How We Empower Employees to be the Best in Our Industry
I am an avid cyclist and often use my longer, weekend bike rides to think about business. I’m usually out on the road early on a Saturday morning just as the sun is coming up, cruising through the South Carolina countryside where it’s cool and conducive to strategic thinking. I think about A M King’s clients, our team members, and key subcontractors, pondering what might make their collective work lives easier. Recently I reflected on a podcast that talked about how industry is moving away from “using people to do work” to “using work to develop people.” This got me thinking about how A M King – a national, integrated Design-Build firm — approaches career development, as well as my personal management philosophy for growing people.
As our employee-owned company continues to flourish, we are adding staff at all levels. During this period of growth, it’s my responsibility to ensure that we continue to provide our clients with project delivery experiences that exceed expectations. We know that A M King’s clients expect their projects to be delivered by highly trained and qualified individuals.
One of my goals as Business Unit Leader is to help grow and develop employees into key assets for the company and our clients. For this effort to be successful, each individual needs to be engaged in the process. Thinking about my own career history, I decided to share some advice I would give my “younger self” and others interested in a long and satisfying work life with our company.
Don’t Limit Yourself
I figured out the importance of developing options early in my life. When my dreams of becoming a professional basketball player faded away because of a serious ankle injury during my senior year at The Citadel, I had to choose another path. It was a tough time, but with perseverance it all worked out. I went on to become the first person in my family to graduate from college, earning a degree in civil engineering. Not the path in life I originally chose, but the unexpected change in my career trajectory led to a whole new world of possibilities. Career paths are not set in stone. I encourage my team members to take advantage of our wide variety of career path options, and to be diverse in thinking as well as training. If you are happy with your current role or focus, that’s great. But if you want to explore other aspects of the business, A M King is a company that accommodates those career goals and opportunities. In many ways, the sky’s the limit.
Strive to be the Best
Athletics has had a tremendous influence on my business philosophy and the manner in which I manage construction projects. In sports, you strive to be the best, only satisfied with winning. My military background at The Citadel, which places a strong emphasis on duty, honor and integrity, also influences my management style. In business, this all translates into making every effort to do the best job possible. I have the same expectations for my team members that I have for myself – to “obey the rules when no one is looking” and be willing to put in the work required to complete the task. I am proud to be associated with a company where “being the best” is part of our mission, providing an environment where people can set high expectations for growth and success.
Be a Mentor, Be Mentored
I was fortunate to have a long-time mentor in the construction industry who brought out the best in me. He constantly pushed me to be better. He understood that developing people creates value in business. One of his favorite techniques was to set career milestones as targets for me to exceed. You never know what kind of lasting impact a mentor will have on a mentee, or vice versa. At A M King, our employee profile is multi-generational. I see that as a good thing. Whether entry-level, seasoned, or in between, all of us can benefit from another person’s knowledge and perspective.
Say What You Will Do and Do What You Say
Integrity is a big deal to me and is at the core of my client relationships. Following through on promises is the key to developing great partnerships. As an example, we have been providing onsite facility services at GE’s Greenville campus – home of the world’s largest gas turbine plant – for more than a decade. A M King’s local team delivers up to 400 projects per year there, ranging in size from $5,000 to $3 million and everything in between. For A M King to retain its status as a trusted partner in providing integrated design, construction, property and facility services, we must consistently perform to the highest standards GE has come to expect. Establish your credibility for delivering on promises, and repeat business – as well as new business – will follow.
Have the Confidence to Empower Those around You
It’s my job as a manager to serve my team. I believe in building and developing employees the same way one would construct a building or develop a customer program. High character individuals are the foundation of this development, and company culture is the specification that governs the growth. Knowledgeable and forward-thinking personnel are essential to a successful business. A M King’s president, Brian King, drives home the point that you should always “be training your replacement.” At first this seemed like a foreign concept to me; however, I now understand how this mindset benefits me, those around me, and the company as a whole. Teaching others to do what you do shows confidence in who you are as a person and develops trust in the team around you. This concept forces you to continually pursue the next level of personal development. One of the most valuable leadership lessons I learned from my mentor is that when you give responsibility, you must also give the authority to manage.
These are exciting times for A M King in the Greenville region and throughout the United States. We are well positioned to attract exceptional talent to help us serve our ever-growing client base in this region. A M King has a top-notch Career Development program in place – something appreciated by new hires and long-time employees alike. When we empower our employees to influence their own career paths, the results speak for themselves. The ultimate by-product of job satisfaction is client satisfaction.
About the Author – Andre Harris is Business Unit Leader at A M King’s Greenville, S.C. office. He manages complex projects and facility services programs for industrial manufacturing clients in the automotive, energy and aerospace industries.
This article originally appeared as the Feb. 2023 blog on A M King’s website. Reprinted with permission.