For the construction industry to continue to thrive, evolve and grow, encouraging and inspiring the next generation of construction professionals requires more than just excellent leaders. It requires great mentors.
Mentors are those that share their knowledge and experience and encourage a mentee to grow professionally and personally.
According to Construct My Career, being mentored is one of the most effective and valuable career development opportunities someone can have. For those doing the mentoring, besides personal satisfaction, there can also be professional rewards.
So what makes a great mentor?
CEO, co-founder and owner of commercial building company Rodine Australia, Justine Teggelove, tells Jobsite that for her, mentoring begins with humour, when interacting in a group of people or just with an individual. Humour reduces the emotional load of a conversation, and it allows her to “get into people’s minds”.
Another key ingredient is credibility, she says.
In terms of mentoring her own staff, that means being visible and having an open-door policy.
Visibility is also important on the worksite and when dealing with clients, subcontractors, or suppliers that may not have expected a female CEO.
Teggelove says there have been times she and her team have gone into a meeting and she has been asked to make the cups of tea. When her team or herself explains she’s the boss, it can come as a surprise.
In terms of mentoring her own staff that means being visible and having an open-door policy.
But once the initial shock is over, she explains, they might just go home realising a career in the industry is an option for their own daughter.
With her staff, the mentoring process starts with finding out where the individual wants to go, and what their aspirations for their career are.
“We talk about it, and then we work out a game plan,” she says.
The company operates as a “flat line company”. That means there is no designated CEO parking spot. “My door is always open. I spent many years filling up my grey matter and am happy to share that,” Teggelove says.
Communication Means Listening
Listening to staff ideas is fundamental. Teggelove says that when the team sits down to discuss a project, solutions around buildability and the methodology come from the staff. Her position is that people can make decisions, and the company will back them up whatever those decisions are.
Including the personal as well as the professional is part of her approach. Whether it is staff, clients, or suppliers, talking about their lives is part of building the relationship. It is about knowing the individual “as a person”.
“At Rodine, we say we build relationships through constructing,” she says.
One of the things she recognises about her company is that the men she has recruited for leadership roles have high levels of emotional intelligence. According to her, that’s part of the secret of finding the right staff and retaining them.
“The directional style of management is so outdated. We have more of a freestyle management style.”
Being a “genuinely nice” person is an asset for anyone, as are basic relationship skills, like looking someone in the eye when asking a question and showing an interest in the answer.
Networking for the Future
As well as mentoring people within the company, she mentors individuals outside it, including people from sporting organisations and start-up firms. She is also a member of the National Association of Women in Construction’s Victorian Branch.
“When you empower one, you empower many,” says Teggelove. “I’ve got a sturdy back, climb up on it, and I’ll lift you to where you want to be.”
Another key part of her mentoring process is networking. Introducing her mentees to others that can help them learn and succeed is crucial. After all, both making new connections and sharing them is important.
Pia Turcinov is a tech entrepreneur, former lawyer and Chair of Women in Technology Western Australia. In her opinion mentoring is an “amazing opportunity to add value” to the internal conversation that goes on in many women’s minds by helping silence the “self-bias” voice. Mentoring gives “confirmation and validity” to the mentee. However, she points out mentoring works both ways. “It is a two-way street, you also learn from other people.”
She currently mentors people in technology, new business models, and business ventures arenas. Turcinov says that in the entrepreneur space in particular, mentoring is also an exciting way to “keep abreast of where the industry is heading”.
As a process, it is about “joining the dots” with someone and making introductions to others that they need to know. “So they can then have the conversation and see where that leads.”
She says women can encounter a degree of bias in the tech space, and may, therefore, need encouragement to go out there and approach people for venture capital funding. People may also need help finding the right partners and getting the right advisors around them.
Her goal as a mentor is to see people “go and do it and make it so – and don’t undersell yourself.”
Turcinov says it is important a mentor has a healthy respect for others.
“Mentoring is about ‘how I can help you’, without wanting any part of that project,” she says. “You need to be confident of the value you add and pass your mentee on to the right people.”
According to her, a good mentor is an “independent honest thorough broker that creates connections for you without wanting commercial gain from it.”
Connecting the World’s Best and Brightest
What else does it take to be a good mentor? They need to be patient, open, and not judge or direct their mentees, she says. They also have to be highly disciplined, with a “strong moral compass”, and be able to be a confidante for the mentee.
“It’s about illuminating things people don’t see themselves.”
Turcinov and Teggelove have recently joined forces to mentor on a grand scale, with the development and launch of Build In Common. The online information portal includes a marketplace and a digital toolbox of information kits that explain specific areas of construction.
They aim at giving women a better insight into the world of construction. A number of women have requested their help in understanding the construction process. These women, who aspire to renovate or develop property, or simply to have a clearer idea about the process of construction for an investment property, now finally have a place they can turn to for answers.
Opening the Door to Everyone
The language of the industry “often locks women out of the conversation,” Teggelove says. Turcinov says they want women to feel confident in project managing trades for their projects or even coordinating an entire subdivision or commercial development.
Women are the key decision-makers for most property purchasing decisions, Teggelove says.
Women should feel confident in project managing trades for their projects or even coordinating an entire subdivision.
But previously, there was no succinct and easily available information that could help them be informed about the development and construction process. The platform is “addressing the invisible women” so they can become informed consumers, something Teggelove says will be “better for the whole industry.”
The building process and its parts are broken down into simple terminology. It also aims to answer common questions like, “what is a chippie?,” “What is the general sequence of building?,” “What is a variation?,” “What is the difference between an architect and a designer?”
“This way, when women are sitting down with a builder, architect, or developer, they know what they are talking about,” Teggelove says. They will also know what questions they should be asking. Furthermore, they also gain an understanding of the various consultants and trades that are involved with a project of any scale.
Cultivating the Construction Community
Build In Common also intends to cultivate a community, so people can share their stories.
Construction industry associations in Australia have also recognised the importance of mentoring for helping apprentices succeed and grow their careers, and for overcoming the gender diversity deficit.
Last month, Master Builders of Australia’s first-ever female CEO, Denita Wawn, officially launched its new national mentoring program, Women Building Australia.
Currently, women make up only 11 per cent of the industry’s 1.1 million-strong national workforce.
“There is so much opportunity for women to build careers in building and construction right now, but we need to support them when they make the choice to join our industry,” Wawn says. “Women Building Australia will encourage and support women who are currently working in the building and construction industry and those who are on training pathways to careers in the industry.”
Wawn says that even when women are attracted to careers in the building industry, “too many” drop out of training or do not start jobs when they complete their training.
“The industry simply cannot afford for this to continue. We need to both train and retain women in the industry and see them develop and achieve so they can form part of our industry’s future workforce.”
MBA is now recruiting mentors from among the thousands of builders and building businesses around the country.
“Firms employing women in our industry already testify to the business benefits of getting women on board. It’s not just that women can do things as well as men, they also bring new skills and approaches to the workforce that boost productivity,” Wawn says. “Master Builders is proud to be launching Women Building Australia and thanks to the Federal Government for funding the project. We are calling for the industry, for builders all over Australia to get behind it.”