A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Construction Has Character-Based Leaders

The following article originally appeared in the September newsletter to clients of FMI Corporation.  Reprinted with permission.

Among the most positive things that can be said of any person is “He or she has good character.” It means the individual is reliable, honest, a person of his or her word. You can count on him or her. It used to be a base requirement for people in roles that influenced others – those natural role models such as clergy, coaches, congressmen and commanders. Regrettably, in recent years, the requirement for impeccable character in these roles seems to be discounted or waived.

However, that is not the case in construction. The vast majority of men and women who lead construction companies have good character; it is essential to the work their firm does and the culture they create. It is the most common characteristic of multigenerational companies. They have character-based leaders designing and demonstrating character-based cultures. Everyone is clear about “true north.”

Competency and confidence, combined with courage and character, allow these leaders to assume the risks on their projects and then execute profitably. The typical construction project, no matter which specific market, requires building a prototype, one-of-a-kind structure, out in the weather, for a guaranteed maximum price. Only someone substantive, comfortable in his or her own skin, with proper intentions can repeatedly do that. No legal document or set of plans can cover all the potential issues. Almost every project has some point where being honorable and doing the right thing obviates anything else. Contractors always step up; it is the essence of their character.

Perhaps it is the nature of construction, dirty and difficult, that produces such genuine and authentic people – understated and humble. Perhaps the requirement for bonding rules our “front-enders” and poseurs; however, it is character that drives people to write a check to do the right thing; to ignore their lawyer’s advice to declare bankruptcy and instead, sell personal assets to pay their debts; and to support an employee and his family through recovery and rehab.

Certainly, people of character strength are also flawed humans. And there are people who call themselves “contractors” who denigrate that honorable title by abusing vulnerable immigrant labor. These few deserve the most brutal consequences. But deal with the leaders in any construction company with history and success, and you will always find men and women who keep their word, who stand up for their beliefs, and who do the right thing. These people come with extra rebar in their character structure, and that makes all the difference in the world.