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We sit down with Todd Weyandt of the "Bridging the Gap" podcast to talk about communication in the construction industry.
Eddie brings an interesting find our way and tells us where we need to be buying running shoes for discounts and perks.
Tyler: Welcome to the Construction Brothers Podcast. I'm your host, Tyler Campbell, and with me like he is every week: my brother, Eddie Campbell.
Eddie: What's up, Tyler?
Tyler: Not much, Eddie. Well, we got an awesome show for you this week. We are going to be talking to Todd Weyandt from the Bridging the Gap podcast, and we're gonna talk about how to be better communicators. But first things first, I would like to bring something to your attention.
Tyler: Well, Todd, thanks for joining us today, man. Can you tell us who you are and what you do?
Todd Weyandt: Yeah, absolutely. Happy to be here. Thanks for having me. So I am—my official, you know, day-to-day job title, I'm a Director of Creative Marketing at Applied Software. But I also host the Bridging the Gap podcast. I like to say that we have a platform that we get to embrace and share the innovations that are really transforming construction, and specifically with the trades, has become kind of one of an area of interest. I think there's just so much cool stuff happening there. So a lot of the recent episodes have been around the trades and just the innovations and change agents that are happening in the industry.
Eddie: I want to spin this into construction, because we communicate a lot in construction, but I don't know if we always communicate well in construction. I don't know how many times I've been in a job site trailer and have borne witness to people that are thinking about the next rebuttal, the next refutation of whatever somebody is saying. So do you think that that runs more rampant, less, or, I mean, is this just a universal problem? I say more or less rampant—in the construction industry, do you think this is a bigger deal?
Todd Weyandt: Yeah, I mean, I do. I think it's universal for sure. But you do see it more in the construction industry, and I think that if I had to put my finger on maybe one of the reasons for that, is you kind of have the, you know—soft skills in construction tend to be pushed off to the side more. The focus is what are you going to be building, how are you going to get it done, and just “go, go, go.” Soft skills—we don't have time for that. And so instead they should, again, slow it down. Those soft skills are really important because you can't be productive, you can't be efficient, you can't get something done quickly unless you have those soft skills and you're really communicating with people and everybody's working on the same page. If not, you're just being totally inefficient. I think people wonder why the construction industry is full of inefficiencies. I think communication plays a big part in that.
Eddie: Yeah, we are trying to build something, but I mean, nevermind the fact that we are trying to build that together. I mean, we're trying to bring a lot of different teams together and communication is absolutely key.
Tyler: It's kind of like a game of telephone. You know, somebody would say something about, “The monkey has no hair,” and then it would come around and we'd be talking about—
Eddie: Hairy monkeys, by the end of it.
Tyler: Hairy monkeys. You know? I feel like we're experts at that in the industry, and I think one of the main reasons for that is email.
Eddie: Well, we document the crap out of things in the construction industry. We really, I mean, we really do. Because everybody knows they need to cover themselves, right? Everybody knows they've got to cover their bases and make sure they had a reason written down for why they did what they did. But I love— Our dad has taught us that the burden is on the communicator of information for understanding, not the hearer of information. So have you ever heard that? Like, what's your thoughts on that?
Todd Weyandt: I totally agree with that, yeah. Our COO, Clay Smith, at Applied Software, he always says you have to say it six or seven times before somebody hears it once. And that's always a good reminder for me. My personality is more on the go, go, go side and let's get it done fast, let's keep rolling with it. I've already said it once, I was perfectly clear in how I communicated that the first time, that's on you now. But to slow down, to go, “Okay, I have to say it several times,” and really go over and above what I think is clear, and it's on me to communicate the way that the person hears it best. And that's different for every single person. So I think you have to really sit down and take the time to know the person on an individual basis in order to be effective in your communication.
Tyler: I think that's the mark of intelligence in a lot of ways, too, is effectively communicating to anybody. It's kind of going back into soft skills, right? Being able to, not even dumb it down, but speak clearly so that people understand. And that's an area that we really struggle with.
Eddie: Man, I love an engineer that is able to take very heady engineering problems and express those in a way that somebody who, maybe not in building, but to engineering, is a layman. Someone that, they don't know engineering, they don't know engineering terms. There's such a dichotomy there. That can go just two totally different directions. ‘Cause you got one person that wants to beat their chest and use big words so that they can sound intelligent. But then you've got another person who understands the room, who they're surrounded by, and they're able to take the same concepts, but change terms and express things in a way that everybody can understand. Because they don't feel the need to make everybody around them feel dumb so that they can feel smart. I appreciate people that are that way, that can do that.
Todd Weyandt: But that takes a lot of humility to be able to kind of check that ego, that you don't have to use those fancy terms. You don't have to speak over everybody's head. You can prove your worth, you can prove your intelligence by speaking normal English and not trying to impress people with your words.
Eddie: Being a good listener, part of that is asking good questions. So I mean, what of just having the ability— What keeps us from just being able to say, I don't understand?
Todd Weyandt: Ego. The pride of wanting to have all the answers. I think there's such a heavy emphasis on, you're not an expert unless you know every single tiny little detail of every single thing, which is just such an unrealistic standard and expectation. Because nobody knows everything about anything. So especially in today's complex world with all these different nuances and everything, and there's, I mean, it's so easy to have information at your fingertips. So people can have a lot of information but not have the knowledge around a particular topic. That was a lot of rambling, but I think it’s the ego of trying to be the smartest person in the room.
Eddie: I like when I get an opportunity with my kids to express the difference between ignorance and a lack of intelligence. Because I mean, kids, as they do, at times when they are discouraged and they're not able to get something or do something, may say something to the effect of “I'm dumb” or “I'm stupid” or, you know, they will say something self-deprecating. My encouragement to that, which may not sound all that encouraging is, “You weren't dumb. You were ignorant.” Because I'm father of the year, and because I'm an encouraging person.
Tyler: My gosh.
Eddie: But I mean, but then taking a minute to say, “No, no, no, no, no. It's not dumb not to know. That's not dumb. It's probably dumb not to ask if you didn't know. It's dumb to just sit there and act like you knew. But it's not dumb not to know.” And that's not a definer of your intelligence, because to your point, you can't know everything. You even said “everything about anything.” Like, I mean, who can know every single thing about something? All of it, have it memorized without fail. There are going to be information gaps. There are going to be. You are going to be ignorant about certain things. But ignorance can be fixed by asking good questions, and to your point, listening. One of the points you wanted to hit was unpacking meaning. So how about unpacking meaning for us?
Todd Weyandt: Alrighty. What a big heavy topic there. So I think it's really important to make sure that you are super duper clear in what you are saying. Because there are so many times that, you know, I type up something or go through bullets of, here's what I'm expecting, here’s XYZ information, this is how I want it to look, this is the concept, here's all this. I think I'm being really clear and I send it out, but it is somehow lost in translation. And so it's really doubling back and going, “Okay, what did you get out of what I just said? Where are you thinking? How's this communication? What did you get from this?” And then, it's really easy to use jargon when we're talking and use shorthands that are very common in our own mind. We're thinking about this all the time, but the other person doesn't get what we're saying. So how do you, A, become aware of that, and then B, stop it? And really reach out to the other person and say, “Okay, here's my expectation, here's where I just went, what now?” Like you summarize back to me, give me your thoughts, give me your ideas on this, of what we just talked about. And really, that starts to then open up more collaboration and more dialogue. You'll probably get to something better in the end than what you even started with by having that conversation and seeing their perspective on it. And then I think it becomes important to really just communicate who's responsible for what then. ‘Cause there's a lot of times it will throw out a whole bunch of different things, and some of it is on my task list, some of it's on somebody else's task list. But we don't talk about whose task list it's on, we just assume that the other person knows. That's a bad assumption. We have to really over, over, over communicate and over detail pretty much everything. And not to like a micromanaging point. I think some people can very easily go there, that they're just going to control every single facet of it. But more so detailing it from just an understanding perspective and making sure that the other person is in sync with you on what you're talking about.
Tyler: It's ringing a bell for me, because I know when we started the show, we wanted to make sure that the barrier for entry was very, very low for people. I'm sure you've listened to a podcast or two that you jump into episode 250 or whatever and they have this running dialogue and they just assume that people understand what they're talking about, and it's not true. So for us, taking that extra step and saying, “What do you mean?”
Eddie: We have a hard time asking questions and we have a hard time admitting, hey, I don't know that, and encouraging the people around you. I hate the “there's no dumb questions,” because I've heard some really dumb questions. One of my favorites is, “There are no dumb questions, there are only dumb people.” I mean, which kind of is probably not encouraging people to ask questions. But I mean, I honestly think that, you know, we do need to be more inquisitive. We just need to be brave enough to say, “I don't know that. I don't know that.”
Todd Weyandt: One of the things that's kind of rattling around in my head right now, when pairing it to the construction industry, is I feel like it's also stemming from a lack of trust. People don't really trust each other. Whether it's the architect and the GC or the subs or whoever, or even people you know in the same trailer. They're not really trusting each other. So how can you have open communication and how can you really seek to listen and seek the other person's perspective if you don't trust them?
Tyler: I think a lot of this stems from not developing teams as well. And that's something that we've talked about before, is building up a team around you—and by building up a team that you go job to job with, you develop that trust, you break down those walls. In our industry, we go job to job, and we're working with new people on every single project in a lot of cases, right? And you walk into that trailer and you feel like somebody has a knife behind their back and they're ready to off me. Like if I say the wrong thing in here, I'm gone. So you get defensive. But some of the best things that we've seen were accomplished by teams. By people that knew each other, that knew their families, that they could go over to, you know, Jim Bob's house and know exactly where the coffee mugs are at. We've forgotten that in the industry. We've forgotten that community.
Eddie: Define that a little more. Because I know what you're saying, because we've talked about this before, but define “teams,” because you're talking about encouraging construction and general, like, designers and general contractors. You're encouraging that, right? So define that team thing.
Tyler: Okay, so what I am saying is that if you're an architect, you know, go and find a general contractor that you work well with, that you can marry up with, that you can take job to job. If you're, you know, an architect or an engineer or whatever, find your team, find your tribe that you work well together. It may take a couple of jobs for you to find that person, but really emphasize that, and you'll be able to see the benefits out of it. Because as everybody grows and starts to trust each other, you know, they realize other strengths that other people have. It's funny because we kind of were in this team, there for a little while, where we're going job to job to job. By having that really integrated tight-knit group of people, we were able to innovate. And if we were to go job site to job site, building the same building over and over and over again with different people every time, can you imagine how much of a nightmare that would be? You know, we're going for the cheapest person. We're going for the cheapest bid. We need to start buying value in buying a team, finding the right team for the job.
Todd Weyandt: So I'm a huge, huge believer in team building and the importance of culture and developing that. So at our marketing team meeting we have every week, we're all on Zoom, because we have a dispersed team across the country. But it's a way for us to see each other and interact with each other. The first 15 minutes is a totally random question of the week. Somebody asks some get to know you kind of question, and we just spend the first 15 minutes getting to know each other and building. Like, getting to know each other as people, and not just as coworkers and what you do for your job—but getting to know what's your motivation, what's your desire, what's some wacky thought that just popped into your head. And spend that time just having fun with each other and laughing—whether that's outside of work, too, and getting together and bringing in the spouses, because you see a different dynamic when somebody is with their spouse versus in the office. I think it's just really important to focus on building the team first, and building that culture around where people really are known and are heard and you give them that space
Eddie: You're driving after building that relationship, but having that actual depth there. Then out of that flows trust and then out of that flows good communication, right? Because now you're breaking down the barriers.
Todd Weyandt: Right. Well, and people feel comfortable, then, coming to you. Open communication is such a buzzword. Like “the door's always open.” Okay, well what does that mean? And then when somebody— You can't just say that and expect somebody to walk in and share their fear of whatever's coming up. They're just not going to do that unless they feel like they have that trust already built and that it's safe for them to open up. And then when they do, you can't kind of flinch. You have to be like, “Okay, cool, let's talk about this.” And not have it be a big deal, or else the next time they're definitely not coming back in.
Eddie: Yeah. We had an intern here, Jesse Dudek. That kid was gold. We love him. We posted some really awesome videos of us shooting him with Nerf guns.
Tyler: He was underneath a comforter.
Eddie: We had great fun with Jesse.
Tyler: Jeez. He was eating a donut underneath a chair one time while I pummeled him with a Nerf gun.
Eddie: Actually from the ceiling panel in this room, because he thought he could hide.
Todd Weyandt: There’s no hiding.
Eddie: But we had Jesse in here—no, not from the wrath of Nerf—Jesse was asked at the end of the summer to do a report. He reported on me. Like, I asked him to evaluate me. ‘Cause I get to do evaluations with a lot of my team, and go sit down and you know, we talk about how we're doing. So I always ask everybody on the team, like, if I'm evaluating you, you get to evaluate me, too. It's bi-directional. So I need to know from you, what are you thinking? I had Jesse write a report on this, because he's a business intern, business management intern. I wanted to know what he thought. Like, he's hearing all these theories and stuff. One of the key points he had was the open door policy. I don't have a door. Like, I don't physically have a door. And he was just praising that. I said, actually I literally thought within the month of getting a door, so that I could just close that thing. He's like, “Don't do it. Don't do it, because it's going to just shut down communications. Totally send a message.” I thought it was just a very interesting perspective. There are things we say, and then there are the things we are portraying. The things that we portray, they come across stronger.
Todd Weyandt: Oh, for sure.
Eddie: That body language, the things that we are putting out there, those come off a lot stronger than just what I say. ‘Cause I might say something and you're like, “You really mean that?” You read me and you read what my intentions are. You're trying to get to the bottom of it. What is he thinking?
Tyler: It's veiled behind email in a lot of cases. I'm sorry, I go on this rant all the time with email.
Eddie: Yeah, email is tough.
Tyler: Email is so tough. But we were talking about that earlier today. You were talking to a guy, you're messaging him. It’s kinda short, he's trying to get stuff done, right? So he's emailing back one or two word answers to him. And then what happens? You get on the phone with him, how was he?
Eddie: We were just joking around, cutting up. Great dude.
Tyler: Completely different perception, right? In your head before you got on the phone with him, were you not thinking, “This guy is kind of a jerk”? Or like, he's just, ah, I don't know. There's just that tense, like, I don’t know.
Eddie: His short emails were just kind of like—
Tyler: “Does this guy care?”
Eddie: Yeah. Like, “Is he engaged?” The fact of the matter was, is like, yeah, he's pretty engaged. He's engaged in a lot. He's busy, and so—
Tyler: He's doing the best that he can.
Todd Weyandt: That's empathy skills, right? Yeah, all of those soft skills. I think it goes back to giving the person the benefit of the doubt. I think too often we are stuck in our own heads and we're seeing that short email come back and going, “That’s rude. Why are they only giving me a one word answer?” We're not taking the time to go, “Well, maybe he has a lot on his plate and he's responding so that he knows, or that I know that he got it.”
Tyler: I think one of the takeaways that we could probably bring from this—and I'm speaking to my millennial peeps out there, I am a fellow millennial and to Gen X as well—we struggle with this. You know, we want to text. We don't really want to get on the phone. That's just not the way we communicate. Break away from that. It's going to do you well. Make sure you're picking up a phone, use it as an actual phone, and call somebody. Because you're going to start breaking down those walls, right? You're going to start hearing the inflection in people's voices. You're going to get to know them. That is one of the things that you can do, is know where you can communicate things. The best thing you can know is, is this better served in email? Is this better served in a PDF? Is this better served text message or a phone call? You have to be the judge of that, but be aware that inflection and meaning and emotion doesn't come through in some of these newer formats of speech. I say newer format. The written word is obviously not a new format.
Todd Weyandt: But I also think it's important to know how the other person wants to receive information. Because there are some people that they're going to be more annoyed if you are calling them all the time and wanting to have all these chats, because maybe they're busy or they got something else or they don't like talking. So your message that you're giving them is going to get lost in whatever form you're trying to give it in, whether that's email or phone, if they're not receiving it well that way. So you have to know the person, know the channel that they want to receive information on, and then adapt yourself to that. Going back to where we started, you have to know where people are coming from and what their main mode is in order to communicate well to them.
Tyler: Right. I'm curious, because you're a communicator, what are some of the things that have helped you be a better communicator? So what are some books, podcasts, websites, people, et cetera, that you could point us at to help us become better communicators?
Todd Weyandt: So I'm not trying to get brownie points with my wife, but she's the first person that comes to my mind on the people side of things, because she's just a really incredible communicator and will not sweep anything under the rug. Which, for somebody that's more conflict avoidant, has been helpful to learn some of those skills. But she does it in such a graceful way that she's not necessarily calling somebody out on it. She's like, “Hey, sit down, let's talk about this and unpack, you know, what's going on? What'd you think? How can I do this better?” So that's one on the personal side of things. As far as books or podcasts or anything like that—I'm lucky that it's a book and a podcast. It's called StoryBrand with Donald Miller. Have you guys heard of it?
Tyler: Yes. We talked about that one last week. That’s hilarious. Yeah.
Todd Weyandt: Oh, nice. Yeah. So I'm a big fan. I made our entire marketing team read the book when it came out. As a marketer, it just totally just kind of reshaped the way I went about it. It seemed so obvious. So, for those who don't know, the framework is you tell a story to market, but it's positioning yourself as the guide of the story, not the hero of the story. And that's so easy to do as a marketer, to be like, “We're the best. We got this, we're going to save the day. We're the hero.” We're not the hero. Our client is the hero. We want our client, our end user, as the hero. We're the guide that helps them along their journey, and that's so much more impactful and so much more true to form when you position it that way. So that's been a huge thing on the marketing side. But on the communication side of things, too, is you go out the door, “I'm not the hero of the story, how can I be somebody else's guide and make them the hero?”
Tyler: I really need to pick up this book. I really do.
Eddie: Two weeks running.
Tyler: Two weeks running. Man, that's high praise.
Eddie: StoryBrand, Donald Miller. I promised, Todd, that since you surprised us with this on your podcast—
Tyler: Oh, man.
Eddie: —that I would make sure that this one came to you, brother. So it is the megaphone round. We have got our megaphone question. If we could give you a megaphone that the whole construction industry could hear for 60 seconds, what would you say?
Todd Weyandt: I think trust and open communication is crucial for developing really high-performing teams. But in order to do that and really succeed in the long run, slow down, be intentional, really focus on it. And then a second thing, ‘cause I think I still have more time on the clock: As an industry, don't be afraid to brag on yourself collectively. There's so much cool innovation, there's all these really neat self-made success stories, and a host of just amazing things going on in this industry, that construction's the place to be. And I really believe that progress and innovation is going straight through the construction industry right now and it's an exciting time to be here. So I think people should just kind of enjoy the show that's going on.
Tyler: Well Todd, where can people find you?
Todd Weyandt: Yeah, they can find me on LinkedIn. I think I'm probably the only Todd Weyandt on LinkedIn. Weyandt’s not a super common last name. Or they can go to our website, bridgingthegappod.com or check us out on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google. We're on all the major platforms for Bridging the Gap.
Tyler: Heck yeah, man. We'll make sure to link all that stuff in the show notes as well. Thanks for joining us this week, man.
Todd Weyandt: Yeah, thanks for having me. It was fun.
Tyler: Thanks for joining us today. I just wanted to take a second and point you at a couple of things. First things first, leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Be transparent. Tell us what you think. If you want to write a small review, that would be awesome. Go check out our new website. We're really excited about it. We've got a couple cool lists on there for you guys to check out as well to show you some of our favorite things. Also, take a second, go like us on social media. We are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can find us at Construction Brothers Podcast. You can find links to any of our guests in any other things that we discussed in the show notes. I really appreciate you listening. Thank you so much. Have a great day.