Whether they work in credit, accounting, or out on the job site, women in construction know how vital communication is to every construction project, team, and customer relationship.
Levelset’s 2022 Women in Construction interview series has focused on the struggles that people — particularly women working in the administration aspects of construction companies — are facing.
See what women in construction said about their jobs, their coworkers, and the state of the industry.
Levelset’s Lori J. Drake recently sat down with six different female construction professionals to discuss their place in the industry.
Credit manager Jennifer Siegfried only needed one word to pinpoint what’s helping the construction industry survive: “Communication.”
“Communication is really important,” Siegfried continued, “whether it’s somebody within my own team or in a different division purchasing sales, communication is key. If you don’t understand what the other person’s asking or trying to resolve, it’s just going to make it more difficult and complicated.”
“I think effective communication is a key personality trait that people need to work on,” noted SRS Distribution Senior Director of Credit Rachel Sales. “I think communication is huge, not only with your team, but if you’re dealing with customers, if you’re dealing with salespeople or the branch managers, they need to understand where you’re coming from, and you need to be able to articulate it.”
“A lot of times [our customers’] frustration comes from not understanding our side of things. I think some of our frustration comes from not understanding their side. So both sides being able to communicate is very, very important. It’s tough enough sometimes if we’re battling with the customer — we don’t want to battle with our internal people too. We want to try to be a united front and understand both sides of it,” Sales said.
“People. It’s an understanding of people,” commented Siegfried. “[We need] to understand that everyone’s not the same. Different styles, different needs are needed in different situations.”
It’s not always something that comes easily for a lot of people — even for those who do it on a daily basis.
“It’s funny — you have to learn to listen,” added Siegfried. “I always thought I was a good listener until I went back to school and I found, well, maybe I’m really not. It’s just a matter of stopping what you’re doing [and listening].”
“You know, if you’re not listening, you’re not going to see what the problem is. It’s going to just implode on you.”
There’s a very practical element in communication right now, as dealing with customers is as important as it has ever been as the industry sees a major construction boom.
“You have to have good communication skills with your customers and [have to] know how to communicate well with them,” said MaryAnn Gentry, Director of Credit and Collections for Cowtown Materials.
To many like Alaina Worden, communication is especially important on all levels — not just when dealing with customers. “I reach out and check on [my team] on a pretty consistent basis. Just one on one,” said Worden, who’s the credit and collections manager at Carson Team. “I’ll just send a message out to one or two of them each day and just say, ‘Hey, how are you doing today? How are you holding up? How are things going for you?’ and just kind of engage in some conversation.”
For all of the women interviewed, communication was noted as a major key to their leadership and the ways in which they are hoping to develop as leaders going forward.
“I feel like in order to be a good leader, you have to be a better listener. Listening skills are key to success for credit management,” said Worden. “You must have the analytical abilities to help enhance communication and be willing to teach and explain why certain decisions are being made. When you’re making a change within your department, you need to be able to explain why you’re making that change and how it is going to better the company as a whole.”
Worden noted that she’s seeing a lot of success from just incorporating more communication into her daily routine with her team. “Just reaching out and saying, ‘Hey, how are you?’, they share things that they probably wouldn’t have shared had I not reached out.”
Learn more: The 7 C’s of Communication for Credit Managers