Mindset Leadership training at HECO Group
There were 37 employees at HECO when Steve Eagles first started as a Project Manager seven years ago. HECO Group companies are all in construction related businesses, a sector which has seen huge growth in recent years. There are now over 260 employees across the group. It’s a high energy business, a client Upskills was excited to partner with again on its Mindset programme.
HECO management had received good feedback on the development and growth of individuals attending a previous Upskills Course. Steve also noted an improvement in internal communication. When the need for leadership training was recognized through the Group’s annual reviews and monthly catch up process, it coincided with a timely call from our director, Holly Patterson. After assessing HECO Group’s needs, Holly recommended the Mindset programme for people leaders and managers.
‘What’s so great about Mindset is not only does it work with the programme participants to grow their management capability, it also builds a sustainable coaching culture in the business itself’ says Holly.
Coupled with the content sessions delivered to the participants, Upskills wraps coaching support for the participants’ line managers into the programme. This provides a structure for participants to receive regular feedback on their progress and development. Each manager coach starts by working with his/her report to set goals and coach them to success. They then meet, at least monthly, to review progress.
Training to support business goals
HECO does an enormous amount of recruiting but its policy is to first look internally. “Guys have come from the factory floor and are now running major high-end projects,” explains Steve. Offering opportunities to progress along a career path is a business goal HECO Group is completely committed to. In return for the company’s investment in them, the workforce is loyal. One employee even has a Symonite tattoo.
Investing in the right people
The group’s senior management team selected line managers with direct reports for the Mindset course. This could be teams of 3 people, 8 people or up to 40 people. Each participant brings a great deal of technical expertise to the business but they all openly agree Mindset covers areas they need to work on. Some were selected for their management potential and others to bring more direction to their HECO career journey. Measuring success and return on investment in the Mindset training piece was key.
Supporting the mentors
Steve admits his own management style is rather pragmatic. He views direct reports as working with him, not for him. He feels he’s been very much ‘in the trenches’ with the people he has mentored over the years and shares comfortable working relationships with them. As he’s taken on more of an HR role recently, this familiarity can sometimes make it difficult to address difficult topics. However, via the coaching element of the Mindset programme, Upskills has been able to help give him the tools to shift his relationships on to more workable footing. He recently had his first Courageous Conversation which, although the topic of much joking around beforehand, went well and has delivered the desired results.
Investing in the future
Steve mentors James, the Factory Manager who has really enjoyed the classes and often refers to techniques he has learnt at their regular catch-ups. Steve knows that James also appreciates that the company has invested its time and money in his skillset. All the HECO participants are aware the course is company-funded. They genuinely value the opportunity to learn and transform their leadership style.
Another of those participants is Andreea. This is her story:
Returning to engineering
Andreea enjoyed a successful eight-year career in pharmaceutical sales. She travelled all over Eastern Europe from her then-home base in Romania. She moved to New Zealand to learn English. Firstly, on a three-month course but soon discovered more time was required to become fluent. Whilst perfecting her English, she studied Quantity Surveying (QS) at Unitec. Although already a qualified civil engineer, Andreea found the Unitec course helped her improve her technical language skills.
Back home, her parents had owned a facade company so when she saw a TradeMe advert for a QS/Team lead role at Symonite (part of the HECO Group of companies) it seemed like a good opportunity to honour her father’s memory by following in his footsteps. Andreea started with HECO Group four years ago as an Estimator/Quantity Surveyor. She has since been promoted to team leader.
The challenges of a diverse workforce
Andreea values the opportunity to work with people from different cultures, explaining it is ‘very nice but very challenging’. She says the Romanian approach can be very straightforward and the management style is strict; the workforce must leave their sensitivities at home. She finds the diverse workforce in New Zealand is a far more sensitive environment.
A change of Mindset
Andreea says the way in which Holly delivered the Mindset course has inspired her and really made her think about what skills she could improve. These are skills which reach beyond the workplace. The course gave Andrea time and the headspace to think about her approach, not only to work but to life in general.
In work it highlighted the requirement to listen and understand her team, to find the best way to communicate. Andreea’s aim has always been to optimize and maximize production. She has been keen to make the best use of her time. Consequently, in the beginning, her focus was on the output – not wishing to dedicate too much time to communication. She has subsequently learnt a different approach.
“Sometimes you have to be more patient and try to interact more with your colleagues. Despite the high workload it is important to understand others’ sensitivities,” she says.
Tools for the job
The Tetramap model has been useful in thinking about how to communicate with different personalities. Whilst the end result is important, the journey to completion is equally so. Explaining a concept and following up with the team is vital to check their understanding and get everyone on board. Andreea has really embraced the team leader’s role in communicating positively, with passion and has taken on responsibility for motivation. She enjoyed discovering the theory of different management styles and all the interactive attributes required of a good manager.
The time management part of the course has helped her to think about resourcing before starting new tasks. Previously she felt the measure of success was being able to get through a huge workload on time and without complaint. However, this approach meant she became tired and sick; working overtime and weekends to get through the never-ending jobs. The management team acted swiftly and decisively to add a more experienced member to the team. They also decreased the number of direct reports Andreea needed to mentor. This got things back on track. Andreea enjoys the role of trainer and mentor but she could not afford to dedicate the time required when deadlines were tight. Training newcomers to the business is a long-term process, requiring patience and dedication.
So far, one of the course highlights for Andreea was the ‘Rocks Pebbles and Sand’ exercise. This is a tool for building awareness of how to prioritize what’s important in life, and then apply the same focus over your work tasks.
‘By doing this well, you can delegate more effectively, learn not to sweat the small stuff and focus on your broader goals’, says Holly.
It seems to have resonated with a number of participants.
A healthy mindset improves the quality of life and this, in turn, improves the quality of work. Emotional intelligence is highly valued in the New Zealand workforce. So Andrea aims to pay more attention to what she previously considered ‘small things’ like emotional wellbeing.
“Upskills delivered the right people who came along just at the right time for me,” says Andrea.
She was under huge pressure, focusing on expertly handling the stress that accompanied it. HECO management enabled her to take time out of that situation and provided sustainable training to lay the groundwork for transformational change.
A change in mindset has been the catalyst for even more change in Andreea’s life. She has started to study part-time for a masters in construction law. Andreea hopes to finish in two years and increase her value to her employers. She now feels she is developing the tools to work within a diverse team and to lead one. She is more relaxed and happy at work.
HECO Group owns and operates construction related businesses specialising in high-end architectural building products. Services include the design, supply, project management and installation of their products, which focus on the exterior envelope of commercial and residential buildings. Businesses include Symonite Panels, ACM Fabricators, Serene Joinery, Solar Edge, Shingle & Shake and SPS.