Mark Dent

Tuesday, 31 January 2012 19:01

Mark Dent: Leadership to build on

Mark Dent, vice president and general manager, Turner Construction, Cleveland
I started my career more than 25 years ago without a defined management or leadership style. These days, my approach strikes a balance between my own personality and the positive management techniques I’ve adopted by learning from others, both in business and my personal life.

Marty Burgwinkle, now a project executive at Turner Construction, demonstrated one positive style I observed early in my career. Burgwinkle has a wonderful way of developing and maintaining a personal relationship with staff. He always asks about family and gives career advice. He finds the time to call people every so often to say hello. I’ve certainly learned a lot from Marty about leadership.

While it’s important to quickly recognize the people who have desirable leadership styles, it’s just as important to identify those with bad styles. You can learn by watching both, absorbing the good and cataloguing the bad for reference. I’ve found you should never discount other people’s leadership styles too quickly; there may be a method to their approach that takes awhile to understand. 

The best advice I can give people who want to improve their leadership skills is to listen, process, ask questions, keep an open mind, and don’t be afraid to make decisions. I believe people want and need a leader who will make decisions. An indecisive leader can demotivate the team, which ultimately spells failure.

Keeping my team motivated is a priority. I like to create opportunities for staff to celebrate achievements and milestones. This includes planning an impromptu dinner for a job site team, arranging for the entire office to close early so staff can get together, or having a picnic for all employees, family members and guests. People appreciate a simple social gathering with minimal or no ‘shop talk.’ We give annual staff awards for business and community achievement based on nominations from peers.

Employees value the opportunity to plan activities that will benefit the local community and Turner promotes involvement at all levels. Partnering with clients to promote a community event also builds a team environment. One of our traditional twice-a-year events is rebuilding one of the aging troop lodges at Beaumount Boy Scout Camp. It benefits the scouts and serves as a team building opportunity for us. We make a full day of it. You can learn a lot about people when you see them interact in an environment away from the office.

Communication is key when you’re managing and motivating staff. I value the opinion of others and am open to hearing those opinions even if they don’t agree with mine. I believe I am a good listener and I am not afraid to express my own opinions, but I’m firm when I need to be. People can be more creative if they feel comfortable sharing in an environment where others are open and non-judgmental. And when problems arise, you can manage through any circumstance with honest and early communication. 

I find it helpful to get out of my own office several times a day and walk around the workplace. I like to see what people are up to, and be visible and accessible to my team. You learn a lot by seeing people in action, asking how their day is going, and finding out what issues are on their mind. A simple pat on the back and a quick hello lets them realize you are thinking about them and value their contribution.

If you are a good leader, growth and success will follow because people on your team will want to do their best, every day. I derive personal and professional satisfaction from the fact that our team has contributed significant growth to our office as a result of our collaborative culture.

Mark Dent is vice president and general manager for Turner Construction’s Cleveland, Ohio office. He is responsible for leading the operations and business strategy. Reach him at or (216) 522-1180.