s staff
CHICAGO — Contractors must be open to a change in leadership style if they want to hire and retain a skilled and motivated workforce, Gary Heil, founder of the Center for Innovative Leadership, told members of the Construction Contractors Alliance Sept. 27 during their annual meeting here.
During the opening of his presentation, Heil asked CCA members why they think their employees should follow them as leaders.
After several responses such as, “Because we pay them,” Heil surprised the group by saying research suggests that money does not motivate the most skilled workers.
According to Heil, few workers, only one in five, feel as though they are an important part of the company they work for.
Leaders of great companies, Heil said, challenge workers to share ideas and to question long-standing practices without fear of reprisal.
“The environment that we create as leaders has more of an effect than we realize,” he said.
Heil also encouraged the group of contractors to be optimistic about their goals for the future in order to motivate workers. He said a vast majority of people tend to be pessimists who do not inspire others to follow them.
Heil argued that optimistic leaders who are passionate about creating change foster a sense of hope and cultivate a contagious attitude of success
“Change is more likely to be effected when we set our goals unreasonably high,” he said.
Heil, whose organization specializes in studying and performing consulting work on service quality, leadership and change management, said a lack of leadership in engaging workers is a major cause of apathy.
Great leaders, however, must be both optimistic and realistic, Heil said. They must be absolutely clear about the future, and they must provide solid reasons for making any changes within the company.
Contractors attending the presentation said they plan to put much of Heil’s advice into action with their own companies.
Terry Self, president of Interstate Mechanical Contractors in Knoxville, Tenn., said he planned to ensure that the employees of his company understand where the company is heading in the future.
“If the employees see the vision that we are striving for and if we’re able to make the difficult decisions as leaders or business owners, the employees will follow,” Self said. “They have to see that you’re willing make the sacrifices and the tough decisions.”
Chris McGinnis, president of Tucson Plumbing, said his goal will be to have a more positive and upbeat attitude about the company’s future, regardless of how the market is performing.
“I recognize that I have a lot more options in front of me in regards to tweaking the work environment that we provide and being far more receptive to the ideas of those around me,” McGinnis said.
McGinnis also agreed with Heil’s point that leaders should allow workers to offer feedback about a company’s future, even if the employees are “newbies.”
“We can go out and try to attract a workforce to come in, but it’s really what we do as soon as they get in the door,” he said. “We need to give them the opportunity to give us feedback and every opportunity to be with qualified, positive people within our organization to ensure that they’re going to have a positive experience.”
Scott Kincaid, president of Kincaid Industries Inc. in Thousand Palms, Calif., said he agreed that keeping workers engaged is a key component to a company’s success.
“If you want to bring your team up to the next level, you’re going to have to motivate your people,” he said.