The construction and real estate industry is closely tied to the American entrepreneurial spirit. While success and financial reward come at a cost, the opportunity to control your own destiny through hard work and long hours, is a dream many prospective business owners are obsessed with making a reality. Some are inspired and mentored by business owners for whom they have great respect; others go out on their own to escape ineffective management.
Whatever the impetus was for starting your construction and real estate business, you need skilled leadership to make it prosper and grow. This necessity doesn’t pertain only to you as company owner. To build a sustainable enterprise over the long term, owners must develop leaders within the employee ranks — people who can take on increasing responsibilities and thrive.
As the industry continues to struggle with a shortage of skilled workers, as well as the ongoing loss of retiring Baby Boomers, your company’s long-term profitability may depend on the efficacy of its leadership at every level.
Management vs. leadership
Management skills and leadership skills are both critical to a construction and real estate business, but there are basic differences between the two. Effective managers set clear goals, make short-term plans, solve practical problems and behave in an ethically and, ideally, supportive manner. They’re good at directing operations, organizing efforts and keeping score.
Strong leaders, on the other hand, use what are called “softer” skills. They’re good at:
Good leaders look toward the future. They take a long-range view of the business and will take calculated risks to make it succeed. They don’t just want to do things right here and now; they want to be first in line to do things right tomorrow.
Strong leadership carries over to your workforce. People want to follow leaders who have a clear vision of the future, a positive attitude and an encouraging manner. It’s hard to get fired up by a boss who’s always complaining about problems, performance and competitors.
Where you stand
To improve your own leadership skills, you’ve got to consider your habits and proactively seek opportunities for positive change. For example, think about the last time you implemented a new marketing or sales strategy, or delegated key responsibilities to one of your managers. If it’s been a long time since you’ve taken such steps, you may need to step away from the day-to-day and hone your leadership skills.
Your employees may also harbor good ideas about how to become a better leader. Consider issuing a confidential survey to gather ideas for improvements. Be prepared, however, to receive negative feedback as well as positive. And, to the extent possible, act on the suggestions made.
A culture of leadership
Seeking and paying attention to good ideas from within your company is one mark of good leadership. It not only sparks positive changes in the way you run the business, but also signals to employees that you recognize and value their contributions.
But don’t stop there. Talking with employees at all levels in your organization should expose you to those with the talent and capacity to lead. Once you spot that talent, work to provide opportunities for those individuals to develop.
For instance, establish a task force to solve a problem your company is facing, and identify a promising employee to lead the initiative. Or, ask a potential leader to recruit a team charged with proposing new processes or programs, and be prepared to implement the ideas that make the most sense.
Your business may seem like a ship tossed upon the unpredictable waves of local and national economic changes, building trends and tough competition, but the leadership skills of you and your best employees can guide your company through these storms to the calm waters of manageable expenses and a strong bottom line.