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One of the benefits of being a CEO is having a team of experts to help carry the load. No CEO is skilled at everything. It is wise for construction executives to lean on their team so they can focus on where they bring the most value. However, some skills are necessary for CEOs to develop personally to succeed in their role.

Even experienced CEOs leading top construction companies still need a professional development plan and coaching to help them continue to grow in their role.

1. Ask good questions

Leaders understand the power of asking good questions. The construction industry is complex and highly technical. Asking good questions is critical. Miscommunication or misalignment in the construction industry can be costly. FMI estimates poor communication represents a potential cost to the U.S. construction industry of $17 billion a year.

“Questions are powerful—they are management’s version of power tools. Anyone in a position of responsibility must treat them as such,” says Terry Fadem, author of “The Art of Asking: Ask Better Questions, Get Better Answers.”

Global Digital Citizen Foundation has concluded that, “Learning how to ask good questions is a cornerstone of learning and living. It’s a practice we use every day. So much of our success in life depends on asking the right questions.”

Unfortunately, many executives overlook developing this skill. “Few executives think of questioning as a skill that can be honed—or consider how their own answers to questions could make conversations more productive. That’s a missed opportunity,” say Alison Wood Brooks and Leslie K. John in the Harvard Business Review article “The Surprising Power of Questions.”

CEOs can hone their questioning skills by learning how to ask good questions in the areas of decision-making, creativity, connecting with others, and leadership, as suggested in the “Book of Beautiful Questions.” When CEOs ask good questions it saves time, increases profitability, reduces mistakes and increases employee engagement.

2. Listen

A complementary skill to asking good questions is listening well. It doesn't do any good for leaders to ask good questions if they do not listen to responses.

“Companies are increasingly seeking socially adept leaders—not charismatic smooth-talkers, but executives who listen empathetically, welcome input and rally the workforce around a common goal,” according to a recent study by a team of researchers including Harvard Business School Professors Raffaella Sadun and Joseph Fuller, who analyzed thousands of executive job search descriptions created over a 17-year period.

Unfortunately, listening skills are seldom taught in traditional K-12 schools in the United States. Most people have spent eight to 12 years learning how to write, six to eight years learning how to read, one to three years learning how to speak and usually zero years learning how to listen, according to the International Listening Association.

Listening is a learned skill. It often requires training and coaching to learn how to become a skilled listener.

Listening improves emotional intelligence. “One factor, however, has proven to help people build up their levels of emotional intelligence: the ability to listen. In a social situation, listening to what people are communicating to understand their experiences will help the listener develop compassion and empathy, both of which are critical factors in developing high levels of emotional intelligence...The broader the available vocabulary, the more effective communication will become,” according to the Association for Talent Development.

3. Make decisions quickly

When people think of leaders, they often think of decisive individuals who can make tough decisions. And for good reason. CEOs are by nature responsible for making sound top-level decisions. This responsibility cannot be outsourced. As the final decision-makers in a company, CEOs must be adept at honing their decision-making skills.

Success as a CEO means making decisions, often with incomplete information. In fact, decision-making is a top executive management skill needed to succeed in the C-suite, according to Wharton.

“Great leaders also know when to move quickly and proceed with the available information, versus when to take more time and gather additional information,” says Larina Kase, PsyD, MBA, in the Graziadio Business Review article, “Great Leaders are Great Decision-Makers Three Qualities to Take the Paralysis out of Decision Analysis.”

Professional development is a critical part of preparing the next generation of construction leaders, but it is just as important for C-suite leaders. When CEOs ask good questions, listen well and make sound decisions, companies thrive.


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