Organisation : High Performance Leadership for the Construction Industry

Prof. Thomas J. Vanderbeck has written and taught 150 courses in organizational leadership and education at the University of California (Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Irvine, and La Jolla), California State University (Hayward, Stanislaus and San Marcos), San Diego State University, and the Universities of Alabama, Georgia, Houston, Northern Kentucky, North Carolina, South Florida, and Utah.

Clients include America On Line, Bose Stereo, Hewlett-Packard Printer Design, Lenoir Police Department, Parke-Davis Pharmaceuticals, Premier Commercial Builders, San Diego Crime Commission and TRW Aerospace.

Originally, Tom worked as an electrician with his father at Vanderbeck Electric in Glen Rock, New Jersey; and later built models and special effects for Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, and the Spruce Goose Project in New York City.

Thomas James Vanderbeck, High Performance Leadership

University Heights, San Diego, CA  USA    Home: +1 619-546-6626 (Noon to 8pm, PST)

This is a case study following on from the article on Tom's Enlightened Leadership Matrix


Enhancing business growth with optimal leadership practices for empowering and motivating construction bosses and tradesmen to work together purposefully and accountably to get the job done right the first time, to code, and on schedule - every time. Advancing corporate achievement in marketing, client education, sales, productivity, service, quality, reputation, research and development, team-building, technology, training, and profitability.

There seems to be a common belief among some construction executives, project managers, supervisors, job bosses, and foremen that tradesmen are solely accountable for their own professional growth, achievement, and success as they work and serve an organization. This illusion enables leaders to abdicate accountability for proactively developing self reliant achievers and peak performers. Our field research reveals that this practice retards staff development, inhibits team cohesion, restricts effective inter-trade collaboration, and diminishes realization of priority goals that generate profitability.

In times of economic turbulence, construction leaders will be wise to learn and employ innovative business processes that will empower them to be proactive in responding to the evolving challenges inherent in increasingly complex and competitive commercial, government, and residential markets. This comprehensive and dynamic high performance model delivers a practical, proven, and profit-driven methodology for quantifying all levels of organizational performance, determining straightforward responses to complex management challenges, and confidently conducting precise, timely, results-focused, and effective leadership intervention strategies.

In every situation in which a site director, project manager, supervisor, foreman, or team leader wants to make sure that a Tradesman (master, journeyman, apprentice, or helper) can successfully achieve a specific and critical construction task, that attentive Boss must carefully observe, assess, analyze, and diagnose the Tradesman’s currently demonstrated performance level within one of eight variable presentations of competence and commitment, called Development Levels and Resistance Factors. The Boss must then respond with the most proactive of eight leadership styles, each of which provide a distinct combination of structure, direction, and supportive behaviors. The Boss is accountable for the quality of the Tradesman’s demonstrated knowledge and performance in all relevant construction practices, planning, materials, codes, tools, rough and finish work, multi-trade collaboration, inspections, and final client approvals.

Most Tradesmen (masters, journeymen, apprentices, and helpers) will not have been trained in this methodology, are unaware of their own D-Levels and R-Factors, and cannot be expected to be accountable for determining which leadership style(s) they need from their Boss(s). This is especially so as Tradesmen face evolving challenges in learning and mastering new construction methods, skills, materials, technologies, and codes. As these Tradesmen grow professionally, they will necessarily invest significant time advancing through unforeseeable cycles of professional growth. 

So, the Bosses must be accountable for diagnosing a Tradesman’s demonstrated Development Levels and Resistance Factors, and responding with the most appropriate and responsive Leadership Style (“Lead-Style”). This means that a Boss must not rely on using one convenient, fixed, or politically correct leadership style; but rather, become flexible in employing any one of six responsive and proactive leadership styles. At times, a Boss may need to use all six lead-styles, addressing a variety of tradesmen, construction tasks, and job site situations - all in the course of just one hour!

If a team of Bosses is committed to effectively leading Tradesmen in learning and mastering construction knowledge, skills, materials, and codes, it is critical and essential that these Bosses are consistent in their use of this "Leadership for Construction Bosses" methodology. When the Bosses are not on the same page, and some always use only one leadership style in all situations, while others use inappropriate leadership responses because of unrealistic expectations and/or stress, the effect on the Tradesmen is to inhibit their capacities for learning, retard professional development, and limit the quality of job performance - resulting in expectable inspection failures.

There are four aligned sets of Development Level (demonstrated competence and commitment), Leadership Style (responsive structure, direction, and support), and ownership of accountability.

D1  (Development Level 1) - A Tradesman demonstrates low competence and high    commitment during the NOVICE, or Enthusiastic Beginner stage of development.

"This is new and very interesting, and I'm eager to learn and master this skill set!"

S1  (Leadership Style 1) - The Boss provides structured Training, high direction, and low support; and shows and tells the Tradesman how to get the job done right.

A1  (Accountability Factor 1) - The Boss is entirely Accountable for assessment, assignment, orientation, training, goal setting, decision-making, problem solving, evaluations of       performance, and any necessary documentation..

As Bosses provide effective and timely S1, Tradesmen will move on to D2.

D2 A Tradesman demonstrates some competence and low commitment. During this APPRENTICE, or "disenchanted learner" stage of development, a Tradesman will experience predictable confusion and frustration. Many of us have experienced D2 during our first weeks as helpers and apprentices, during our first day at boot camp, when we began working at our first real job, after several months of marriage, and even after only a few days of caring for our first child

"What have I gotten myself into? This is way more difficult and challenging than I imagined that it would be. I'm not sure that I can or want to do this!"

S2 The leader provides Coaching, with continued structure, direction, and training. However, the discouragement and temporarily diminished commitment of the D2 Tradesman requires that the Boss additionally provide regular encouragement, approval, permission to learn from mistakes, and consistent high support. 

A2  The Boss is still solely Accountable, (as in A1).

As Bosses provide effective and timely S2, Tradesmen will move on to D3.

D3  A Tradesman demonstrates moderate competence and variable commitment. This JOURNEYMAN, or Capable but Cautious Performer, is close to mastering this learning assignment.

"I'm fairly confident now; but still unsure about planning and problem-solving."

S3  The Boss introduces Collaboration, with low direction and high support. The leader works alongside the Tradesman, initially taking a strong lead, then becomes a partner, and eventually hands off new challenges to the Tradesman.

A3  The Boss slowly transfers the burden of Accountability to the Tradesman.

As Bosses provide effective and timely S3, Tradesmen will move on to D4.

D4 A Tradesman now consistently demonstrates high competence and high commitment in working alone as a MASTER, or Self Reliant Achiever.

"I know exactly what I need to do and how to go about it. I'll let you know what resources I need, and when I require any coaching or resources (assistance, tools, building materials, and/or journeymen, apprentices, or helpers."

S4  The Boss can now delegate to the Tradesman, and provide low direction and low support. The Boss’s primary role is to facilitate and provide for the Tradesman’s sustained independent achievement.

A4  The Tradesman is now Accountable for partnering for performance with the Boss in order to maximize his or her own self reliant achievement.

There are four Resistance Factors and two best Leadership Style responses.

If a Tradesman at D1 (Enthusiastic Beginner) does not receive adequate S1 (Orientation) followed by S1 (Training), he or she will predictably begin to experience D2 (Disillusioned Learner). At D2, if that Tradesman is not provided with substantial S2 (Coaching), he or she will experience confusion and frustration. This can lead to Resistance, when demonstrated performance falls away from the developmental curve.

If a Boss does not first accurately diagnose a Tradesman’s currently demonstrated D-Level, then that Boss will be unable to select and provide the appropriate Leadership Style to employ with the Tradesman. If Bosses (leaders) do not provide Tradesmen (followers) with all necessary orientation, training, and coaching, then their development will be retarded, limited, and delayed. They will have been "set up to fail" as a consequence of inattentive and inadequate leadership.

When a Tradesman demonstrates Resistance, showing little or no competence and commitment, that individual is certainly accountable for his or her own behavior. However, the Boss is primarily accountable for having created Resistance, because the leader has failed to diagnose the developmental need(s) of the follower and to respond with the appropriate leadership style(s). At this point, the Boss becomes entirely accountable for clarifying and resolving the Resistance, and for re-establishing the Tradesman on the developmental path to D4.

The First Three Resistance Factors and Mandate Accountability

R1 - Safety

         Willful ignorance of risks and safety concerns, and/or clear and present dangers.

R2 - Leadership

         Non-responsiveness to leadership, supervision, coaching, and/or counseling.

         Lies of commission and omission. Abdication of personal accountability.

R3 - Congruency

Unwillingness to follow best practices, building codes, or policies and procedures.

Abusing trust. Stealing time, tools, and/or materials. Being covertly dishonest. Not behaving in accordance with organizational customs and rules, policies and procedures, or documentation protocols.

"I'll do things my way and in my own time, thank you. You're not the boss of me!"

MA - Mandate Accountability is the proactive leadership remedy for R1, R2, and R3.

Bosses imposing MA are solely accountable for their Tradesman’s compliance with safety policies and emergency procedures, responsiveness to leadership, adherence to best practices and building codes, keeping agreements, maintaining critical standards, following policies and procedures, behaving ethically, and obeying the law.

If a Tradesman demonstrates any behaviors that suggest that he or she is at risk, or may put others at risk, regarding R1, R2, or R3 - the Boss must observe, inquire, document, and then initiate an assertive and detailed conversation with that follower. The leader must clearly communicate positive demands and expectations; and also specifically define negative logical consequences for failure to comply. Afterwards, that Tradesman’s performance must be scrutinized closely, and also in ways that are unpredictable and random. Follow up conversations and continuing MA are required.

MA is a very deliberate, proactive, and corrective leadership intervention that imposes control, consistent structure, high direction, low support, and close monitoring. This is a take charge and “up against the wall” version of S1. This is extraordinarily necessary and appropriate when a Tradesman demonstrates any two of the first three R-Factors or the triple threat of R1, R2, and R3! 

The Fourth Resistance-Factor and Temporary Unassignment

R4 - Unable, Befuddled, and/or Untrained

This type of Resistance occurs when a Tradesman is simply unable to perform an assigned critical task; and clearly demonstrates no competence or commitment.

TU - Temporary Unassignment is the proactive leadership response to R4.

Leaders imposing Temporary Unassignment (TU) are solely accountable for resolving situations in which a follower is assessed as demonstrating R4. At this time, it is sensible and necessary to stop expecting that Tradesman to effectively perform a critical action for which he or she has already shown an inability and/or unwillingness.

TU provides a corrective and remedial leadership intervention to R4 that provides clear direction and consistent moderate support. It allows time for proactive re-assessment, analysis, problem solving, and redirection to establish a fresh beginner's learning experience. The leader must find out how the follower’s developmental needs were not accurately assessed and met; and then plan how to re-engage that Tradesman on the developmental path, most likely at D1; but possibly at D2. In this circumstance, highly structured and intensive S1 and S2 will be required.

AR  When a Tradesman demonstrates Resistance, showing little or no competence and commitment, that person is certainly accountable for his or her own behavior. However, leaders are primarily accountable for having generated Resistance, because they have neglected to diagnose the developmental need(s) of the follower, and to respond with the best proactive leadership style(s). At this point, the Boss becomes entirely accountable for clarifying and resolving the Resistance, and for re-establishing the Tradesman on the developmental path to D4.

Naturally, the wise and proactive preventive remedy for Resistance requires consistent, properly sequenced applications of this comprehensive leadership model to address Tradesmen’s assigned critical actions, assess their individual developmental needs, and provide appropriate and timely structure, direction, and support. Initially, this will require monitored testing, interviews, and performance evaluations. This process must be followed with deliberately planned and implemented orientation, training, coaching, partnering for leadership, collaboration, delegation, and counseling.

To be successful and profitable in the construction industry requires that Bosses work together proactively and accountably to provide responsive leadership for their Tradesmen, and to set a positive example by getting their own leadership jobs done right, on time, every time. The quality of construction, percentage of first-time inspection passages, and ultimate reputation and profitability of the company are directly related to the employment of best leadership practices by all levels of the leadership team!

High Performance Leadership is optimally effective when Tradesmen are encouraged  to initiate discussions about their training needs, develop proactive skills for self-leadership, confidently demonstrate take-charge skills for leading “up” to their bosses, and become empowered to coach, cross train, and mentor their colleagues by confidently employing this unique leadership model and its complementary language.

High Performance Leadership Matrix - United States clients include: Bose Stereo, Hewlett-Packard Printers, Parke-Davis Pharmaceuticals, SPECWAR, TRW Aerospace, UCSD Executive Programs for Scientists and Engineers, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE@DHS). International clients in: Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Kuala Lumpur, Maylasia, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, and Turkey. Taught 100 graduate business and education courses: University of California (Berkeley, Irvine, San Diego, & Santa Cruz), San Diego State University, California State University (Hayward, San Marcos, & Stanislaus); Universities of Georgia, Northern Kentucky, and North Carolina; and Saint Mary’s College. Awarded FBI Security Clearances for Leadership Training with ICE; and 16 professional qualifications in counseling, social work, mental health administration, substance abuse education and counseling, and D.U.I. training. Blanchard Certified Trainer-of-Trainers in Situational Leadership® II and Situational Self Leadership®.     

Ken Blanchard originated Situational Leadership® II, (Used herein with permission). Tom Vanderbeck created the Resistance Model®, and Leadership Matrix Assessment, Analysis, & Applications System®.

See the detailed discussion on Tom's Enlightened leadership matrix

Copyright Thomas J. Vanderbeck 2015

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