3 Invaluable Lessons from David Niese
- You can help other people out and get what you need at the same time.
- If your project staff is happy, everything starts falling into place.
- It’s not enough to just be right – you need to spend more time on collaboration and listen to what people are saying and what is going on.
This week, host Sue Dyer speaks with David Niese about effectively implementing partnering within your team and organization and why taking the hardline when it comes to managing projects doesn’t always yield a positive outcome.
About Guest David Niese (1:16)
David Niese was one of the trainers for the Caltrans Fundamentals of Partnering. David helped train over 4,000 different project professionals on the fundamentals of making Partnering work on Caltrans projects. David is a Project Executive at Granite Construction in their large project group.
David’s Journey to Becoming Project Executive at Granite Construction (2:50)
- David grew up in the industry and did a lot of surveying with his dad
- He got a job at a small engineering firm in San Bernadino, CA
- He worked with Caltrans for 15 years and then jumped to the private industry
- For the last five years, David has been at Granite Construction
How David Went from SOB to Collaborative Leader (5:50)
In his first job as a Resident Engineer, David was a hardliner. He expected his contractor to know what he was supposed to do, and David stuck to the contract. In the end, his contractor went bankrupt and in stepped a new company.
David learned that you can hold a contractor to the contract, but it is bad for business; but all the contractors start spending more money. It costs the owner more money if they have to deal with a lot of claims. There are always things we can do to help each other on the contract.
If the project staff is happy on both sides, everything just falls into place. Your quality is better, your safety is better, your production rates are better because everyone is happy coming to work. Everyone is working toward the common goal of finishing the project.
David’s Advice to Someone Who’s Just Starting Their Career (15:15)
- Don’t let the daily grind keep you from seeing the big picture
- When you focus on the little things only, you don’t fully understand what the ramifications might be
- A mentor is extremely important to have the right perspective
How to Lead Your Team When There’s Conflict (17:30)
- Have your partnering process in place, be sure that you listen and understand the position of other people
- You can help other people out and get what you need at the same time
- Listen to see where the conflict might be coming from and to figure out how you can avoid it
- Using a facilitator can really help
What People Can Do to Lead Their Team When It’s Struggling (19:45)
- The Escalation Ladder can be a huge help with things – go up the chain so you can relieve yourself and others from having to worry about the issue
- The person at the next level of escalation will probably have a different view on the problem
- Don’t take things personally, there will always be contract disputes
- Don’t let conflict affect the work going on in the field
- Looking for a fair and equitable resolution to the problem is doing your job
David’s Approach to His Projects with Alternative Processes (25:23)
In the bid/build world there is no qualification process, but in the alternative delivery world, your past performances will affect you getting future work. If you’re going up a company that had no claims and you did, that will put you at a disadvantage. Your ability to successfully complete a contract becomes important in alternative delivery.
What David Would Do if He Had an Owner Who Was Not Going to Be Fair and Equitable (27:48)
If there is an owner with a reputation for not resolving disputes, they choose not to work with those owners. There’s so much work out there, they get to pick and choose who they do and don’t want to work with. You need to look for an owner who will match your core values.
How David Overcame the Very Worst Moment He Faced (29:07)
The worst moment was also his worst Partnering ever. There were many disputes, but he didn’t let the contract disputes affect the quality of the work they were doing in the field. In the next project they understood what to do and not do to never let that happen again. He tries not to override subordinates in the escalation ladder and resolve at the lowest level possible.
David’s Zone of Genius (31:49)
A manager should not be judged on how they manage the “A” players. A true manager can take the “C” players and turn them into “B” players and take the “B” players and turn them into “A” players. You have to keep things from becoming a stumbling block. David is good at looking for future problems down the road and letting employees know before they get there. Always have a contingency plan in place.
The Best Advice David’s Ever Received (35:19)
It’s not enough to just be right. If not everyone’s on board with what you think is right, it’s not enough. You need to spend more time on collaboration and listen to what people are saying and what is going on.
Resources for Listeners
- Recommended Book: Living the 7 Habits (affiliate link) Kindle Audible Paperback
- Recommended Book: The Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun (affiliate link) Kindle Audible Hardback
Contact David on LinkedIn
David’s Parting Advice (37:58)
Work on expanding your sphere of influence – what you can affect to happen. Listen to others, come up with a good solution that everyone is happy with and enjoy having a bigger impact.
We are beta-testing our Project Scorecard between now and September 17th. Any project team who wants to be a part of the beta-test the Scorecard contact Sue@ConstructionDreamTeam.com.
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