It’s 5.40 in the morning, and I’m sitting with a hot drink at yet another motorway service station. I left home just under an hour ago, leaving my son and wife safe and warm, fast asleep in their beds. As I do most days, I said a quiet thank you for all my family have given to me, and for what they give to the world. Then, I step out of that world and into a whole different one – a world that’s cutthroat and unforgiving, but the world I call mine, the world of construction.
As I glance out at the dark wintery weather, watching the flow of the motorway whizzing by, I notice a couple of businesspeople who are also out at this ungodly hour. As early as it is, I take stock of the strong sense I feel that we have something in common: Purpose… I watch them for a while, and I can tell by the way they conduct themselves that they’re decent people, trying to make a difference. I mean, most people who find themselves in a service station at 5.40am have got somewhere important to be – or at least somewhere that’s important to them. At the end of the day, we’re all sacrificing something.
As I munch on my breakfast bap, I begin to think about those in my own industry sector. About how they’re often up and out earlier than it is now, and yet somehow it doesn’t feel like they consider what they’re doing to be particularly important. It’s just work, grinding the gears and going through the motions. And I think about how damaging that is.
The construction industry has spent generations improving, nurturing, growing, planning, and actioning fit and proper governance. We now have set rules of measurement, contract law and building standards to provide guidelines we can all follow. The reason all these things exist is because what we do is important. The safety implications of poor workmanship are huge – we’ve all seen the damage that can be done by cutting corners. And, on top of that, the financial risks taken on any given project can have huge implications for those involved. Companies fold every day due to bad debtors, unexpected costs, or a contract being pulled, leaving them with crushing overheads.
For me, knowing and fully understanding these rules is vital to the success of any individual or organisation in our industry. And knowing and fully understanding the implication of bad practice is vital to the success of those around you. You see, sacrifices mean more than an early start, or working weekends. It’s more about the ripple effect of sharing responsibility with colleagues and partners. It’s being able to give something back and helping others to grow and be valued.
I know I’m projecting a lot on these businesspeople in this service station, but it’s happening now and I can’t rein it in. In my mind, these people are just like me. Working hard and striving to make a difference, and I’m looking to them as the protagonists of this inner narrative I’m having.
I get to thinking about the last 12 months. I mean, let’s remind ourselves of the huge sacrifices everyone has made in these crazy times. 2020 has thrown a lot at us, but the one silver lining is that most of us have embraced the value of kindness, and our obligation to others… Most of us.
There seems to be two types of people: those who get it and those who don’t. Those who make sacrifices and those who won’t.
And, on the hardest days, it feels like those who care and those who don’t. On these days, I split the human race in to two groups: D*ckheads and Non-D*ckheads. And to be honest, most days I split the construction industry into these two groups too.
Now, please forgive me for my somewhat insulting categorisation, but I think we can all agree – if you know, you know… and if you don’t, you’re probably a D*ckhead.
Non-D*ckheads respect the laws of our industry and understand the impact their actions can have on others – physical or otherwise. Sure, sometimes we have to make cut-throat decisions, but we do that having considered our options and their implications.
D*ckheads however, they somehow see everything differently. They’re ‘perceptively unplugged’ to those of us that genuinely want to make a difference. I’ve had to come to the conclusion that the D*ckhead doesn’t understand how things should really be done. My reasons were 1. They don’t understand or 2. They don’t care. I’ve chosen to be generous.
These people seem to ignore knowledge and compassion. Disregard the efforts that have been made by others around them and – perhaps more importantly – by those BEFORE them. I’m talking of course about the standards, laws and codes of practice we are expected to uphold.
If you bowl through your career ignoring these rules and standards, I think you simply mustn’t understand the consequences of what you’re doing. By promising to arrive on site, only to let your contractor down – surely you can’t be aware of the impact that has on EVERYONE on site that day; on the schedule of the project and, therefore, on the overall success of the project. By turning up and carrying out poor workmanship – surely you can’t be aware of the multitude of risks you’re exposing the project to, to your colleagues, to the public?
As I said, I have to hope that this is a case of “ignorance is bliss”, as the idea of so many doing this knowingly is just too much for me. Choosing to believe it’s due to a lack of training is choosing to believe it’s something that is fixable, and that gives me hope. And I need hope, because it seems to me that if these D*ckheads are left to their own devices, they will make a mess of our beloved industry and parade that mess like stripes on a zebra.
My other source of hope is the ones who rise above: the precious Non-D*ckheads.
You see, the ones that really care are a whole different animal. They wake up in the morning with passion, consideration, determination, and an honest motivation. They have a want to teach and be taught. They want to share a common goal with likeminded people, so turn up on time and put a good shift in. Not only do they give it their all, but they utilise everything they have learned and follow a code that has been prescribed to them.
When you do have the pleasure of coming a across a Non-D*ckhead in a position of power, everything is different. When you share and collaborate with Non-D*ckheads and you see them challenging bad practices and the carelessness of others. It’s so incredibly refreshing to watch. It reminds you that maybe we do have a chance to be a better industry – better humans, after all!
So, the next time you have an early morning tea stop on route to a particular job, be sure to really hone in on your people watching skills, and see if you can spot the D*ckeads that live amongst us.
Let’s use these skills to ensure that we only go into business with Non-D*ckheads, as we need to do whatever we can to help these people rise to the top.
Managing Director – Poppet Construction