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The Makings of a Hourigan Leader


Myriad philosophies on the concept of leadership have been posited throughout the business world. Business tycoons tout empowerment as the key to success, while leadership coaches stand behind influence; conversely, scholars have championed the notion of vision as the golden ticket. Though there are disparities in these lines of thinking, the over-arching concept is clear. The power of effective leadership is evident and impactful at each level of an organization. A collective understanding of the organization’s goals guides the appropriate leadership mentality from the top down. Hourigan’s internal leadership training program, Hourigan Leader, builds the next generation of leaders to propagate success for the organization as a whole.

As a recent addition to the Hourigan team, I had the opportunity to participate in the Fall 2022 Hourigan Leader class. It made a difference for me as an individual contributor, it makes a difference in how I interact and lead my team, and it ultimately makes a difference in how Hourigan does business. The sense of empowerment and confidence I drew from this experience is now an extremely powerful part of the energy I bring to work each morning. My key takeaways have helped me grow as an employee by guiding decisions, informing strategy, and fostering healthy relationships.

Fall 2022 Hourigan Leader Class
Top Row: Brian Brown, VP, Healthcare Operations; Rachel Oppelt, Executive Assistant; Kurt Dunmire, Corporate Safety Director; Tim Good, Project Executive; Chip Smithwick, Superintendent
Middle Row: Brian Fitch, Scheduling Executive; Rory Slusher, Superintendent; Chris Ward, Superintendent; Amy Weigert, Project Manager; Todd Bagwell, SVP, Preconstruction; Charles Clatterbuck, Project Executive
Bottom Row: Mike Lang, Sr. Manager, MEP; Erin Rowe, Marketing Manager; Sally Tate, VP, People Strategies; Beth Passalacqua, Executive Assistant; Jamie Booth, VP, Client Solutions; Bryan Jones, Chief Administrative Officer; Kara Abbott, Project Executive                                                        

A Little Empathy Goes a Long Way

Effective leadership begins with empathy. Knowing what is important to team members and how to best support those individuals in the pursuit of success goes a long way in establishing trust. Developing skills around emotional awareness and regulation helps leaders set the right tone for teams and recognize the needs of others.

The data doesn’t lie. Studies have found that 80 to 90 percent of the competencies that differentiate top performers reside within the domain of emotional intelligence (Golman, Working with Emotional Intelligence).  Research also shows us that employees are the key differentiator between business success and failure, making EQ competencies more valuable than ever.

Be Open and Be Yourself

Authenticity in the workplace is proven to drive results. Creating personal connections lays the groundwork for a dynamic of mutual trust and open communication. Authentic leaders are reported to see better performance across key business measures and overall goal attainment, increased levels of respect and commitment, and produce stronger problem-solving skills across the team.

Katie Hughes, Senior Marketing Coordinator, explains the importance of authenticity in her work.

Make Connections

The sage advice we were all undoubtedly given in the early stages of our careers still rings true: it’s all about the people you know. Construction management, in its daily minutiae, is about building, but the true impact of this work is about people. Success at Hourigan is measured in earned trust. Building and fostering relationships, both internally and externally, has been foundational in the growth of the organization. The importance of this is reinforced at every level of the company and is a foundational element for successful leadership.

Building great relationships is at the very core of what we do at Hourigan. The little decisions we make day in and day out contribute to the relationships we have with our teammates, project partners, and clients. Solidifying those good relationships is a product of taking that next step to stand out and do what’s right for the client. Hourigan Leaders are proactive and thoughtful in how we pursue better relationships within our networks.

Find Out What Drives Your Team

Great leaders motivate, inspire, and empower employees to reach higher. Genuine interest in the success of others builds a passionate and committed team that continues to grow and improve. Individuals have different motivations that can be both intrinsic (i.e. achievement, responsibility) and extrinsic (compensation, working conditions). Understanding an employee’s primary motivations allows a leader to apply and tailor the appropriate motivational approach to get the most out of the team.

Adjusting my approach based on the audience is stepping out of my comfort zone. I may have to adjust expectations or alter my communication style based on what I’m working on that day. Collaborating with a marketing team member likely looks different than eliciting information from a superintendent. We all approach our work from different perspectives, based on role, workload, or experience. A leadership approach that’s mindful of these personal motivations and perspectives will ultimately provide teams with the tools and support they need to succeed.

It’s Not About You

Prioritizing the ongoing development of others, in service to employees’ personal growth, marks strong leadership. Leaders see the success of the greater team as an achievement, instead of personal recognition. Wanting success for your team and paving the way are two separate ideals. A pointed focus on coaching conversations and providing clear feedback on growth/improvement opportunities will set a clear path for employees.

Brene Brown’s philosophy, ‘Clear is Kind’, is a message that resonated with me. Leaders that affect great change in their teams and organizations bravely address tough conversations and provide honest, productive feedback in service to others. This isn’t second nature to most, myself included. I’ve had to reframe my mindset around feedback, understanding that delivering and receiving honest feedback from colleagues propagates professional development and contributes to more synergistic teams.

Look for “The Why”

Leaders think steps ahead, anticipating, preparing, and positioning teams to make the appropriate short-term decisions that affect long-term success. This insight charts the course for teammates, helping to foster an understanding of how things fit into the bigger picture.

Understanding ‘the why’ behind the decisions we make is critical to successfully meeting a project’s goals. Taking a step back to gain perspective is an important part of the process. Looking through a strategic lens, and constantly checking back to ‘the why’ helps us stay on track to achieve the vision. Now, when faced with a tricky decision, a tough message to communicate, a difficult professional situation, or just a plain old long hard day of work, I think back to ‘the why’ and that helps me tackle the situation in a way that fits the Hourigan brand – with integrity, perseverance, and diligence.

Deliver to the Highest Standard

Strong leaders own their work and deliver it to the highest possible standard. Project ownership demonstrates a commitment to goals and owning outcomes (including shortcomings). Fostering a culture centered around excellence empowers employees to perform at their very best. Going the extra mile to create an unparalleled experience or deliverable creates raving fans internally and externally. True accountability starts with the end in mind, pushing teams toward the project goal every step of the way.

My Hourigan Leader cohort, Project Executive, Ryan Byrd, details the importance of leadership in his day-to-day.

Leadership at Hourigan isn’t defined by titles, management style, or personality. Strong Hourigan leaders serve others by leading teams with empathy, openness, curiosity, and vision. Hourigan Leader, our leadership development program, instills these leadership philosophies across the organization. This commitment to employee development bolsters personal performance, confidence, and an individual’s ability to navigate challenging situations. This investment in developing and training effective organizational leaders has ripple effects evident in the micro-and-macro- team culture and the overall client experience.

Employee development programs, like Hourigan Leader, reap benefits for the organization and the individual. Hourigan Leader has empowered me to continue to develop and hone my leadership skills and foster connections made during the training. The relationships made with like-minded individuals striving to mold the future of the organization (from every area of the business) who authentically exhibit their vulnerabilities have been invaluable. Working for a company that believes in its employees, encourages authenticity, and takes an active role in the growth and professional development of the team makes the time spent at work meaningful and fulfilling, and to me, that’s a critical component of professional success.

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