Heath Suddleson is a management leadership consultant and a published author as well. Heath comes off as a gregarious personality, gets along with people like a house on fire and seems to have a degree in people. He shares his thoughts with us today.
- What is your profession and tell me about yourself, your background
I turn project managers into project leaders. I am a professional trainer for leadership development in the project management space. For more than 25 years I have managed design and construction projects all over the world. In addition to being in some leadership positions in the corporate space, I have held many leadership positions with Not For Profit organizations. In one of these global Not For Profits, I served on their International Board of Directors.
- What drove you to choose this career path? As my job required me to conduct more and more training, I realized how much I loved doing the training more than the project support. One benefit was that when I was conducting so much training there were fewer project demands I needed to meet, which lowered my stress level. Still, the biggest benefit was actually seeing those “ah ha” moments in the classroom as people began to connect the dots. There are few rewards greater than knowing you have helped someone improve themselves and their lives.
- Have you moved a lot for your profession and do you like travelling?
I have changed companies more than a few times, in part because I didn’t want to move my home. In the construction industry, it is difficult to always stay in one area because you need to go where the work is located. Wanting to stay home based, it did cause me to do a lot more travel. In some aspects, the travel is great and you get to see exciting parts of the world and experience different cultures. However, there is a dark and lonely side to travel that takes a toll on the body and the soul. Spending so many countless nights eating dinner alone, not seeing your family, not being there for the plays and piano recitals of your kids all makes the road that much harder. Now that I own my own company, I have more control over when I travel, how often, and how long each trip will be. That makes the travel more fun again.
- What in your opinion are the three major traits to be successful in your profession? To be successful as a trainer, there are three levels of mastery. The first is to be a subject matter expert. There are some out there who think that if you can present well you can speak about anything, but the truth is that your credibility is based on what you have accomplished and what you can teach others who have similar experiences. When teaching technical skills in the workplace you will not be the only expert in the room. Lose the confidence in those other experts and you will quickly lose the class. You have to know your stuff. The second level of mastery is to be an engaging presenter. Especially in the engineering fields, many presenters are lack luster and some are just plain boring. If you are going to present for hours on end, you better be entertaining and engaging. The third level of mastery is to be a trainer. Again, there are misconceptions that if you have the first two levels licked then it’s easy to be a trainer, but it is a completely different set of goals to be able to gauge the knowledge gap and when you find one know how to fill it. You need to be able to adjust material based on the class attendance and not just the slides. Being a true trainer is to master all three levels.
- What have been your biggest challenges over the course of your career?
The biggest challenge over my career has been learning to deal with difficult people and to not become one myself. The construction industry is filled with people who lack people skills. On some projects and in some companies, those who are the harshest to deal with are sometimes celebrated, which only promotes less focus on human capital. Of course, those people cost the company money in ways unseen through high turnover of staff, loss of continuity, and sometimes even lost clients.
- Would you recommend this profession to young hopefuls?
The construction industry, yes. It is a great industry if you want a lot of great opportunities to work on projects that have real meaning to people. There is a sense of satisfaction when you go see a completed project and know that you were part of the team that made that happen. The pay is good and the chance to travel is great. Just know that it will be long hours and high stress at times.
- What is your advice to young graduates and professionals?
My advice to graduates and young professionals is to do something you truly enjoy. If you love what you do, and you are doing what you love, you will do it with passion and inspiration. Because you are putting so much of yourself into your work, it will be recognized and you will be rewarded. Millennials seem to understand the concept of work-life balance more than previous generations. There may be some changes in the workplace coming as a result of this that will be seen in another decade. Why this is important is because those people who succeed the most are those who can see where the market is going more than where the market is now. See where it is going and put yourself on the leading edge.