The GOAT (greatest of them all), Tom Brady, cannot win games without his sturdy O-line. Patrick Mahomes needs talented wide receivers to consistently dominate the opposition. Legendary star quarterbacks need great teams around them to succeed. Stars do not win games. Teams do.

Most of the built environment in the United States is put in place by small and mid-size construction enterprises, and the majority of all construction companies are closely held businesses managed by some or all of the owners. This owner/operated profile keeps the performance focus on the owner and his or her top management. 

However, Expertise-driven Project Delivery research has proven that what matters most in successful construction projects is not the owner of the company but the level of expertise of the actual key people performing the work.

“When selecting a construction firm, it’s very important to look at the actual people who will be doing the work. If we agree that it’s ‘all about the people’, then the procurement process should be laser-focused on identifying the expertise of these key people. (Jake Smithwick PhD.)

The Team is The Company

In construction, the “key people performing the work” are “the team” and teams win games, not owners (stars). 

Here’s the “turnaround” question we ask contractors:

Do you see your company as an asset you own or as a collaborative effort between you and a collection of individual professionals who contribute, each in their own way, to your mutual well-being?

Some contractors never even think to ask themselves such a question but, when they do, good things start to happen. They begin to recognize the value of their key employees and realize that to strengthen their team is the “best management practice” they could adopt. 

When the CEO identifies his or her key people (team), they often come up with four or five managers that have proven their worth over time. Further analysis, however, reveals that the CEO’s “key people” all have “key people” in their organization as well. In larger organizations, this second level of “key people” also have “key people” they rely on. And so on down the line. This, of course, is the team that is the company.

Team Building

The term “team building” has become a cliché that most contractors abhor. However, once a contractor sees their company as “a collaborative effort of a collection of individual professionals” they are more likely to see the value of trying to bind these individual professionals together to accomplish the company’s goals. 

What does it mean to “build” a team? What are the “building blocks” that turn individual effort into collaborative success?

Seven Building Blocks:

  1. Motivation – Identifying and applying appropriate and effective motivation to each individual team member.
  2. Communication – Learning how to effectively communicate both needs and desires up and down the entire team.
  3. Unification – Creating bonds and connections that inspire individuals to identify themselves as part of a greater good. (The United States Marine Corps is very good at this).
  4. Collaboration – Teaching individual team members to share knowledge and expertise, thereby raising everyone’s performance level.
  5. Conflict resolution – Identifying internal conflict as soon as it arises and taking immediate steps to satisfy all parties.
  6. Planning – Including all team members in project planning from the very beginning. All team members must see the company’s plan as their personal plan.
  7. Problem solving – Replace assigning blame with collaborative solutions.

Where To Begin

Firms that specialize in “team building” have sprouted up across the country in the last 20 or 30 years. Their methods are beyond the scope of this blog, but every construction leader reading this can make a start without professional help. 

  • By recognizing the need to see your company as a team of contributors you have taken the first step. 
  • Meet informally with company employees who rarely get to see the boss. Socializing to get to know people better will help you understand and empathize with key employees. This preliminary step itself often yields positive results as your interactions cause them to feel more valued and understood. 
  • Create an open-door policy at these first exchanges so that team members in the ranks start to feel they have a voice when you offer them an ear. 
  • Collaborating with a wider group of key employees will foster innovation and creativity.
  • Give employees something to look forward to during these first exchanges. This introduces motivation into your new relationships.
  • Show employees appreciation at this early stage. Many of them didn’t think you knew they were alive.

Once you make a start and feel the early stirrings of a team taking shape you will never neglect this management function again. Team building is fun and rewarding. 

More about company culture next week. 

For more information on the Team Building read more at:

For a broader view organizational change, read more here:

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Please circulate this widely. It will benefit your constituents. This research is continuous and includes new information weekly as it becomes available. Thank you.