Back to School for Construction

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

Crotonville, New York–have you heard of it?  Crotonville is where the General Electric (GE) training center was started back in 1956 by then GE’s CEO Ralph Cordiner.   The center was originally started with a focus on management and to build managers who could be trusted.  The training was a 13-week program.

Management is defined as “the process of dealing with, or controlling, things or people.”  In other words, it is the act or skill of controlling and making decisions about a business or department.   Have you seen the movie Despicable Me?  If so, think of it as being able to control the minions all around you for your benefit.

Does this approach sound all too familiar?  It’s called the command-and-control approach, which is how most organizations were run back until close to the turn of the century.  I can still name a few leaders in our industry who have not been able to break from that style of leadership; but, sadly, many–although very talented at construction processes themselves–have been forced out of the top-performing companies due to their own inability to get past themselves and their inability to trust, empower and build up others, no matter the circumstances.

Flash forward to today.  First, under Jack Welch’s headship, and now (since 2001) continually improved upon under Jeffrey Immelt’s headship, Crotonville is now a Leadership Institute.  Training and development is anywhere from a few days to two weeks at a time maximum for employees, and the facilitators are not only outside people brought in, but internal leaders, including Mr. Immelt himself, who make time each month to develop others within GE.  GE allocates a billion dollars a year towards this development of its employees.  This development includes everything from corporate finances to helping employees recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, working towards self-regulation and respect for others as people and their individual talents they bring to the world.

What is a leader?  A leader is someone who takes others to new levels that they may not achieve on their own.  A leader inspires others to pursue the vision of the department, company, or project within set parameters to the extent that it becomes a shared effort, a shared vision, and a shared success.  Who is a leader?  All of us should be leaders and strive to have better leadership skills.

Nine zeros like GE spends is a lot of money, isn’t it?  For them, it equates to less than $3,300 a year for each employee and helps them remain a top, profitable competitor in its areas of expertise worldwide, year after year after year.

I recently attended, at a satellite location, The Global Leadership Summit, which was broadcast to 200,000 locations worldwide.  Jeffrey Immelt was one of the discussion panelists.  He commented on what he looks for in his people.  Some of what he spoke on was self-confidence, self-awareness and accountability.  He also said things like, “question decisions, not intentions,” and although they always hate to see an employee go, they don’t focus on that being a possibility when allocating the time and resources to train.  The cost of not developing your people far outweighs the cost of human stagnancy within a company.  Mr. Immelt also commented on the use of information technology for transparency.

At this point in this article, you are either thinking $3,300 an employee is not in your budget, or you are thinking that you need to start somewhere, even if it is with yourself and for whatever you can afford.

The Everything DiSC Workplace Profile can be used with everyone in an organization, regardless of title or role, to improve the quality of the workplace.  Here’s the video and sample report so you can see what you get, and the best part is that it’s only $129, including a half-hour telephone session with a trained facilitator, to help you understand your communication style.

Other training you may consider for yourself and your team are safety, leadership, team-building, presentation, grammar, writing, language, e-mail etiquette, etc.  Or, even start with sharing the informational articles from our partners at Construction Connection with your team and then discussing them.

Did you notice when I spoke about Mr. Immelt facilitating sessions himself at Crotonville, I said he makes time versus takes time?  In addition, under his leadership, GE sets aside the funds each year for training.  Jeffrey Immelt has 350,000 employees around the world and reports to shareholders who monitor every penny, and GE’s competition is at the level most construction companies could not even imagine.

Most of you, by now, have probably started to recognize the staffing shortage in our industry in the U.S.  It is those who are leaders who make time and invest time and money into others who are getting the best of the best and keeping them.   I don’t mean top people just from a construction skill perspective.  I mean the people in our industry who have the attitude and aptitude and the professionalism to not only build buildings, but develop relationships, in addition to skills, while watching the owner’s bottom line.

We are always here to help you get started at 954-688-3373 or at

To the Leader in You,

Suzanne Breistol and the Construction Connection Team!