Podcast Episode 2: Plumbers

My second podcast episode is live! Find it on Google Podcasts, iTunes, Spotify and many others

My podcast, called Explore the Trades, is a way to learn about great careers in skilled trades and construction. These careers combine short-term education with long-term financial gains.

In episode 2 we cover Plumbers. We speak to the coordinator of the Saint Paul union apprenticeship program and to both a commercial plumber (working in large places like schools, hospitals and commercial spaces) and a residential plumber who works mostly, but not exclusively, in people’s homes.

My guests

  1. Rick Gale, Plumbing Program Coordinator, Saint Paul College
  2. Samantha Geehan, 3rd year plumbing apprentice
  3. Dave Janecky, owner of Janecky Plumbing and Heating


Admissions Steps for School Program:

  1. Find out what the application deadline is and prepare for it
  2. Prepare to take math, reading and spatial placement tests and give yourself enough time to test a second time (just in case)
  3. Check email regularly to find out if you are selected to interview


Podcast Episode 1: Commercial HVAC Service Technician

My very first podcast (ever) is live! Find it on iTunes or Spotify

My podcast, called Explore the Trades, is a way to learn about great careers in skilled trades and construction. These careers combine short-term education with long-term financial gains.

In episode 1 we cover the career of Commercial HVAC Service Technicians. These are the folks who work in large scale commercial spaces (think schools, hospitals, companies, warehouses, manufacturing and food facilities) where they install and repair heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment.

My guests

  1. Greg Skudlarek, HVACR faculty, Minneapolis College
  2. Chad Birk, Training Coordinator for the 539 Pipefitters JATC
  3. Seig McClure, Commerical HVAC Service Tech working at the Corval Group.
  4. Karin Dahlin, Commercial HVAC Service Tech working at Northland Mechanical

You can find links to the two year programs in the Minnesota State system where you can start the career journey here. Dunwoody College of Technology also has an HVAC program. You can also find a good overview of the career at Careerwise.

If this is the career for you, most programs will start in the fall semester which is usually towards the end of August.

Admissions Steps:

  1. Apply to the program you want
  2. Potentially take math and reading placement tests
  3. If applicable complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Some programs fill up which means you need to prepare and take steps to start these programs in the spring.

(In the Trades) Millennials Want to Know – Why Are You Still Hazing?

At the beginning of October I attended the Tradeswomen Build Nations conference in Minneapolis. I attended two sessions, both related to the shocking title of this blog. I was shocked (and still am) to hear stories from women about discrimination, hazing and  bullying on job sites.

Engaging Millennials

The first session I attended was geared towards bridging the generational divide between baby boomers and the younger millennial and gen Z employees. They asked what each group wanted others to know about themselves and what they want to know from other groups. Millennials asked the question, “Why are you still hazing?” That question struck me in the session, but was driven home by the next session I attended which was about surviving and thriving in apprenticeship.

Surviving and Thriving in Apprenticeship

Here is where the stories came out about women being discriminated against, put in harm’s way, being ignored, made to do menial tasks, had their sexuality talked about in the open, had jokes and rumors made about them sleeping with their co-workers and on and on.

Treating people poorly is not okay AND it is bad for business.

When you do not use your employees to their full potential, you are short changing your company. You are cutting into the profits of the company who pays your daily/hourly wage. When people are treated poorly it affects their productivity and their engagement. Do you know what happens when employees are not engaged? They are not fully present and paying attention. Safety issues arise. Turnover increases. New people have to get oriented to the job site. Productivity goes down. All of this costs money.

One man in this session asked what he could do to help. The consensus of the room was to treat women equally to their male counterparts. I will challenge you to treat people better AND to speak up and step up if you see or hear harassment, discrimination or bad behavior of any kind.

Act and speak to your coworkers as if your grandmother was present. And don’t tell me your have a foul-mouthed grandmother. You know what I mean.

What are your experiences? How is your company doing better? How are you seeing these issues addressed?

Diversity AND Inclusion

Why Diversity and Inclusion Matter

Women in Construction week just wrapped up. I went to as many events as I could. For me, I looked at it as a learning experience to hear the voices of women in construction and the trades. What I heard was both heartening and disheartening. While progress has been made, there are still many barriers to women and people from communities of color feeling welcomed into construction and the trades. According to this Gallup Diversity and Inclusion Perspective Paper, 45% of US workers report that they have experienced some form of discrimination or harassment in the past twelve months. Based on the massive shift in employee demographics (White, mostly male, baby boomers retiring and increasingly diverse Millennials filling the ranks) in construction and the trades, I imagine that if we looked solely at underrepresented groups in construction and the trades, we would see a much higher number.

Around business office and conference rooms, we are increasingly having conversations around diversity and inclusion. There are a number of reasons businesses want to improve the way they approach diversity and inclusion:

  1. Organizations are exposed to public outcry when they fail in regards to diversity and inclusion.
  2. Bringing in the best and brightest talent and retaining them is necessary to stay competitive.
  3. The workforce is increasingly becoming more diverse.

Points two and three bring us to Millennials, the largest part of our current workforce. Millennials are basing application and employment decisions on more than a paycheck. They are looking at an organization’s culture, values, mission as well as their relationship with leadership in the company.

 Diversity and Inclusion

Inclusion and Diversity

In the early 2000s, companies started leaning into diversity. This was often related to compliance, not to inclusion. These companies were often either given federally mandated targets or were trying to avoid litigation. This meant that the door to the company was opened, but not necessarily that anything changed on the inside of the company to make the new and diverse employees feel welcome. What we see today in some places is that the hard work of changing ourselves and our work cultures to be more inclusive hasn’t been done. This is why I believe you need to lead with inclusion which will lead you to diversity. Being diverse is not enough. What we want to see is a change from a compliance-driven diversity program to an inclusive, welcoming environment.

Why Lead with Inclusion?

Being inclusive leads to:

  • Broadening the talent pool
  • Increasing the potential for innovation (being too homogeneous can lead to groupthink)
  • Opening up diverse markets
  • Improved financial outcomes with gender diverse teams

3 Requirements for Creating an Inclusive Environment

  1. Employees are treated with respect
  2. Employees are valued for their strengths
  3. Leaders do what is right

Employees feel valued for their strengths

Diversity is who comes through the door. Inclusion is whether they feel welcome. Being welcome means you feel valued, recognized, accepted and are encouraged to participate. Do your employees know how they are unique and how that contributes to their team’s/company’s success? This is where a strengths-based approach to employee development can help companies be more inclusive. Many companies look at strengths-based development solely through the lens of leadership development. It does that and it can move the dial to increased inclusion.

Strengths-based Development and Inclusion

Strengths-based development works to increase inclusion by:

  • Increasing the self-awareness of your employees. They know their strengths, they understand what they need to be successful and what they bring to the table.
  • Creating a neutral, common language for employees around how they work, what they need to be supported, and how they contributed.
  • This common language not only helps them understand themselves. They are also able to recognize how others work and the value others bring to the organization. This common language creates greater collaboration.
  • Crucial conversations around diversity and inclusion are easier with a neutral, common language. Managers who are open to learning about difference and specific employee’s experiences foster trust that contributes to inclusion.

Crucial Conversations

I have been reading a book that was recommended reading from last summer’s CliftonStrengths Summit: Crucial Conversations.

How many times have you gotten wrapped up in, turned around, left out of or ended up feeling any number of negative emotions because an important conversation went poorly? Thankfully, for me this doesn’t happen a lot. But, when it does happen, it does not go well.

Let’s start with what a crucial conversation is. A crucial conversation happens when:

  1. The stakes are high
  2. Opinions vary
  3. Emotions are strong.

While I don’t want to go into the entire book in this blog post, I do want to cover this idea of catching a conversation as it turns from a normal to a crucial conversation. Since you can only directly impact your part of the conversation, the place to start is with yourself. The authors draw a connection to first-aid. If you recognize a cut when it is small, if treated early, it can heal easily. However, if it is not treated and becomes infected, it can take a much longer time to heal. The sooner you recognize a conversation is not going well, the easier it is to right the conversation. Of course.

The idea then is to be able to recognize when a conversation turns crucial at the beginning. There are three ways you might find yourself reacting:

  1. Physical signals – there is physical change in your body (stomach clenches, eyes tighten, short breathing)
  2. Emotional signals – emotions start to surface that give you a clue you are feeling under stress (anger, frustration, fear, etc…)
  3. Behavioral signals – you start seeing your body reacting negatively to the conversation (voice raised, aggressively pointing fingers)

There is a short quiz in the book that helps you identify they way you react to crucial conversations under stress. There are two main categories: Silence and Violence.

  • Silence – you prefer to walk away from a conversation (there are many ways to do this).
  • Violence – you try to force your view upon others (again, many ways this happens).

I took the short quiz in the book to help identify how I react when conversations turn crucial. It turns out I react in two somewhat contradictory ways: I withdraw or I try to control.

  • Withdrawing – you chose to pull out of the conversation altogether
  • Controlling – you try to push/pull others to your viewpoint.

The whole point of this book is for you to develop the skills you need to be able to have any conversation, at any time, anywhere. I want that for myself and I would like to be able to help others as a coach do this too. So, I did some deep dive thinking into how I can recognize in myself when conversations turn crucial. I think the biggest thing I notice is my breathing gets shallow. If I can do quick first-aid and take deep breaths as soon as I notice my chest is tight and I am not breathing deeply, I can begin the process of turning a crucial conversation around to a positive direction.

What are your own cues that you are heading into a crucial conversation? And what can you do to turn things around at the beginning?