3 Invaluable Lessons from Eric Sanderson

  1. Realize how critical how important relationships and partnering are for projects.
  2. Understand the unique challenges of the water sector and how partnering can help in that process.
  3. The importance of listening to understand, as opposed to listening to reply. Focus on solving the problem.

This week, host Sue Dyer speaks with Eric Sanderson, the Founder and President of Red Rocks Advisors, LLC. They provide consulting and facilitation services in the utility and infrastructure sectors. Eric is an IPI-Certified Master-Level Facilitator and is here to help us learn more about the water sector.

Becoming a “Master-Level Facilitator” (02:29)

Being around the construction since he was a kid, the journey has been a long one. Eric spent some time in the trades, sub-contracting and learning the dynamics of a job site. Eric went on to get an MBA and joined a construction management consultant firm. He learned to understand the importance of relationships on a project and began to facilitate partnering.  He has been working as a Partnering Facilitator in the water sector for ~19 years.

Eric’s First Project as a Facilitator (07:32)

  1. Upgrades to the City of Atlanta pump stations for wastewater.
  2. Some challenging elements around working with 14 sites.
  3. Winning a Marvin M. Black Award for “Excellence in Partnering.”

The Uniqueness of Working in the Water Sector (10:14)

  1. The challenge of working with 2 owners: Engineering and Operators – you need internal alignment.
  2. Permit requirements and compliance are extremely important (local, state and federal levels).
  3. Numerous stakeholders involved from city, county, and state entities.

Delivery Systems in the Water Sector (13:19)

  1. The traditional model has been Design/Bid/Build, there is a move to Design-Build, and now we are seeing more CMAR projects (Construction Management At Risk).
  2. The contractor is working in an operating facility and has to maintain the operations while working on the project.
  3. Contractor engagement is critical to have a live cost estimate.
  4. Facilitation involved throughout the process.

Examples of Interesting Projects (16:44)

  1. City of Las Angeles Department of Water and Power: upgrading systems for UV treatment, unique technical equipment.
  2. Vale, Colorado: more capacity and location challenges.

Advantages to Partnering and Facilitation (19:49)

  1. Aligning beyond certain goals.
  2. Being great “neighbors” to surrounding communities.
  3. Collaborating on owning problems and solutions.

Eric’s Greatest Strength as a Leader (20:48)

Understanding the perspectives of the individuals involved in a project. Everyone has different goals and aligning the goals around the project is critical. Being able to understand what drives people is crucial in partnering on projects.

Eric’s Most Challenging Project (23:18)

  1. New to partnering and lacked the confidence for control.
  2. A substantial project with “heavyweight” contractors.
  3. Admitting mistakes and learning to overcome your own fears.

Greatest Advice Eric Has Received (27:30)

The idea of “don’t take it personally.” You are going to offer things and people are going to choose to follow or not. You can’t take personally whether someone chooses to implement.

Eric’s Favorite Piece of Technology (30:28)

Phone and travel apps specifically. Recently upgraded to Microsoft Surface Pro. Able to carry it and pretty much nothing else.

Resources for Listeners

Audible for Audiobooks: specifically business and history

Contact Eric

Contact Eric on LinkedIn

Eric’s Parting Advice (35:56)

  1. Definitely check out the Water Design-Build Council. It advocates for collaborative delivery processes in the water sector.
  2. Listen to understand, not to reply. Listen to solve, not defend.  Solve the problem and the dispute will go away.

Visit the ConstructionDreamTeam.com/resources page to see all of our guests’ recommended books, websites, etc.

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