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What shapes the culture of construction companies? Employees’ shared beliefs, values and practices.

Leaders have tremendous influence on these beliefs, values and practices. That influence comes from their controllable actions and inactions, and the words they choose (or don’t choose) to say.

When forming the desired company culture, leaders’ influence can be positive and constructive or damaging and destructive. No, leaders do not purposely undermine that culture, but mistakes get made, resulting in one that’s different than originally intended. That can leave leaders confused about why the desired culture isn’t unfolding. Or worse, they blindly believe the culture is fine.

Consider these three mistakes construction leaders make that can ruin a company’s culture.

1. Inconsistent Leadership

Leaders have many opportunities to reinforce the culture they want to create in their company. For example, they support a desired safety culture by first forming a safety committee. Then they invest in quality personal protective equipment, establish a safety awards program, provide ongoing safety training and measure safety performance. These positive actions say loud and clear “safety is important to our culture.”

Yet, they also could miss many opportunities. All the positive action around forming a safety culture is ruined when a leader’s actions and words inconsistently put in question the importance of developing a safety culture.

When leaders don’t wear proper PPE when visiting a jobsite, for example, it undermines the core safety message. Or they don’t express interest in the value of a safety training with the attendees. Or they fail to talk about safety when delivering a company update to employees. If it is mentioned, it’s not the headline.

Leaders who send mixed signals can impede progress in building a desired company culture. Inconsistent messages, misaligned decisions, and unfair treatment have a negative effect on employees’ beliefs, values and practices that form the company’s culture.

Whether it’s a culture of safety, accountability, innovation, trust, respect and customer service, the leaders who are consistently inconsistent unknowingly build a culture of confusion and chaos.

2. Tolerating, Not Tackling Problems

Construction leaders have lots on their plates. Often, they can’t find enough time during the day to get everything done. As a result, little things don’t get dealt with. Those little things can become big things and adversely affect the desired culture.

As an example, leaders want to build a high-performance team culture, but they don’t notice or address squabbles between people in two departments. Nor do they address out-of-control gossiping in the office or battles between office staff and the personnel in the field. This can result in silos being formed.

The leaders who do not tackle problems but tolerate them unknowingly create a culture of disengagement and apathy. That’s when cynicism and negativity begin to overshadow the high-performance team culture that’s desired.

3. Not Developing Other Leaders

Leaders who hire other leaders from outside the company instead of developing their own run the risk of not creating or nurturing the kind of culture they desire.

New leaders have their own views on shaping the values and practices of the company. As such, they are rarely in alignment with the prevailing views. Hence, a shift in culture follows.

For the desired culture to evolve, leaders have to proactively develop other leaders from within. Those who emerge with the desired leadership qualities can and will preserve the desired culture. They understand and believe in the company’s values. Their words and behaviors are consistent with the desired company culture, which serves as a foundation for emerging leaders as they coach, mentor and train employees.

By growing their own leaders, current leaders can remain confident the desired company culture will flourish with consistency. The problems that surface will not be tolerated; they will be tackled in a timely way and positive outcomes will prevail.


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