August 2012

All Great Organizations Have One Thing In Common: GREAT LEADERSHIP

Designed with both labor and management in mind, IMPACT's innovative new leadership course aims to break down old organizational barriers and catapult the ironworking industry to renewed growth.

What's the difference between a leader and a manager?

Brian Riggs of the Sowles Company, Billings, Mont., knows the answer: "Managing is facilitating the things that have always been done, which I think most of us do automatically," he said.

But being a leader, Brian explained, is a little different. "It's being more of an innovator and a motivator."

This April Brian, along with 26 other labor-management construction industry veterans, attended the IMPACT Leadership Experience, a unique pilot course focused on innovative leadership skills for ironworkers and contractors. The premise of the course is simple: Improve internal leadership and communication between labor and management to increase productivity. It is, like all of IMPACT's programs, extensions of two primary goals: Double market share by 2020, and eliminate ironworker fatalities through awareness and education.

"It is vitally important to the future of our union that we invest in the education of local union officers to produce the next generation of leadership," said General President Walter Wise. "That's why we're reinforcing the need to train leaders now and identify the leaders of tomorrow."

If grooming the next generation of ironworker and contractor leaders is so important, then the process should be simple, right? Kevin Hilton, IMPACT CEO, still thinks there's work to do. "Leadership skills fall into the 'easier said than done' category. The aim of this course is to highlight some of the barriers to effective leadership. We may think we're good leaders and motivators, but there's always room for improvement," he said.

Tom Alafat of FMI, the company that designed The IMPACT Leadership Experience, said that the meat of the course aims to answer two major questions. "How do I create a vision that inspires other people to follow? Then I have to ask how I can motivate," Alafat said. "How do I get people to come alongside and really give their 110 percent?"

However, the path to leadership differs from person to person, from position to position, and from age group to age group. "We knew we needed to provide an all-in-one experience, one that was diverse enough to apply to labor and management, but one that was targeted enough to allow ironworkers and contractors to see their own strengths and weaknesses," Hilton said.

LouAnne Berg, CEO of J&L Steel Erectors, Hudson, Wis., said that the course's diverse focus made a positive impression on her. "I can bring what I learned back home because now I understand the difference between a foreman and an apprentice and the ages that they're at, and how different their world views can be," she said. "I'll definitely be doing some mini-training and talking to them about the new generation of leaders."

Linda Beaulieu of Lintec, LLC, indicated that the various perspectives presented in the course were important because it required the participants to make a "team effort" to learn successfully. "The hands-on activities were excellent and really made us reflect on how we work with others, especially because everybody in the class had a different mindset," she said. "That's how the world is."

In the first of three hands-on activities, course participants were divided into four groups. While blindfolded, one member of each group was tasked to navigate an obstacle course, with only his teammates' spoken directions to guide him.

"Nobody questioned our process enough to see if everyone was working together," Linda said. "Are all four groups working as one team? Or are we all working against one another, even though we all had the same goal?"

In the end, lack of leadership trumped experience. "It was very interesting because we didn't complete the job. We failed," Linda said. The takeaway from the activity, according to Linda: "We all learned what we had to do going forward was to ask more questions and to talk through the process with one another."

"There's always room for improvement," Hilton repeated. "IMPACT watched and listened closely for different ways we could make the leadership course as a whole even more effective."

Many of the attendees gave honest-but mostly positive-feedback. Berg said, "I think [the course] could actually be a little longer. We could've used a little bit more time at the end to really set out some strategic goals."

Mike Baker, FST/BM, Local 21 (Omaha, Neb.), said, "I think that [the course] would've been a little bit more helpful for us if they geared it more toward ironwork and the ironworking industry specifically."

At the end of the course, everyone walked away with some valuable new insights into organizational leadership.

Brian Riggs left eager to take what he learned back to his colleagues at Sowles. "Communication and leadership are broad topics to teach, but IMPACT and the folks at FMI did a good job tailoring it to our industry," he said.

IMPACT conducted the IMPACT Leadership Experience course April 3-5 in Baltimore, Md. Interested in IMPACT's other training and educational programs? Contact IMPACT at, or 202-393-1147, for more information.

Course Participants

Michael Baker, FST/BM, Local 21 (Omaha, Neb.)
David Beard, FST/BM, Local 392 (East St. Louis, Ill.)
Linda Beaulieu, president, Lintec, LLC
LouAnne Berg, CEO, J&L Steel Erectors
David Bice, president, Bald Eagle Erectors, Inc.
Eric Bohne, RS, Local 712 (Vancouver, British Columbia)
William Brown, president, Ben Hur Construction Company
Kevin Bryenton, president, Iron Workers District Council of Ontario
Jeff Colona, project manager, ACME Constructors, Inc.
Eric Dean, general secretary, Iron Workers International
Larry Grenier, site superintendent, CCB, Inc.
Matt Groskie, president, Iron Workers District Council of Rocky Mountain Area
Tim Hengelsberg, vice president of operations, UHL Construction Company, Inc.
Kevin Hilton, CEO, IMPACT
Jason Manning, project manager, Enerfab, Inc.
Kendall Martin, FST/BM, Local 5 (Washington, D.C.)
Ed McHugh, general treasurer, Iron Workers International
Eric Newton, project manager, Topping Out, Inc./Davis Erection Company
Jerry Patchin, placing adviser, Harris Salinas Rebar, Inc.
Brian Riggs, general manager, Sowles Company
Mark Thomas, FST/BM, Local 3 (Pittsburgh)
Eric Waterman, CEO emeritus, IMPACT
Michael Wilcher, FST/BM, Local 111 (Rock Island, Ill.)
Walter Wise, general president, Iron Workers International
Raymond Woodall, BM, Local 11 (Newark, N.J.)
Donald Zampa, general organizer, Iron Workers International
Kerry Zettlemoyer, FST/BM, Local 404 (Harrisburg, Pa.)