Mark Breslin On Leadership ? You Just Ain’t That Good



Self Knowledge and Mastery: The Alpha Foundation

Hello everyone, welcome toÿ I?ve been in the mechnical trades for the better part of 20 years and I?ve been to my share of rah, rah, coombayah conferences, some are great and some you thank your lucky stars it?s south of Tennessee in the dead of a mid-western winter. No, I take that back, most are a snooze, don?t you just hate when a trade conference brings in a financial planner to tell you how to invest your money when you?re still trying to figure out how to make some? I want to scream. Anyway every once in awhile a speaker comes in and tells it exactly like it is even if you?d rather not listen. Introducing Mr. Mark Breslin. To those of us that have been in the piping trades or construction for awhile he is no stranger but if you never had the pleasure of listening or seeing Mark speak, enjoy. His message and coaching tips are universal, his ability diagnose problem areas in a small to medium size office are legendary. If you happen to be a contracting business, even a successful one, his aim often turns to the one running the asylum. I?ve had the pleasure of seeing Mark speak several times over the years and I?ve always left the engagement feeling slightly inadequate but always full of things to look for, things to try, motivated and always entertained. So when I called up the office to see if I could get an article to post here and they agreed, sending me a part of Mark?s new book I was naturally excited and flattered. Please enjoy the following excerpt from Mark Breslin?s new bookÿ Alpha Dog: Leading and Motivating Yourself and Others.

You Just Ain?t That Good

I just ?ain?t that good? as a leader and manager. The difference between me and most leaders in this business, is that I know it. Not only do I know it, but I know exactly what ?I?m not? and I?m working on fixing it. All the time. For more than fifteen years. Because this is what I owe my employees and the members.

How did this happen? A couple of decades of my personal leadership challenges. Eight years of all my staffers giving me annual anonymous 360 performance evaluations. Tons of hard questions I?ve asked my mentors and harder answers I received. ÿLike a lot of you reading this, I used to think ÿbecause I was in charge that I was good. I easily put my own opinion of me before the opinions of those that followed. I substituted drive and determination for effective leadership, strategy and maturity. I evaluated my leadership solely on business results instead of including people results. I could have rationalized any and all of it. But I?d be no further ahead now than I was ten or fifteen years ago.

Leaders are funny in that way. Most guys I know are focused on improving everything and everyone around them ? except themselves. They stride the world confidently and arrogantly mostly blind to their own upside. Power, authority, status or wealth substitutes for a clear-eyed view of their strengths and deficiencies. Most guys spend more time playing golf each year than improving themselves. And their partners and senior managers do the same. And as a result they could be better. A lot better. And so could their business results.

I recall a discussion I had with a member some fifteen years ago that sums this up. This guy was doing maybe fifteen million a year and making a very good living. But he just wasn?t that good. And it showed in his organization. And I told him so. The exact words I used were, ?you run your company for shit.? After he calmed down we had a very detailed conversation where I made my case. I not only convinced him, but provoked him into a very intense personal and organizational development effort. He was honest enough and secure enough to take that ?tough love? knowing I was not being judgmental but just blunt as hell. Ten years later I was awful proud of him when they hit a highly profitable eighty million. And he doesn?t need to be there for the organization to succeed anymore. What?s the point? That without brutal personal and organizational self-evaluation, you are unlikely to reach your personal leadership potential and thus your organization will underperform. Who better to tell you the truth than yourself?

What are my main motivations good and bad?

What are my main motivations good and bad?
What are my main strengths and weaknesses in dealing with people?
What is my fatal flaw and how does it impact people around me?
What level of intuition do I bring to motivating others?
What is my blind spot?
Can I take brutally honest feedback in service of my advancement?
Am I secure enough in myself to lead well?
How do I generally behave under extreme stress?
What am I going to do with this information and what resources or strategies am I going to use to improve my personal and organizational performance?

Self-knowledge and management is the foundation to successful long term leadership capability. Learning the external tips and tactics to manage others is fine. Getting your MBA is a plus. Officially becoming the foreman is terrific. But ultimately those are external enhancements to leadership capability right now. You have to look at leadership development as a long term personal evolution, rather than a one time event (a promotion) or entitlement. Self knowledge would include the following;

I have seen many leaders fall short of their potential because they would not or could not be honest with themselves. They make enough money. They are tired. They don?t need it. They?ve heard it all before; been there and done that. They?ve paid their dues. But just as likely, they were simply unwilling to dig into the challenge of self knowledge and self development. And that is understandable. We often find more things we don?t like about ourselves or our performance when we do it, WHICH IS PRECISELY WHY WE NEED TO DO IT.ÿ The polite term is self-deception. The true description is bullshitting yourself.

Tough markets usually provide the shock to the system necessary to re-evaluate people, procedures, markets and strategies. The same should apply to you and your leadership team. No matter what else you do, your organization will not reach it?s profitability or growth potential until you put the money and effort into leadership development. Make this a priority for 2011. What got you here won?t get you to where you want to be. And take it from one who knows. You just ain?t that good. Yet.

Mark?s Breslin?s upcoming fourth bookÿ ÿAlpha Dog: Leading and Motivating Yourself and Others

Mark Breslin is the fourth generation of a construction family. His great-grandfather, grandfather, and step-father were all contractors. Mark started his working career in the field.

He has served as the CEO of the Engineering and Utility Contractors Association, one of the largest and most innovative contractor organizations in the Western U.S. for over 25 years. The association represents hundreds of contractors performingÿ billions of dollars in projects annually. Mark became the chief executive at age 26.

He is noted as the number one speaker in the nation on construction leadership, strategy and labor-management relations. As a strategist, speaker and author he has addressed more than 200,000 business, labor and construction-owner leaders. He also speaks to tens of thousands of field craftsmen and apprentices across the U.S. and Canada annually.

Mark graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in Industrial Design. He has since taught at both Golden Gate and Sonoma State University. He lives in northern California with his wife Susan and their three kids. Real life passions include expedition and adventure travel. Recent challenges include trekking the Sahara, paddle rafting the Grand Canyon, hiking to Everest Base Camp and raising three teenagers.

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