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Bricks and the City – Have You Got The APC Stress Factor?
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Bricks and the City – Have You Got The APC Stress Factor?

As well as being awards season, it’s APC season, that nail biting time of year when stresses are high and you’re panicking about critical analysis, experience records, presentations, reading shed loads of articles that you may get asked a question on and generally wondering how you are going to cram everything you need to know about surveying into your head whilst maintaining your performance at work!! Phew, think that long, poorly punctuated sentence about summed it up?

I was asked to write an article over a year ago for the RICS which appeared locally in the East Midlands Surveyor Magazine so I thought I’d share the content on my blog in the hope that something in there may strike a chord and help.

Having coached a number of APC candidates over the past few years I have discovered there are common themes running through the process that can stop people successfully passing their APC.

‘I am struggling to motivate myself’, ‘I feel overwhelmed’, ‘my day job is getting in the way’, ‘I never seem to have enough time’, ‘I’m not getting the right experience’, ‘My Supervisor / Counsellor never has enough time’, ‘I am not good at presentations’, ‘I am worried I won’t know the answers to all the questions’. Sound familiar?

Below are some tips to help you overcome the barriers and demonstrate to the panel that you’ve got the RICS ‘X factor’!

Find your Y. MRICS, what does it mean to you, why are you doing it? You need to find a reason that you connect with, something that is going to really motivate you through the times that you get home from work or it’s the weekend and the last thing you want to do is hit the books or look at your Critical Analysis. Keep thinking about your Y and how you’ll feel when you get it

Think about any limiting beliefs you may have, one that I have come across is, ‘my presentation style is dull’, is that really true or did someone just say that once? Is it the content that’s dull which impacts on how it is presented? Think of the last time you talked about something you were really enthused about and how you ‘presented yourself’ to the person you were talking to. Now try and inject some of that enthusiasm into your presentation.

Don’t think you have to have the most amazing project in the world to do your APC, it’s about your experience and what you’ve done on it that is important. Be proud of your achievements and hopefully that should help you to deliver an interesting and informative presentation.

If you don’t think you have enough experience, think again! One technique I have used with my coachees is a ‘timeline’. A bit like Dr Who, jump in the tardis of your mind and think back to all of the projects you have worked on, what was going on with those projects, what were you exposed to, you will often find that you know more than you think, you’ve just forgotten (or not recorded your experience in your log book…..!) If you still don’t have enough experience, speak to your Counsellor and Supervisor about this, be proactive.

To avoid overwhelm, break it down. There are a lot of pieces to the APC puzzle and it can swamp you if you allow it to. I have found that Mind Mapping is really useful technique as it allows you to get everything down and start to look at the APC holistically. First of all, think about the things that you have done or are in hand, positives first. Then think about what you need to do to give you a really good ‘snapshot’ of your APC

One you’ve broken things down, come up with an action plan, what do you need to do, who do you need to talk to etc. Remember it is your responsibility to make things happen. If you need to meet with your Counsellor and Supervisor, give them plenty of notice and plan the time in. If they cancel the meetings then make sure they are re-scheduled.

Plan your time. We have project plans, have one for your APC with key milestones and sign off dates programmed in. If you struggle with time as many people do a recommended read is ‘How to Save an Hour Every Day’ by Michael Heppell with some great time saving tools and techniques.

Don’t think you have to know everything about everything or else your head will explode. A number of people I’ve coached have thought this and its useful to remember what the APC is all about. It’s not Mastermind. The panel want to know that you’re Professional, you can give your Client good, sound advice and you know about the Code of Conduct. There are often questions that come up that a candidate can’t answer, just given an indication of what you would do to find that answer.

Act as if. Visualisation is a really powerful tool. I would bet that the top Olympic Athletes would have all visualised winning that race, from how they felt at the start of the race, lining up, waiting for the starting gun, jumping over those hurdles, overtaking their competitors until they reached the finish line. Apply the same to your interview, visualise giving a great presentation, answering the questions they’ve asked you on it, answering the other questions fired at you confidently and succinctly.

Don’t be afraid to fail. If you’ve failed a mock or even failed an assessment, don’t be afraid to go for it again. Quite often our best learning comes through failure, take what you need from that experience and move on.

Good luck everyone and I look forward to hearing your success stories!

Bricks and the City – May The Horse Be With You!
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Bricks and the City – May The Horse Be With You!

I’m writing this whilst trying to warm up as I’ve just been to watch the Chinese New Year celebrations at the University of Nottingham which ended in the most amazing fire works display.

Although I knew Chinese New Year was this weekend I hadn’t realised until I saw the Google (other search engines are available) doodle this week that we are coming into the Year of the Horse and we’re saying goodbye to last year’s Snake!

China has come up for me a few times recently as I worked on the University of Nottingham’s Si Yuan Centre which is a new academic building housing the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, the China Policy Institute and the Nottingham Confucius Institute.  Also, a couple of weeks ago someone left me a copy of ‘The Art of Strategy’ on my desk which is a translation by R L Wing of a classic book written by Sun Tzu entitled ‘The Art of War’ which was written between 480 – 221 BC.  I hasten to add they left that and a couple of other books on my desk, they weren’t laying down a gauntlet, at least I don’t think they were?!

So, mixing all of that together I decided to do some research into Chinese New Year and what the Year of the Horse will bring….

What I didn’t realise is that it’s a Spring festival, so we say goodbye to dreary January and we’re into Spring straight away!  It celebrates the start of the season of ploughing and sowing and the arrival of new life.  The date varies every year as it’s linked to the lunar calendar, the first date is the day of the new moon and it generally lasts for around 15 days ending with the full moon.

Having done some research on tinterweb the Horse year is a time of fast victories, energy is high and production is rewarded.  Decisive action, not procrastination brings victory and you have to act fast in a Horse year.  You could also end up galloping off in the wrong direction if you’re not careful!  Horses didn’t plough the fields in China, they helped to fight battles which brings me back to the Art of War!

Last week as well as rambling about random train journey conversations I also touched on Leadership.  One passage that stuck in my mind from the Art of Strategy is the Three Errors of Leaders:-

Leaders are those who protect the organisation.  If the protection is complete, the organization will be strong.  If the protection is flawed, the organisation will be vulnerable.  A Ruler can bring adversity to the Force in three ways.  The first one is:-

By not understanding that the Force is unable to advance and calling for an advance; Or not understanding that the Force is unable to retreat, and calling for a retreat.  This is called hobbling the Force.  This reminds me so much of what I think is so common in this industry, not understanding is the same as not listening if that person is not giving you the answer that you want to hear.

New year is also a time to set goals and targets and if you want to avoid galloping off in the wrong direction, having a clear vision and communicating that to your ‘force’ is really important.

Finally, having looked through some Confucius quotes today, the best one I read was:-

‘Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance’!

May the Horse be with you!

Bricks and the City – Mind the Gap
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Bricks and the City – Mind the Gap

I’m currently writing this on the train back from London following a day of site visits. I do enjoy going to London and one of the best bits sometimes is talking to complete strangers on the train. I’ve even done this on the underground as well although I always get nervous when I see the British Transport Police!

I acknowledge that one of the reasons why I can get away with making conversation with strangers is that I am from the North East and they probably think that I don’t know the ‘rules’ but I do! I lived in London for 5 years and I remember my parents coming down to visit me one weekend. They’d parked up where I was living and got the tube into central London and I recall thinking I’d better call my Dad to tell him not to make eye contact or talk to strangers and my Dad happily told me it’s too late for that and they’d been having conversations with every man and his dog en route!

The synchronicities of train conversations are amazing and I often find people who are reading books on topics that I’ve either been reading about or would like to read about. Last year I met someone who introduced me to the concept of Mindfulness which is something that seems to be written about a lot at the moment and I have a video clip on my blog of Jon Kabat-Zinn talking about it. I have to admit, I downloaded a mindfulness app called Headspace, the concept of which is really good although I do struggle to find the time to clear my head to do it every morning, something I clearly need to work on.

One subject area I’m really interested in is Leadership. I’d never really thought about the differences between Leadership and Management before but a recent train journey conversation with a very nice Italian lady who heads up a University Department got me thinking. Her view and that of a colleague I work with is that:-

Leaders lead by their energy, inspiration and vision

Managers manage by a pre- determined system/process

The construction industry is such a massive one with over 280,000 businesses and 3 million workers, out of that massive ocean of people, who are the ones to follow? Who are the trail blazers?

Last year I wrote about Construction 2025 which was launched on the 2 July 2013 which is an industrial strategy in partnership with the Government. It’s aim is to give a clear and defined set of aspirations for UK construction and a clear vision of where it will be in 2025.

One of the headlines in the report is:-

LEADERSHIP – An industry with clear leadership from a Construction Leadership Council. This is really positive but having googled (other search engines are available!) Construction Leadership Council all I can really find are links to articles written when it was launched last year, as far as I can see there has been no further guidance as to how the strategy will be achieved and I can’t find a CLC website (if this exists, please e mail me the link).

It’s great to have a strategy and a vision but clear communication is needed on how we are going to ‘mind the gap’ between having the vision and achieving it. What does it mean?, what can we do?, what are we doing well and what do we need to do differently?

My mission now (which I have accepted) is to ask some questions and get some answers. I will report back and update you on my progress. Now, where is that piece of paper I had with Vince Cable’s e mail address again……………..?!

Bricks and the City – Eat, Sleep, Work Repeat… No More!!
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Bricks and the City – Eat, Sleep, Work Repeat… No More!!

Once upon a time there was a Construction Coach who went to sleep for a good few months.

All she dreamed of was work and everyday was the same, just like Groundhog Day, eat, sleep, work repeat, eat, sleep, work repeat! She had no time to write and as a consequence her blog became dusty, covered in cobwebs and full of dodgy spam from foreign countries asking her to buy knock off Ugg boots and Louis Vuitton handbags.

Instead of counting sheep she would count bricks in her dream and forgot her good intentions to write a blog every week to provide useful and useless information to fellow constructionites. BUT, one night one of the bricks she was dreaming about bashed her on the head and said, OY!! get your laptop out and start writing again, so, that is exactly what she is doing and she makes a pledge to have a blog land in your e mail box at 8am every Monday morning.

So, spread the word, tell your friends and subscribe, or just log-on at 8.01 am on a Monday and see what’s there!!

The End.

Bricks and the City – Construction 2025 Back to the Future
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Bricks and the City – Construction 2025 Back to the Future

A lot has been written in the past few weeks about Construction 2025 launched on the 2 July 2013 which is an industrial strategy in partnership with the Government.

Its aim is to give a clear and defined set of aspirations for UK construction and a clear vision of where it will be in 2025 (see link below to download)

Construction 2025

The headlines are:-

PEOPLE – An industry that is known for its talented and diverse workforce
SMART – An industry that is efficient and technologically advanced
SUSTAINABLE – An industry that leads the world in low-carbon and green construction exports
GROWTH – An industry that drives growth across the entire economy
LEADERSHIP – An industry with clear leadership from a Construction Leadership Council (see link for list of Council members) Construction Leadership Council

The best quote I have heard so far in connection with the strategy is from Chief Construction Advisor Peter Hansford, ” Just as construction is at the heart of the economy, people are at the heart of construction”. This is so true, it is all about people. On that basis, the two key headlines I believe need to be focussed on are PEOPLE and LEADERSHIP.

As part of the People strategy, the target is to increase capability in the workplace and as the wider economy emerges from recession, construction firms must be able to recruit, retain and develop skilled, hard-working people in sufficient numbers to meet the increasing demand for construction. The vision is that the industry becomes a sector of choice for young people inspiring them into rewarding and professional vocational careers.

Under Leadership, it is highlighted that the strategy is seen as the start of a process which will be taken forward by the new Construction Leadership Council to provide coherent leadership to ensure that an action plan is put in place and delivered.

The Action Plan is included in Annex B of the strategy and under the section entitled “Drivers of Change” it talks about working together to improve the image of the industry by inspiring young people which is great but what seems to be missing at the moment is a focus on those of us who are already in the industry and the changes we need to make to our behaviours to inspire ourselves as well as others.

I appreciate this is a work in progress but I would really like this to be a key part of the action plan. In my view we really need to dig deep into the psychology of the organisations and people within the industry and come up with a blueprint for change that we can work towards.

I’ve done a lot of research this weekend and whilst the strategy has been well received in the industry, there is also the feeling of déjà vu when the mind is cast back to Latham and Egan. Having reviewed the ‘commitment to people’ section of the Egan report, it talks about decent site conditions, fair wages and care for health and safety, and also respect for all participants in the process, involving everyone in sustained improvement and learning and a no-blame culture based on mutual interdependence and trust.

It was the Task Force’s view then that much of construction does not yet recognise that its people are its greatest asset and treat them as such and that too much talent is simply wasted and finally that construction cannot afford not to get the best from the people who create value for clients and profits for companies.

Now, bearing in mind this report was published in 1998, what has changed? Site conditions and health and safety have certainly improved, and so did wages and training in the boom years following publication of the report but the blame culture is still there and I still don’t think we have the trust or the recognition that people are its greatest asset. If the industry was a snakes and ladders board I’d say we’ve climbed up some of the ladders but we’re still sliding down the snakes in others!

It goes without saying that the recession saw a huge clamp down on training and development but I also think it has had a negative impact on behaviours with the competition for job retention and clients. It is my viewpoint that there are still a large number of people in the industry who do not feel appreciated or valued and that definitely needs to change.

Over the next few blogs I want to start looking at what changes we can make in our behaviours and what I’d like to see from industry leaders. There are also a couple of things that have come out of the strategy which I love from the industry publications Construction News and Building.

Following the strategy launch, Construction News Editor Rebecca Evans started the ‘Love Construction’ campaign encouraging people in the industry to tweet under the #loveconstruction as to exactly why they love it which has been really positively received and is gathering momentum.

Building have also started the “Construction Heroes” campaign with, yes, you guessed it the #ConstructionHeroes looking at who the unsung heroes are in our industry.

In my view lasting change needs to come from the bottom and the top but I certainly believe that the ball is rolling. I truly hope that in 2025 I’m not rushing home from work in my flying car to blog about the new strategy that’s just come out entitled Construction 2040, actually, I won’t because I’ll be retired by then!!