Chris Rivielle has taken a different approach to employee development at Plant Construction

Demonstrate patience

In order to have employees who are learning, you need to have mentors who are teaching. Rivielle says one of the keys to being a good mentor is the ability to be patient.

“First of all, they have to have the experience and qualifications,” Rivielle says. “Without that, you can’t do it. The technical ability has to be there. But then there has to be patience and an understanding that sometimes you might have to over-communicate what the goals and responsibilities are.

“Then there are those times when you have to sit back and let the person run into some walls on their own. What you’re looking for are the ones who run into the walls and who figure out how to go over the walls or avoid them completely.”

Another component to employee development is performance evaluation. If you’re set in doing a traditional annual review at the end of each year, you may want to re-evaluate what you’re really getting out of that conversation. Rivielle says feedback must be given regularly over the course of the year.

“There are 280 work days in a year,” Rivielle says. “You have to be paying attention the entire year. We sit down and we talk about our staff on a daily basis. Nobody is forgotten.”

It also can’t just be about the person who is identified as being the one who needs to learn more. The mentors need to be passionate about their efforts to help others in the company become stronger contributors to the organization.

“You have to have a lot of ambassadors at the senior level of the company that want to make those people better,” Rivielle says. “We have a lot of people who really care about each other. There is no shortage of senior people who are willing to throw their hand up when we’re looking for somebody to take a few people to mentor. That to me, it’s not being driven by anything other than the desire to make people around them successful.”

As he looks at Plant after a year on the job, Rivielle says it’s too early to tell if his approach to leadership has been a success.

“What’s different about the business of construction as opposed to most other businesses is things happen slowly,” Rivielle says. “It’s not like you just jack up sales and you’re a different company. You sell it and then you have to build a job and that takes a year to two years and then it has to be successful. My success here won’t be known for another year or two. So the things I put in motion, we’ll start to see the benefits of it this year, next year or two years from now.”

At the same time, Rivielle says giving employees the opportunity to learn more skills and be better-rounded team members is a pretty solid strategy to achieve success.

“A lot of the effort is having a bigger picture vision for each person individually,” he says. “That all rolls up into a stronger culture for the company’s growth.” ●

Takeaways

  • Everyone in your company has areas in which they can improve.
  • Be patient with employees who resist new opportunities.
  • Get your senior leaders engaged in the growth of your team.

The Rivielle File

NAME: Chris Rivielle
TITLE: President and CEO
COMPANY: Plant Construction Co. LP

Born: New York City

Education: Bachelor’s degree in architecture; MBA, New York Institute of Technology. I also did some teaching.
What did the experience of teaching provide for you? Every class was different. The interesting thing was I expected every class to be the same.

But the people make the class. Each class had its own personality. You have to go in prepared. You can’t go in and just rely on what you know. You have to be prepared for the lesson. It’s sort of a microcosm of the workforce. You’re going to have students who are really into what they are doing. They like the program and they want to learn.

The ones who want it, I’d always try to give them a little more and give them a little more attention. It was really rewarding to see them go on and take on positions at some of the competition. I even hired one and he became one of my top superintendents back in New York.

Who has been the biggest influence on your life? I worked for a guy named John Krush. He practically invented project management in the 1980s when he was at Jones Lang Wootton. He was an old school construction person. He wore suits with ties. He studied and read up on the developers like Robert Moses and John Tishman.

He was just the most knowledgeable guy about development and the process of development that I have ever been with. Later, he became a client of mine. He taught me more in those three years then I probably learned in my whole career about management style and what it should look like on a larger scale when you’re dealing with larger projects.