Sturgeon Electric and Center for Creative Leadership Deliver First-Ever Learning Experience to Children’s Hospital Colorado Springs Project Team

July 19, 2018

Sturgeon Electric knows that providing a satisfying and safe work environment helps to get the most out of our people and ultimately leads to successful, safe, on-time, and on-budget project completion. In the late 1990s, Sturgeon Electric partnered with Fails Management Institute (FMI) to create a process improvement program designed to engage our employees in better planning and communication methods.  One of the hallmark elements of the program was Rocks-in-the-Road (RIR), an active problem solving activity to help overcome barriers (the “rocks in the road”) specific to communication and teamwork between field forces and leadership.

“The beauty of RIR is that it gives an equal voice to everyone in attendance. Participants list problems/rocks that could occur then build consensus through a prioritization process. The participants then work on root cause, action plans, and timelines to effect positive change,” said Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Waneka. RIR has become an integral part of Sturgeon Electric’s proactive culture and has played a major role in the company’s evolution to become a top workplace.

Sturgeon Electric employees like Operations Manager George LaClaire, are discovering new ways to get the most out of the RIR program. “I’ve used RIR for many years and plan to expand its use and acceptance throughout the company. There was a time when we would only use RIR on an internal and as-needed basis, meaning after a problem or issue had already occurred,” LaClaire said. “Recently, I’ve incorporated RIR for use as a proactive planning tool and have extended participation to clients, owners, and other trade partners. This early collaboration among all stakeholders helps to gather all perspectives and align teams towards common goals because it fosters open dialog which translates to improved feedback. We’ve found it very successful in building relationships and deliver more successful projects,” he added.

Mr. LaClaire held a recent RIR workshop for a team of multiple disciplines currently constructing the new Children’s Hospital project in Colorado Springs. The major outcomes of the workshop addressed real and potential deficiencies surrounding communication and feedback.

While the RIR program identified team communication issues, it was determined that correcting them would require the help of someone outside the existing team, therefore George turned to the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) for assistance.

Sturgeon Electric and MYR Group (parent company of Sturgeon Electric) have enlisted CCL to conduct internal training programs over the past several years. LaClaire wanted to see if CCL would be interested in helping Sturgeon Electric facilitate an on-site training program for all project participants. CCL emphatically agreed, and together, Sturgeon Electric and CCL delivered a “Better Conversations Every Day” training session for the Children’s Hospital project team which included GE Johnson Construction Company, the project’s general contractor.

“When Mr. LaClaire gave us a call, we thought the Better Conversations Every Day training would be a great fit for this team,” said CCL’s coaching practice leader, Angela Edwards. “We are always eager to work within the community and were excited about an opportunity at the Colorado Springs Children’s Hospital,” she added.

The one-day workshop provided coaching skills, micro-learning assets, and communication tools to improve team building and enhance conversation skills. Together, six CCL coaches and 24 project team members came up with several core behaviors to practice:

  • Listen To Understand
  • Ask Powerful Questions and Communicate by Questioning (ask open-ended questions)
  • Challenge And Support With Feedback
  • Establish Next Steps And Accountability
  • Controllable vs. Uncontrollable Issues (stay accountable for controllable issues)

Proactive utilization of RIR and the subsequent: Better Conversations Every Day” training has helped the Children’s Hospital project team to:

  • Act with greater agility and resilience
  • Unearth truth and determine root causes of obstacles
  • Address issues with openness and respect
  • Engage effectively in ongoing performance discussions
  • Grapple with difficult issues
  • Create a culture of honest feedback and continual coaching
  • Unlock collaboration
  • Realize real progress on real project challenges
  • Plan for conducting follow-up

 Sturgeon Electric Project Manager Jason Boyle commented, “The experience was great! Some takeaways that stuck in my head were: asking powerful and open-ended questions, listening to all perspectives, and establishing measurable goals. After this workshop, every time I ask an important question I try to take a second and think about how I ask it to make sure it isn’t leading and has true intent. I am also working to actively improve my listening skills to understand and be more open-minded to various perspectives.”

“The focus and topics covered in the Better Conversations Every Day were great! The tools we learned have helped me in the way I provide feedback to everyone working at the Children’s Hospital jobsite. I have been able to employ the skills I learned with great results almost immediately,” said Construction Manager Scott Bonner with GE Johnson.

The entire Children’s Hospital project team is filled with gratitude for CCL’s commitment and support which has helped them come together more effectively in order to build an amazing facility to serve the needs of children and families in our community. Sturgeon Electric is thrilled to have partnered with CCL to deliver this amazing, first-ever learning experience, and is eager and anxious to discover additional new opportunities generated through use of the RIR program.