At a point in time when companies are looking for meaningful ways to distinguish themselves from others, Virginia Associated Builders and Contractors - Virginia Chapter (ABC – VA) President Patrick Dean has a lot to offer. In this episode, Patrick shares insights and perspectives from his nearly 40 years in construction on ways supervisors can affect employee experience and help shape jobsite performance. Join us for this interview as we discuss what effective supervisory leadership looks like and highlight ways to integrate it to practice.
View this episode on our website.
About Patrick Dean:
Patrick has been involved with the construction industry since 1985 when he began his career with Associated Builders & Contractors. After working for the National Association starting and supporting chapters, he became the president of the Virginia Chapter in September 1992.
His career at ABC Virginia spans 29 years to date. The chapter now has offices and training centers in Dulles, Richmond and Norfolk. ABC Virginia is the industry leader in craft , safety and management training serving over 650 members in the Commonwealth.
Where you can find Patrick Dean:
Where you can find Joe White
Supervisor Skills: Secrets of Success is a production of AEU LEAD, a division of The American Equity Underwriters, Inc. With 60 years of combined industry experience, our supervisor training program gives mid-level managers in the maritime industry the skills needed to influence employees, customers, and peers. This increases employee engagement, reduces turnover and rework, and ultimately results in higher profits for their companies.
Joe White :
If you want to maintain status quo, learn to manage. If you want to continuously grow and improve, learn to lead. Today's discussion is about leadership on the job site or shop floor. Stay with us.
Joe White (00:17):
Hello, and thank you for joining us today. My name is Joe White and I'm the host of Supervisor Skills: Secrets of Success. The SOS podcast series is produced for the ongoing development of mid and frontline managers. With each episode, we'll take on topics of interest and interview subject matter experts for the benefit of our listeners. In today's episode, we're discussing job site leadership. My guest today is Patrick Dean and Patrick is the President of the Virginia Associated Builders and Contractors. He lives in the Northern Virginia/DC area and is well versed in the challenges facing the construction industry. Welcome Patrick, and thank you for joining us today.
Patrick Dean (00:57):
Glad to be here, Joe.
Joe White (00:59):
If you would, please take just a moment and tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you do with the ABC.
Patrick Dean (01:04):
Well, I've been President of ABC Virginia since 1992, and I've been with the association around the country since 1985. And I did work in the construction industry as a young man, and so over the years with all my experience working with ABC contractors, I've learned a lot about this industry, it's a wonderful industry, and I do what I can to help support it. ABC takes a very active role in the state of Virginia in leading the industry and management education, leadership development, and helping contractors become more effective and productive, so I'm glad to talk with you today about it.
Joe White (01:49):
That's great. We've got a couple questions here and just to kind of put things into perspective, we really focus these podcasts on that frontline manager, the foreman and the supervisor, the person out there working with employees, and the first question I have with regard to this topic, our topic today is around improving productivity through leadership on the job site. So the question I have for you is what's at stake? Why is this a topic that's important?
Patrick Dean (02:19):
Well, I think it's important for the overall health of the industry, and the obvious thing is when you have poor productivity cost rise, definitely, and also, quality tends to go down, okay? With lower productivity. The other thing that concerns me is people lose motivation then. If they're not being led well, they may lose interest in what they do and focus on that job or that ... Definitely on the job at hand, but possibly at their career, and people will start drifting away when we already have an industry that's very challenging to attract quality good people into.
Joe White (02:58):
Right. It's interesting, the comments you're making, I recently had a discussion with a contractor in Bethesda, Maryland, and they were saying, "Look, we're in a very difficult position. We're in an area where there's lots of job opportunities for those that may want to work from home." And they said, "We're really having to recruit people out into the field when it seems that there's a trend, a movement towards people wanting to work remotely and work from home." So it is interesting, and to the point that you've made about being able to attract talent, it has been a challenge and it seems that it's only going to get worse in the years ahead, if I'm reading all the industry trends correctly.
Patrick Dean (03:42):
Yeah. I think you're reading them correctly, and the industry is ... We struggle and we can become our own worst enemy, as you know, and in the sense that we get going pretty good and then things get a hiccup, and then we get back to square one again. And I think the industry is getting smarter, and it takes getting your head hit against the wall a few times to figure it out, but we're getting smarter, and we have ways now to start attracting young people and keep in the industry. And I think just as any career, there's got to be a way to grow in that career. So not just talking about career paths, but actually showing them career paths and helping them achieve their goals. I think we've got to be more employee-centric where we really have a value proposition that our employees can see and understand and get their arms around.
Joe White (04:40):
With regard to productivity, what are some of the factors that you see impacting it?
Patrick Dean (04:47):
Well, I think for many years, a big part of our industry, I hate to make a general comment, but many in our industry have lacked, have not invested in their people in a way that gives them those skills to be more productive or to lead others in a much more productive manner, because I really believe the number one way in the field to enhance productivity is that our crew leaders/foreman need to have better skills.
Joe White (05:23):
With regard to leadership, what's missing on the job site today?
Patrick Dean (05:31):
I think the communication side. I know you hear that for a lot of things in our industry and in a lot of business, but communicating to the crew leaders from management above, but also then crew leaders knowing how and what to communicate to those that they have under their eye on the job site. I think my way and the highway doesn't really work anymore. Some of us grew up that way, and we didn't know any better. I did concrete work, and they just told you when to show up and when you could leave, and you better listen to the foreman, and we got our work done, but it's a little different world now. And you've got so many different people and personalities on the job that I think communication is so important. That's probably a big thing. But also, the morale-building and motivation. I believe not only do you have to understand how to correct and to critique people that work for you, you're actually doing them a favor when you do it the right way. That also gives you the ability to help motivate them because if you can work with the people below you or your teammates, let's call them. You can help them get better at what they do; it's going to come back on you also and the team, but the guy's got to learn how to do it in a fashion that is motivating - Motivating and educational and not demeaning, and, "Hey, I am the man, and I am the boss, and this is how we're going to get it done." Let them be a part of that decision. Let them be a part of the solution rather than just the doer who doesn't have a whole lot of say in it. And so I think communications is a big place to work, how we talk to our people and how we listen to them, Joe.
Joe White (07:23):
Right. I read recently that throughout the remainder of the current decade that 90 to 95% of all entry-level positions are going to be filled by gen Z, our youngest most generation, and some of them at this point are in their ... I guess, early teens, all the way up into some just entering the workforce now. How prepared do you feel the construction industry is for recruiting and retaining gen Z employees?
Patrick Dean (07:59):
That's a tough one for me to answer. I think I'm way on the other end, I'm the baby boomer side. We've come a long way in 20, 25 years, but I think it's ... I don't have all the answers to that, and I think as more kids find out that college ... Not everybody has to go to school, to a four year or degree. They still need enhanced training and skill-building. If you look back at what our forefathers, how they treated their job and how proud they were to build something, hope is not a plan, but man, is that one thing I hope could come back to the young people, that they could really get their ... See what they're doing and get their arms around creating stuff. So I don't have all the answers there. Maybe some younger people will have some better thoughts on that, but I think it will have something to do with the hours and what would be the life balance. That is something you and I never heard about when we were young guys. Now it's not a bad thing; we just didn't know about it. I was also thinking about inclusion. I've talked to many different crew leaders, and I've had bosses and stuff on job sites and the new person, we get the new person out there, and there's a couple of ways of treating them. And one of the ways is let's really get them to work hard, fast, and see if he makes it through the day. Then let's see if they make it through the week.
Joe White (09:38):
Patrick Dean (09:39):
And with our history of recruitment over the last 20 years, and retention, I think we need to take a different look at that. And I was talking to a friend of mine and he was talking about changing that paradigm to where ... And this takes leadership, Joe. This takes a strong crew leader who does communicate well with his teammates. Let's embrace the new people that get assigned to our jobs. So many companies talk about, "Oh, we're a family business. We are so tight. We do this, and we do that." And those are all good things, but it's got to transfer down to the field. So when we get a couple new green people that come out of high school, that come out of a program or they come out of a various agency that is assisted, whatever it is, we need to not just think of, "Oh, he's not going to make it. Oh, that's going to be a one-day deal. That's a five ... Let's see if we get him through the week." No, let's embrace him to get him to feel like they can be part of this team from day one. I got to believe if you could put that into action, all of a sudden somebody's mentoring somebody like back in the 50s and 60s. They're mentoring somebody. They're making sure; let's get this guy through the day. This can be a little rough for him. They're brand new at this. Hey, it's 38 degrees, and with some cold rain today and we're outside. How do we get them through this to where they start realizing they are productive with what they're learning and they're part of a team? So I think that's where the leadership training and having a little different paradigm of how we look at the new people. Every new person that comes on the job site, we have to look at them as a potential great employee, not somebody who's probably not going to make it until Friday. We got to change that thought process when we get new people on a job site.
Joe White (11:28):
That's great, great advice. I want to shift topics here. I wanted to speak to you a moment about technology. You touched on that a moment ago. As workplaces, and they are going to become more technical, more automated, as that happens, I firmly believe that leadership skills are going to become more important. So how quickly do you foresee advanced technologies being integrated as common practice in construction?
Patrick Dean (11:55):
A lot of people want to know how more mechanized we can become on a job site, and with robotics and the argument for robotics and more technological innovation is because the physical body can only do so much, and it gets broken down, and it gets old, and it gets sore and stuff like that. But also, it increases productivity such as these suits people are testing now and using, and so I can see that. It's a very expensive addition to your array of resources, but I can see that becoming a big deal; but I'm not sure how we see ourselves replacing a whole lot of craftsmen in that fashion. So I don't see that coming really fast, and that's the tough part, is where can we become more technological because we have become more technological, but we still put a brick on top of a brick.
Joe White (12:57):
Patrick Dean (12:59):
Joe White (12:59):
When I came out of college, I went to work for DuPont, and I worked in their project engineering division, which at the time was another way of saying construction. And I can remember when I came in, the practices that are in place today are far advanced. I mean, there were no drone technologies back then; that's 20, 25 years ago. I know as-built drawings used to be, on a complex, major project were a huge problem. And I know today, for example, companies have field handheld computers where they're able to update drawings in real-time. So there definitely is technology, and I think to your point, that we will adopt as adoption becomes available and as it works and makes sense. I think that's a very fair, and I think that's a great statement in terms of how to put the integration of technology into the workplace, especially as it relates to construction. So we're almost out of time, but I do have one more question. Again, we target this for the supervisors, foreman, for those that are listening that may have interest in improving their personal individual leadership skills. Do you have any advice on where they should start?
Patrick Dean (14:12):
Yeah. Now there's all kinds of things out there, Joe, and many of them kind of look the same, they just might ... They're just told with a different story. I'm going to give you two thoughts. One is everyone should read Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Joe White (14:31):
Patrick Dean (14:33):
That has stood the test of time, and if you're able to go to a class and do the two-day program, that is even better because I really didn't get all of it until I took the class and was forced to focus for two days on it. Really, it was a life-changing experience for me. That is one thing that I would suggest. The other is if you want to learn more about management and leadership roles, Patrick Lencioni has a great series of books, and the reason I like Lencioni is they're all done with a story. And so it's so easy to read. I mean, they're an hour and a half book when you ... Because in fact, one of them is all about a construction company with leadership problems, so there's all kinds of stories. So Patrick Lencioni has a series of books, The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, all these books that any of your listeners can just Google him and the books are actually enjoyable to read because there's so many great leadership books out there; we could go on and on for them. But you've got to find something that you can read and understand, and it's enjoyable to get through. So, Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People for everybody, and then take a look at Patrick Lencioni's leadership and management books, and I think there's some great knowledge to be gained by reading those books.
Joe White (15:55):
Oh, that's great. And we always say progress over perfection, so just take a step forward and do that enough over time and you'll find yourself in a much, much better place.
Thank you, Patrick. As usual, I always enjoy talking with you. I think you shared absolutely some insightful information with us today, and I certainly hope it's going to be something of benefit to our listeners. And again, I just want to thank you for your time. I know you're a very, very busy man these days. So again, I appreciate your time.
Patrick Dean (16:23):
Joe, you're busy too, so thanks for doing it, and I was glad to participate with you. Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you soon.
Joe White (16:29):
Awesome. Okay, contact information for Patrick is available in the show notes provided for this episode. For those listening, I hope you found the discussion of value and benefit. If so, please help us spread the word. Share the podcast with others that you know who may have an interest as well. In addition, we welcome any feedback you may have and would encourage you to review and rate this show wherever you access your podcast. The SOS podcast series is brought to you by AEU LEAD, a consultancy dedicated to the needs of frontline managers. For additional information or to follow us on social media, please use the links in the show notes provided. That's it for now. Stay safe, and thanks for listening.