How to train leaders to gain a competitive advantage, adopt our advice

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Emotional Intelligence

Intrinsic motivation is the ability to self-motivate, with a focus on achieving internal goals.


Extrinsic motivation is being moved by external praise or reward. 


Individuals who are able to motivate themselves intrinsically pull from a deeper well when things get hard, and they always do. They tend to be more committed and goal-focused than those who are extrinsically motivated, combining drive, initiative, commitment, optimism, and perseverance to accomplish something beyond money or recognition. 


In business ownership, for example, someone may be initially motivated simply for the recognition or bragging rights, but that level of motivation wouldn’t last long once the reality of what it actually takes to own and run a business sets in. When there is a deeper connection to the outcome, a commitment to yourself and others for example, the sacrifice and struggle is worthwhile. 


This is where emotional intelligence comes into play. Although there are certainly people who are highly motivated, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are able to exhibit or understand the other components of emotional intelligence. Truly emotionally intelligent individuals will exhibit Self-Regulation, Self-Awareness, Empathy, Social Skills, and (of course) Intrinsic Motivation. 


Regardless of what the goal is, an emotionally intelligent individual understands the deeper context of their aspirations and the self-motivation skills required to achieve them. This depth of understanding helps when they hit a wall and struggle to advance. 


Goleman (1995) identified four elements that contribute to motivation: 

                1. Personal drive to improve
                2. Commitment to the goals we set for ourselves
                3. Readiness to act on opportunities that present themselves to us
                4. Resiliency 


Magnano et al (2016) assert that motivation is the basic psychological process we use to stimulate ourselves into action to achieve the desired outcome. Whether it’s picking up the remote to change the channel or dedicating hundreds of hours to delivering a project, without motivation we’d be unable to act.


Motivation arouses, energizes, directs and sustains behavior and performance. Intrinsic motivation, the motivation that comes from within, pushes us to achieve our full potential. 


An Emotionally Intelligent individual not only possesses the skills for self-motivation but also the skills required to motivate others, a useful talent to have in leadership positions.


From our view, Emotionally Intelligence should be considered a core competency in construction. It supports the advancement towards educational and professional success, improved interpersonal relationships (both professionally and personally), and boosts communication skills, all of which are basic skills needed when working in construction.


Bar-On (1997) goes so far as to suggest that people with higher Emotional Intelligence tend to perform better than those with lower Emotional Intelligence in life overall, regardless of IQ. 


Schutte et al (2001) found that, over a series of studies, there were significant links between high Emotional Intelligence and more successful interpersonal relations. Those participants who exhibited higher levels of EI also showed a greater propensity for empathic perspective-taking, communication, and cooperation with others, all core skills routinely used in construction, from labor to ownership. 


Job Sites represent a distinct social community, separate from our personal lives. If utilized appropriately it can become an incubator that allows workers to understand themselves and others better, communicate more effectively, and cope with a wide variety of challenging situations.


Construction Business


Utilizing and developing emotional intelligence onsite can significantly improve the personal and social capabilities of all workers.


So what do Construction, Emotional Intelligence, and Leadership have to do with each other? There is an undeniable relationship between Emotional Intelligence, the way Foreman, Supers and Project Managers manage their crews and a projects success. 


While self-motivation is central to achieving one’s goals, emotionally intelligent leaders within a crew can also impact worker motivation. The capacity to recognize the emotions and, in turn, the concerns of others is an invaluable skill in terms of realizing the most effective ways to motivate teams and individuals. 


Leaders with higher emotional intelligence have the tools at their disposal to not only manage stress but to also recognize and address stress in others. This awareness can then trigger situational training to defuse a situation at its infancy, instead of waiting for it to develop and explode. 


In terms of managing stress and building relationships, the link between those skills and job performance is clear, with stress management positively impacting job commitment and satisfaction. The ability to better cope with stress and anxiety, if one can recognize the emotions that may have a negative impact on motivation, can be addressed and managed effectively (Carmeli, 2003). Helping your workers cope with stress and teaching them how to manage it while working to build trust within relationships. 



Increasingly, organizations are recognizing the value of employees who exhibit the skills to cope with change and respond accordingly. Unfortunately most of these efforts are focused in the office and not job sites. 


As above, an HBR article written by Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi suggest the “why” determines “how well” people work in regards to motivation. 


Their work has shown that if a person’s motive is play (for example, the excitement from novelty, curiosity, experimentation), purpose (the work matters), and potential (they are improved by the work), then their total motivation and performance increase. 


Alternatively, if their motive is emotional pressure (shame, guilt, insecurity), economic pressure (mercenary behavior), or inertia (no motive), then total motivation and performance worsen.


Upon completion of a research project with a leading retail company, they made a few discoveries that would surprise no one who’s worked with “frontline” workers in construction (ie labor).



Front line employees are among the lowest in total motivation.


The authors implemented a new operating model focused on optimizing play, purpose, and potential while reducing the pressure. This required four major changes:

                        1. Reduce economic and emotional pressure. 
                        2. Encouraging experimentation.
                        3. Create a sense of purpose around the client (or project in our case). 
                        4. Systematically manage apprenticeship. 


Read more about the study.


These changes are not small, especially when compared to how the field is viewed within the AEC industry. As stated above, most often the EI work that’s done within firms is focused on the office worker in a corporate setting, not the worker employed by a small business. 


This is a mistake. According to JP Morgan Chase, 48% of all US employees work for small businesses (under 500 employees), 18% of all US employees work for businesses with fewer than 20 employees. Construction has more than 733,000 employers with over 7 million employees. Of those over 350,000 are small businesses. 


Removing this segment of the industry out of the equation when it comes to building awareness around emotional intelligence is a mistake, especially since the field drives the economic engine of any company. 


Leaders need to rethink their engagement strategy with their employees and within teams to include the workers in the field to develop emotional intelligence. 



  • Vivian Mandala is the founder of CMC Network and has worked in NY Construction for over 20 years, most of which was as a Contractor. She is now a Construction Business Coach. In 2017 Vivian, along with a group of dedicated Contractors, CM’s, GCs and Developers, started CMC Workforce, a long term in depth construction training program. Vivian enjoys the personal connections she makes through her coaching and seeing the lasting changes that she sees her clients benefit from year after year.

Series Navigation<< How can empathy increase productivity on a Construction Project?

Share This

Thank you!

Thank you for signing up for CMC Network’s weekly newsletter! You will receive a welcome email shortly. Please check your email to confirm your subscription.

Want more help
scaling & growing?