A First Hand Look at the ISA Leadership Academy

Written by Nathan Singleton

When I started at Spohn Associates five years ago I was looking at it as just another job… another stepping stone along my journey in the construction industry.. What I found was a career and a place that encouraged growth and family. After one and a half years in the field working as a superintendent I was moved into the office and began running projects of my own. Working my way through each project, I leaned on my schooling and my experience from earlier jobs in the glazing industry to navigate issues.

In keeping with Spohn values, my main goal became giving the end customer the best product and service by adding value along the way. Being surrounded by Project Managers who have been with the company an average of ten plus years, I found plenty of mentors who guided me along my path.

As I became more settled in my current role as Project Manager I started to look for avenues to network and to get around people outside of the company that had a similar way of thinking as I did. My goal was not merely to make acquaintances, but to find people that were looking for ways to help their own companies adjust to the ever-changing construction industry. It was around this time that Andy Imes, our Vice President of Operations, sat down with me to discuss this topic. He brought up a new training program that the Indiana Subcontractors Association (ISA) was getting ready to roll out called the Leadership Development Academy (LDA).

As stated on the ISA website, the LDA was formed to “assist with the transfer of knowledge from some of the construction industry’s seasoned professionals down to those that are looking to move into senior leadership roles”. The LDA consists of 15 courses over an 18-month period with each course being four to five hours in length. The courses cover a range of topics with an emphasis on leadership, such as: Human Recourses, Risk Assessment, Company Structure, Operations, and Sales. The instructors for each section are considered specialists in their sector and are proven leaders in the industry.

The objective of LDA is to benefit both the student’s personal goals as well as the construction companies that they work for. Participants in the program are encouraged to apply the information they learn from instructors to their own work place to promote progress and
development. This program has allowed me to understand the bigger picture of how my company works. As a result, my mentor, Andy Imes, and I have had lengthy discussions about what we can do better to be more efficient. With the construction industry booming and talent being scarce, the human resources course sparked several conversations. Primarily, it turned towards Millennials and how to pass knowledge from our more experienced Project Manager to this new generation. We looked to update the training process so that newer Project Managers would not get as overwhelmed while being loaded up with projects (full load being anywhere between 20-30 project at one time).

The other universal issue that came up was how to retain Millennials. Research shows that this generation are more apt to change positions more frequently than previous generations. One thing that was brought up by the instructors is that Millennials, in fact, enjoy structure and organization through which they can see a clear path of how their career can develop and progress. We have since updated our organizational chart and discussed ways to create depth in a company that in the past did not offer much mobility or individual growth.

With leadership being one of its main points of emphasis, the course as a whole has really made me think about what type of leader I would be and how people see me. In several classes we have discussed our own personalities and leadership styles. By taking the predictive index, we were able to see how and why we react certain ways to everyday situations in the construction industry. This has helped me approach each project by looking at who is involved with it and what traits they also bring to the table. It has allowed me to read situations better and react in ways that mirror the other person. For instance, some people are more inclined to shut down when someone is very direct with them, as they see this as aggressive. Vice versa, those who communicate more directly may interpret more passive modes of communicating as being deceptive or weak. The ability to adapt and understand the diverse personalities and traits of others is what makes the best leaders. They know who their team is and they can talk to each person in a way that gains and maintains respect without making any team member feel alienated.

The LDA has gotten me thinking about my own career path and has allowed me see my place in the whole of my company. Spohn Associates has been an amazing company to work for and I enjoy going to work every day, knowing that every project is unique. By allowing me to take part in this program they have taught me things about my own company and have allowed me to network with some of the future leaders of Indiana’s construction industry… all people with the same goals in mind and each looking at a different road to reach those goals.

Through the development of the LDA, the ISA has created a program that will benefit the industry by assisting in the creation of our future leadership. There are not many mentor programs out there that can do what this program is doing for the industry. I appreciate being a part of the first class and look forward to seeing how it will morph as the years go on.