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Law of Solid Ground – Leadership for Contractors

Introduction To The Law of Solid Ground

Greeting and welcome to our next podcast on leadership in construction!  In this series of podcasts, we are looking at the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell.  We are looking at how the 21 Laws can be implemented in the construction and remodeling industries.  

My name is Chris Jurin.  I am the CEO of Construct-Ed and I am serving as your guide through these podcasts on leadership.  I am a trainer with the John Maxwell Team.  In addition, I serve as the president of a commercial roofing company as well as the president of a roof consulting firm.

A core character trait of great leaders is their ability to be honest with those that they lead. In the Law of Solid Ground, John Maxwell establishes that trust is the foundation of leadership.  Think about it for a moment – can you name a single person who you consider to be a good or great leader that you did not find any trust in?  

The answer to that question is most likely no.  After all, how can you follow someone and respect someone that you cannot trust?  If you are never quite sure of that person or where they stand you cannot know where you stand.  You spend more energy trying to determine if what is coming out of their mouth is the truth or something less than the truth.  

Look at many of our public figures.  Most are untrustworthy.  Break that word – untrustworthy – down for a minute.  Trustworthy – being worthy of trust.  Untrustworthy – non being worthy of trust.  When a leader is not on solid ground, they are not worthy of the trust their followers would place in them.  And chances of people following someone untrustworthy is only slightly above zero.

Trust is a lot like wealth, it can take a lifetime to build it but it can be squandered in a nano-second.  

The Law of Solid Ground is a critical law in the construction and remodeling industries.  Crews need to trust their foreman.  Operations teams need to trust their superintendents.  And companies need to trust their owners to make good decisions.  Without trust, the system begins to break down.

Explaining the Law of Solid Ground in Construction

In the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell explores the sixth law of leadership – the Law of Solid Ground.  The Law of Solid Ground is built upon the premise that Trust is the Foundation of Leadership.

But what does trust have to do with construction?  Come on – construction is simple.  You have a scope of work.  Foremen and superintendents direct the work according to a pre-planned scope of work and the work gets done. Employees get paid and everyone goes home happy.  Well if it were only that simple!

Remember a key component of construction is people.  While there are systems and processes that have to be followed, a huge component of the construction industry is the people who are a part of it.  And people look to trust their leaders.  When leaders fail to maintain a good relationship with their teams, no amount of systems and processes can keep the train from going off the rails.

Buildings are constructed upon a strong foundation.  Without the foundation, a building collapses.  Skyscrapers are built, some with foundations that stretch over 100 feet into the ground.  Much in the same way that a building needs a strong foundation, a leader needs to be on solid ground.  Storms come.  The strength of a building and its ability to withstand storms is attributable to its foundation.  A leader’s foundation is in part fixed by their ability to be on solid ground.  Solid ground is created by a strong character.  As John Maxwell points out, “Character makes trust possible.  And trust makes leadership possible.”

Remember back to the Law of Influence – leadership is influence, nothing more nothing less.  Well, if we do not have a strong character that contributes to solid ground then we cannot lead.  You might be asking how you build your relationships with your followers on solid ground – I am glad that you asked!

Using your character to communicate –

John Maxwell points out that whenever you lead people, they are really agreeing to go on a journey with you.  They agree to follow you and your direction on a project or in your company because of your good character.  So what does your character communicate to your followers?

  1. 1 – Your character communicates consistency.
    Being consistent allows your followers to know what to expect on a day-by-day basis.  Are you consistent with your team members?  Are they never quite sure what attitude they are going to get on a daily basis?Jerry West is quoted as saying “You can’t get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good.”  Do you give your best to your team and to the goals that you have laid out regardless of how you are feeling on a daily basis?Construction is a difficult project.  It has been said that construction projects are the peacetime equivalent to war.  We never know exactly what we are going to get handed to us on a daily basis.  We just know that we are going to have to react to what is going on around us and navigate our ship accordingly.

    Action Item – give your team the anchor that they need in order to seek stability regardless of the turbulence on the project site.  Be a rock and not shifting sands.

  2. 2 – Your character communicates potential.The role of leaders in construction is to see the finished project before the project starts.  They assess their current position.  And then the work to close the gap between where they are and where they need to go.  They see the potential of the situation and what can be accomplished.They see potential in themselves and those around them.  And they are honest with where they are at.  Without marshalling the forces of those around them, they will never be able to accomplish the project at hand.

    John points out that talent alone is never enough.  You may be the most talented skilled craftsman in the business, but if you are not trustworthy then no one will follow you.  And if no one will follow you then you will not be able to accomplish anything significant.  No project of substantial size was ever accomplished by one person alone.

    Action Item – share where your team is going.  Share with them where the team is at and encourage them in seeing how everyone can work together to get from here to there.

  3. 3 – Character communicates respect.The next law that we will discuss is the Law of Respect.  You can probably develop a quick thought on what that law will address.  But how do you earn respect?  You earn respect by building a good character.  Your people will not follow you if they do not respect you.  And if you do not have a good character, then you will not build respect from others.Trust and respect are built on the foundation of a good moral character.  When leaders break that trust, he destroys his ability to lead.

    Think about this example for a moment.  Say that a leader on a construction site has their schedule cut down.  They start pushing their team to accomplish a huge undertaking.  They need to accelerate the work ahead of them in order to meet a tight deadline.  They challenge them, even threaten them that they need to get this done or else.

    But then the leader – the foreman, the superintendent – leave the site and take a long lunch.  Or even worse, they take an afternoon to golf with the sales rep from the materials supplier.  Will that crew respect that leader?  Will they work as hard as they could?  The answer is most likely not.

    Action Item – think before acting.  When you are in a leadership position, consider how your actions speak to your character.  If you are asking your people to go the extra mile, walk with them two miles.


Closing –

Construction is a tough business.  It is unforgiving to mistakes.  Conditions are always changing which increase the complexity of our projects.  Remember that construction and remodeling projects take teams to complete.  They are always easier to complete if there is a team involved.  And in order to get a team to go along a leader must be standing on solid ground with their team members.

Have you ever flown in a plane?  I find it amazing to think about all of the moving parts needed in order to make a huge plane break from gravity and lift off from the runway.  I often share that there are three parts that I hate about flying – the take-off, the landing and the part in between.

Occasionally, the plane experience turbulence in flight.  Since I am not a big fan of flying, it would unnerve me a bit.  But what I got used to doing was looking at the flight attendants.  If they are smiling and completing their jobs, I assume that everything is fine.  They do this all of the time and if they are good, well then I am good.  I trust their character.

Teams in business are much the same way.  They look to their leaders.  They look to see if they are rattled.  They trust their character and feed off of the leader’s attitude.  If the leader is rattled, the team is rattled.  If the leader is solid, the team continues to march forward despite the conditions they are in.  

Make sure that your character is solid.  Make sure that your trust is solid with your teams.  And make sure that you are on solid ground.  By eliminating trust as an issue your team will be able to focus on the goals ahead.

Thanks for tuning in to our discussion on the Law of Solid Ground!  Continue to work on building trust and connection with your team members.  If we can answer any questions for you on leadership topics, please feel free to list them below and we will do our best to get some answers for you.

Check out Construct-Ed (www.construct-ed.com) for more training and education resources related to leadership in construction.  


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