Some leadership voices point to 2020 as a resiliency test. A year in which vast swaths of the business world faced challenges to their processes while business leaders struggled to identify the right tactics to guide their teams through the chaos.
Recently in Sloan Management Review, several leadership experts explored the leadership lessons from 2020 and consistently hit on the theme of “care.’ By accepting a ‘duty of care,’ leaders commit to care for their employees. It becomes an essential aspect of leadership and offers profound benefits to the entire organization.
Here are seven strategies leaders can adopt to better carry out their duty of care in construction.
1. Make Care Central to Leadership
When care is at the center of leadership, it helps elevate human needs. Leaders are quicker and more likely to recognize causes of suffering and address the systemic issues that perpetuate it.
In the construction industry, poorly designed workplaces, repetitive motion work, poor material placement, overhead lifting, and awkward, cramped workspaces lead to musculoskeletal injuries. However, administrative controls, engineering controls, ergonomic tools, and proper equipment can reduce injury potential. When leadership at all project levels, including the owner, regard operations through caring eyes, they create a formidable roadblock to injuries.
2. Release Your Teams’ Genius
Although few are geniuses, together collective genius can shine through. You can feed your team’s ingenuity by encouraging sharing, both ideas and feelings.
Even before COVID-19, uncertainty reigned in construction. New tech tools provide the methods to add predictability, but an entrenched attitude of waiting for leadership to solve problems marginalizes other people’s innovative ideas. When leaders admit they don’t have all the answers, they signal openness to others’ ideas, releasing the collective genius to go to work.
If you often hear leadership asking for, and then seriously considering suggestions, you are witnessing a care level that encourages everybody to become part of the solution.
3. Create a Culture That Enables Employees
Caring leaders enable their employees by helping them meet their own needs and develop their strengths. It could be as simple as helping them develop a career progression plan or as personable as mentoring them yourself. All people often need is a framework that focuses their efforts and a goal in sight.
Every person on each construction team has innate abilities and perspectives honed by their individual experiences. When leaders care about those differences, they really see them. Through that recognition, they can lay the groundwork for each individual to make their best contribution.
4. Gain Shared Understandings Through Dialogue
People today have wide-ranging interests, ideas, and experiences, which can cause breakdowns in shared connections. It’s naïve to think the divisions in society don’t spill over into the construction workplace. Leaders face the tough task of accepting differing political and social viewpoints while brokering constructive dialogue.
It can champion the shared experiences and shared connections so that people focus on their similarities instead of differences. While this approach might not eradicate the differences, it can help diffuse the tension.
5. Enable Work-Life Balance
Author Stephen Covey once remarked that work-life balance is one of the greatest struggles faced by modern people. In construction, there are dual culprits behind this struggle. Always-on technology and bloated job descriptions blur the boundaries of what’s work and what’s life.
When leaders think carefully, they can make job requirements realistic. When they enact policies that encourage people to turn off and tune out of work, they can reduce burnout and improve productivity. Nevertheless, they should also be open to when work is someone’s life and allow them to follow that passion.
6. Nurture Caring Work Relationships
Unfortunately, work relationships run the gamut from hateful and distrustful to healthy and productive. Most agree that high-quality work relationships are the type where people trust one another and are helpful and caring. When leaders put care into work relationships, it helps people feel safe, respected and valued. It also helps to increase their commitment to the organization and its goals.
Building these relationships in construction might mean taking them beyond simply the transactional stage. When leaders acknowledge work relationships are more than just an exchange of time and energy for money, they add new value to them.
7. Nurture Your Own Restorative Habits
Leaders must look after themselves if they expect to make care an important part of their leadership package. When leaders develop restorative habits that boost their feelings of creative achievement, they feed their own need to accomplish their goals. Restorative habits can also add some predictability to their lives.
Construction leaders deal with a lot of uncertainty. Leaders should make it a point to take care of themselves through healthy habits and hobbies that give them feelings of accomplishment and renewal.