“Leadership has been marginalized,” said Breslin, who at one point said that contractors “suck.” “It’s time to change.”
That was the whole idea behind the two-day event, put together by the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA) and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA). The 570-plus, split down the middle between union labor and union management, were called upon to “speak up, ask tough questions, and seek solutions from everyone.”
Breslin didn’t mince words. He made more than a few in the audience cringe, including SMACNA president Ron Palmerick and SMWIA general president Michael Sullivan.
THE MOUTH THAT ROAREDBreslin, who works with the leadership of nearly every major international building trades union assisting with strategic planning, business development, and workforce development, attitudes, and values, emphasized that unions and contractors are failing in leadership. “This has resulted in an acceptance and pricing of a status quo culture of marginal expectations and failure,” he argued. “We have been absent from the leadership plan.”
At least his fire was not directed solely at the crowd. Breslin said leadership is lacking in government, among religious and spiritual circles, among businesses and corporations, and in sports and sports teams. Concerning the president of the United States, Breslin critiqued, “His chart sucks.”
“How are you engaging your workforce here?” he questioned. “Realize that 90 percent of people do not come to union meetings. This means that 90 percent have no information in/from this industry. Ninety percent are apathetic. No information is going to them.”
He called for “alpha leaders,” those who are driven, determined, and focused. This meant being confident vs. intimidating, plus bold and innovative vs. hurtful.
“Alpha dogs become motivated to change when they see potential to change,” said Breslin.
Success is when it is about helping others, he stressed. In the end, he said management needs to be proactive. “If you are afraid of the rank and file, you need to get back in the field,” said Breslin.
PREPARE FOR FUTURE NOWWith the Baby Boomers (those born 1946-64) on the verge of retiring, the man who has been chief executive, negotiator, and contractor advocate for the past 21 years urged the crowd to begin preparing leaders from Generation Xers (those born 1965-81) and Millenials (those born 1982-2000).
He noted that the top three workplace motivators are recognition and praise, participating in the decision-making process, and money.
“We have to get more field leaders as mentors,” he said. “We are going to have to be proactive in management.”
Before closing, he provided needed changes from contractors, union, and foremen. In order to change the current contractor culture, he asked for more leadership, that contractors empower and professionalize foremen, communicate with the field more, and develop leadership classes for apprentices.
He encouraged more programs for foremen and that management pays them more.
He thought foremen should get more leadership education, be provided more recognition and praise, along with more involvement in the decision-making process.
“If we are going to stay alive and compete as a union, we have to change,” he concluded.