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A variety of teams exist in the construction industry, ranging from field teams installing manufactured products on a construction site and office teams designing and engineering building plans to production teams fabricating the newest R&D design. Though the context may vary and the qualifications of the individuals certainly may vary, the basic principles critical to teams do not vary. In Leadership: Theory and Practice, Peter Northouse, a scholar in leadership studies, holds that leadership is a process. Anyone willing to engage the process can be a leader and leadership is not exclusive to those individuals with specific traits.

Leadership principles are invaluable to teams in the construction industry and construction executives must go back to the basics of understanding the dynamics of culture, leadership and followership. Here are four back-to-basics principles that are critical for construction executives when growing team strengths.

1. Encourage a Perspective of Growth

Leaders must set the tone, embody the culture and, at times, shift the perspectives of their team members. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, written by internationally recognized psychologist Carol Dweck, Ph. D., holds that there are two primary perspectives—one is a fixed mindset and the other is a growth mindset. Both mindsets affect the culture and environment that is created and upheld in team contexts; however, both have drastically different perspectives. Dweck notes further that each of these mindsets hold a different definition of ability; “a fixed ability needs to be proven and a changeable ability can be developed through learning.”

As a construction executive, it is invaluable to promote this mindset of growth among teams: a mindset that places value on learning, potential, growth and stretching. This is a simple concept to grasp, but the reality of living into this concept in daily work is not quite as simple. It may require a complete shift in perspective for those with a history of relying on fixed, proven data.

2. Hold Individuals Accountable

Clinging to this perspective of growth in team environments relies heavily on collaboration. Susan Scott writes in Fierce Leadership that collaboration is deeply integrated with authenticity and integrity. In this collaborative space, she holds that the progress of the team is tied to the progress of everyone on the team. This calls for each team member to be held accountable for development, which then serves the team’s collaborative efforts. Note again, this accountability for development is not limited to certain position in the construction company. All leaders and all team members should embrace a growth perspective and through the process be held accountable for their personal progress. Though methods may differ, accountability on the individual level will ultimately lead to greater progress of the team in the long run.

3. Develop Strengths of Current Team Members

In Gallup’s Strengths Based Leadership written by Tom Rath, he holds that “although individuals need not be well-rounded, teams should be.” This is a fundamental perspective on human resource development for construction executives. Construction executives should encourage team members to grow further into their areas of strengths. And, while team members are growing and building upon their strengths, they are also building confidence. This self-confidence directly impacts individual performance, which ultimately will strengthen team outputs. Consider Liz Wiseman’s perspective on leadership in her book Multipliers. Multipliers are those who attract talent, encourage thinking, challenge perspectives, debate theories and require accountability. These two principles, of developing the strengths of individuals and multiplying the intelligence that already exists in the team, are foundational to the development of current team members.

4. Understand the Inherent Relationship of Leadership and Followership

From a human capital point of view, Northouse discusses how leadership can occur when a leader and followers are present. By default, this holds that neither leadership nor followership can exist without both leaders and followers. One cannot exist without the other as there is an inherent relationship between the two. Looking at this relationship deeper, Rath holds that leaders serve their teams best when using strengths related to executing, influencing, relationship building and strategic thinking. Further, strong leaders fulfill the basic needs of team members, or followers, by cultivating trust, compassion, stability and hope.

Another key element to this relationship is the role of the leaders and followers in the team. Simon Sinek speaks to this relationship between a leader and followers in his book Leaders Eat Last. Sinek submits the role of the leader is to protect the team and the role of the team is to protect each other. These two roles ultimately allow the organizations to grow. Construction executives must understand the mutual relationship present in team environments.

In the construction industry, executives grow team strengths with perspective, accountability, development and relationships.

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