We recently awarded Tom our highest honor – the Stuart Graham Lifetime Achievement Award – because of his outstanding track record with important projects, including New York City’s Dey Street Concourse – part of Lower Manhattan's Fulton Street Transit Center – and tunneling and station construction for that city’s Second Avenue Subway extension. Successfully delivering such challenging projects requires high-performing teams, and Tom is a master at aligning everyone on a common goal and developing them for future opportunities. Tom is also a role model for Skanska's purpose and values.
Here, Tom shares insights on motivating teams and serving as a mentor, and he speaks about his pride in being a builder.
What's a project you are especially proud of, and why?
The Dey Street Concourse, which involved the very complicated logistics of underpinning two Lower Manhattan subways to make new subway underpasses. Working as part of an exceptional team, we took this project that was bid very low and by working smartly we were able to make it a success.
Even better, by their top performance on this project several young leaders were able to significantly grow their careers: many of them are running their own projects now. Our team worked very well together and today – six years after its completion – we're still extremely proud of what we accomplished.
What led to our Dey Street team being so effective?
We listened to each other and shared ideas. I take special notice of people who listen: When someone wants to learn, people should give that person as much time as needed. That's how I learned about construction: when I was young, people gave me a lot of time. Throughout my career, I've been trying to do the same.
How do you motivate teams to continuously look for ways to make activities more efficient?
We need to cut seconds off every operation, and never settle for good enough. Every day, we need to evaluate every operation for ways to improve: part of what makes our business great is that all people on a team have an opportunity to improve their operations daily.
When people do a good job at that, I pat them on the back and tell them, "Good job." When they don’t do a good job, I'm honest with them about that, and I assure them they will do a better job next time. I also ask them not to be too down about what happened. What's most important is that they learn from each day and that they use what they learn to improve next time.
What does being a mentor mean to you?
I have regular long-term mentees through Skanska USA's Core Competency Training Program, but mentoring can be a lot simpler than that. I feel very good when a young person calls me up and asks me my opinion on an operation. That means they trust what I say and they feel comfortable speaking with me.
As I see it, if someone asks you a question, you take the time to respond. But you don't just give them the answer: you explain the whole thing to them. That’s what people did to me when I was early in my career. I can't stress enough the importance of people who were where I am today helping me when I was younger: they helped me become the builder I am today. The time they gave me is what I am giving back now.
After more than four decades in construction, have you built everything you've wanted?
It's always amazing when you look in magazines and see super mega projects underway in such places as China and Dubai. But each person only has so much capacity: those projects simply have more supervisors. I'm very proud of the projects I have worked on and the teams I have served with. All builders are alike in that we go home and feel a sense of accomplishment about what we got done that day. Each day, our work helps build for a better society.