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Law of Navigation – Leadership for Contractors

Introduction to the Law of Navigation

Welcome to this edition of our podcast on leadership in the construction industry!  Thanks for coming back and joining us again.  Today we are going to be taking a look at Law of Navigation from John Maxwell’s book – The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. 

My name is Chris Jurin.  I am the CEO of Construct-Ed.  I am also a trainer with the John Maxwell Team.  In addition, I also serve as the president of a commercial roofing company as well as a roof consulting firm. 

Spring time is always and exciting time.  Trees start to bud, grass starts growing and many of us start to plan for the family’s summer vacation.  The act of planning a vacation is a big part of the fun.  You spend time planning and dreaming.  You look at your bank account and think about whether you can squeeze enough out of the balance to take that trip you have been dreaming about.  As you get closer to the date you begin to really anticipate leaving and heading for the destination.  If you have kids, they begin to bug you day and night – some even start to pack – weeks in advance!

Does anyone just wake up one morning and say let’s go on vacation?  Do you just load the kids into the car and start driving?  If you do, you probably won’t get any place worthwhile.  And if you do eventually arrive, you probably won’t have any place to stay! 

Common sense would tell you that you should be planning accordingly before you depart so that you can be successful in your journey!

Explaining the Law of Navigation

why-publish-custom-certificationIn the book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, author John Maxwell shares his insights into the Law of Navigation.  The law is built on the premise that “Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course.” 

Anyone is capable of packing a suitcase with random clothes, jumping in the car and starting to drive.  But only a leader is capable of organizing a vacation to a destination by planning the method of travel, packing the correct supplies and putting together an itinerary. 

This same concept applies to the world of construction.  Whether you are planning a major new construction project or are tackling a kitchen remodeling project, a major key to your success is properly planning the project before setting out to tackle the project.  Many can be tasked with the responsibility of steering the company, department or project.  But it takes a leader to cast the vision and set the pace, making adjustments based on the environment of the project. 

Have you been involved with a project team or with a company where the leader or manager has not been capable of navigation?  We all have – and the results have not been pretty.  In fact, they can be pretty ugly.  A lack of vision or the ability to envision the project before the team begins the project can have a huge impact on the success of the team. 

This lack of leadership causes some major problems.  The inability of a leader to envision a project unfolding leads to being ill-prepared for the demands of a project.  Issues relating to safety, material handling, equipment and other aspects of a successful project can all be impacted leaving the team incapable of delivering a successful project. 

Lack of leadership and vision for projects can also lead companies to overstaff projects.  Projects without a competent leader can also suffer from overstock of materials.  Many times an inexperienced leader who cannot envision how a project will unfold will put too much material on a project site so that they have enough.  This can lead to a major impact on the organization’s cash flow. 

Building an Understanding of the Law of Navigation in Construction

why-publish-train-employeesConstruction business and construction related projects exist in an external environment.  External environments are those aspects of the world surrounding companies and projects that the company has little to no control over.  Leaders in the construction industry must be aware of what they can control and what they cannot control and learn how to navigate accordingly. 

But how does a leader implement the Law of Navigation within their responsibilities and roles in their organization?  As John Maxwell points out in the Law of Navigation, good leaders go through a process of examining their upcoming journey and putting a plan together to give their followers the best chance of success on that journey.  In construction and in business, leaders must examine their projects and must put together a plan that allows for the greatest chance of success for the team. 

  • Step 1 – Navigators Draw on Past Experiences

Do you take the time to look at the results of a project after it is completed?  Or are you too afraid of the results and would rather avoid analyzing the project?  Many times construction firms either do not want to look at individual performance on projects or they simply do not have the tools or information in a format that can be analyzed. 

Understanding past performance of projects can help you understand how to move forward on future projects.  While no two projects are the same, there are similar conditions found on each project.  Leaders that learn from how prior conditions were handled and then sharing them with the team can help a leader develop a plan for upcoming projects. 

Action Item – As they say, idiocy is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  Use past experiences, whether they are negative or positive to help your team grow. 

  • Step 2 – Navigators Examine the Conditions before Making Commitments

Do you march into your projects on a daily and weekly basis with little or no regard for site conditions?  Leaders must monitor their current environment and adjust their plans for proceeding forward.

In nautical terms, leaders must navigate choppy waters differently than they would smooth sailing conditions.  Each time you go to start again, there will be adjustments that will be required to meet the conditions that you are subject to at that time. 

A scripture verse says “Suppose one of you wanted to build a building.  Would you not first sit down and calculate the cost, making sure that you have enough resources to finish the project.” 

Action Item – Leaders must look at what their plans will take and adjust their plans according to their resources that are available.  If you had a few call-outs, learn to adapt and adjust.  You cannot continue with the same scope in mind if your resources have changed. 

  • Step 3 – Navigators Listen to What Others Have to Say

Have you been on sites where the positional leader does not have any interest in listening to his team? He is bull headed and has no interest in getting insight from the rest of his team.  After all, why should he?  He is the boss, so he gets the right to make the plans for the group. 

This is a missed opportunity.  There is wisdom and insight that comes from talking with the group.  The forward progress of the team does not have to stop because the leader gets the opinion from different members of the group that they are leading.  In fact, it can help gain buy-in from the team and get them on board with meeting the goals for the group. 

Action Item – Talk with your team or select members of your team and get their insight on how they would handle the tasks at hand.  As John Maxwell mentions, no matter how good of a leader you are you will not have all of the answers.  Honor your team by letting them have input.  They will prove to be a great resource.

  • Step 4 – Navigators Make Sure Their Conclusions Represent Both Faith and Fact

Sports are a great example for life.  Championship games bring out the best in leaders, and sometimes the worst in others.  But when teams take the field for championship games they know that their leaders believe in them and their capabilities.  The team captains take the field believing that they can and will be successful. 

At the same time, the leaders know their weaknesses.  As the old saying goes, they do not put on their rose colored glasses.  If you ignore your weaknesses, you miss an opportunity to address them.  And if they are not addressed, your weaknesses will come back to haunt you. 

This is true within the construction industry.  Construction companies, as with other industries have their weaknesses as well as their strengths.  If they stay with their strengths, they will have a better chance of remaining successful.  But, if they venture too close to their areas of weakness they can experience losses quickly. 

Action Item – Look carefully at your areas of weakness.  Look at the areas where projects can go wrong and confront those areas in your business and your projects.  Learn to navigate around them or correct them so that they do not impact your future success. 


In his book 21 Irrefutable Laws and in the Law of Navigation, John Maxwell shares his acronym for Planning Ahead.  It is a great way of looking at how to handle the process of planning and the steps in planning. 

P – Predetermine a course of action

L – Lay out your goals

A – Adjust your priorities

N – Notify key personnel

A – Allow time for acceptance

H – Head into action

E – Expect problems

A – Always point to successes

D – Daily review your plan

Among these, remember that problems will occur.  No project goes off without a hitch.  Be ready for problems and move quickly to address them.  Learn from what caused the problems and adjust your approach by anticipating the same types of problems in future projects. 

Setting the course for the company or for a project is a critical component for leaders to master.  After you develop the plan, communicate the plan and cast the vision for the team.  By establishing a clear vision, you will be able to get back on course if you are knocked off by a temporary disruption.  If you don’t have a clear vision for where you are going, your ship can sink. 

why-publish-free-elearning-solutionI encourage you to sign up for a free Construct-Ed account to learn more about leadership and how it can improve your business’s ability to grow and compete in the market. 

Please feel free to leave comments below and ask any questions regarding leadership. 


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