Working Relationships with John Roe

The Marketing and Communications Group spoke to John Roe, Head of Project Management about techniques for good relationships in a varied, national team, and how he likes to unwind. In conversation with Esme Hunter.

Career to date

How long have you been with HCP and how have you progressed within the company?
I originally started at Modus as a consultant three years ago on a project which ran for 18 months. After completing that project it became apparent that there was another, broader opportunity available at HCP. I started as an employee 18 months ago.

What was your background prior to joining HCP?
I was a Director at AECOM (previously Davis Langdon). I’m a MCIBSE chartered engineer (M&E), pipes and wires are my background. Right at the start I was an M&E Site Engineer and developed over a number of years eventually becoming Project Manager and Chartered.

Over the years I went from poacher to gamekeeper a number of times. At the start of my career I worked for a manufacturer specifying and designing. Then crossed over and started working for a contractor, who was installing the materials my previous company supplied. Eventually I moved to work for the client side consultants who were overseeing contractors, installing equipment I had been engineering and specifying.

I’ve now moved to a position where I’m working as the end client, overseeing the relationships with installers, the consultants, and the contractors.

John’s role at HCP

Could you summarise your current role? Why has this role been developed in the company?
My job title is Head of Project Management. This gives me an opportunity to travel the country and engage with as many of the HCP MSAs as possible. We engage with GMs and Project Co Engineers directly. Assisting the GM’s in the management and rectification of defects as well as new projects.

Each Project Co has a number of resources employed to deliver the management services agreement. They are generally specific to that particular site and the core contract. If additional works do come forward Project Co’s don’t necessarily have a resource available to deliver the works. We identify how we can supplement Project Company resources to deliver schemes in the portfolio with as little risk or impact to the MSA. Usually the fees for our team’s involvement are passed straight on to variation projects, giving GMs support where needed.

Why is it important to manage large variations, as you do at Modus?
It’s an understanding of risk to HCP and our client. In this building there are specific client risks as in all of HCP’s portfolio. We provide resources and individuals to promote delivery of the contract so variation projects do not implicate day-to-day conduct of business. We play our part to protect users of the facilities, The Authority, Project Co, HCP and Funders.

Managing Relationships

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Geography is a difficult thing to manage, making sure I’m in the right place at the right time and understanding what can happen at any point. We have a self-managing team across the country which is a great asset to the business.

To have your finger on the pulse with such a geographical spread is a challenging aspect. I’m not saying we always manage it, but a good team, relationship management experience and forethought helps with planning.

What do you find most enjoyable about it?

The challenges and the fact that you’ll sit down and be presented with a seemingly insurmountable tasks. Numerous interdependencies, multiple stakeholders with requirements from the team, HCP and the Project Company.

Some participants can be highly motivated to ‘bite’ if they don’t feel they’re getting their money’s worth from you. It’s about keeping relationships positive while being focused on the delivery aspects. We could have designers, contractors, authorities wanting information and output that’s maybe not available at a given point and trying to keep the interpersonal relationships there healthy, as well as our team on track with our undertakings.

This tenant is true through their own personal lives and project issues that are all inevitable. All the little things impact, pulling the task and team together until you sit back one day and realise it’s actually happening on its own now. That’s what I enjoy. The team and various stakeholders going in the same direction.

 

In many ways that’s probably the hardest thing to do.

It is but it brings the most benefit. I get a lot from seeing that, and once its set up, interaction and understanding what’s required to maintain it. All members have a different motivation, we need to appreciate and align them as best able. When you get close to that utopia it’s the best feeling seeing it work.

Getting to know your staff

I don’t think just anyone could do that role, you’d have to be the right sort of person to manage those relationships.

It’s very difficult to work with all types of personalities all of the time. Sometimes you can’t be soft and fluffy, but you can get catch more flies with jam. The perception of bulldozing issues for your own agenda only breeds disharmony and ultimately poor performance. I believe if people want to work with you they will do more and be happier. If you put yourself forward as someone people don’t want to work with, you’re starting on a negative.

How do you manage such a varied team?
If you can understand how people want to be managed, you don’t have to give more than your time to them to get them on-board. It’s not underhand, if you’re interested in them and you want to understand what makes them tick it pays dividends.

It takes me back to a guy on site, a quite introverted BMS engineer, there were all sort of things happening on site. He really wouldn’t talk or open up to us. After some thought I realised the best way to get him on side. I arrived early, took him to the coffee shop, and spent 10 to 15 minutes with him. He’d talk to me, we’d go through the panel drawings, and the points we’d be working on. Sitting down and listening to the issues he was having. I couldn’t solve his problems but I could ask if he could look at one or two that he was avoiding because of a difficult client.

Once I realised this, it flicked a switch in my head about getting to know the people we work with and what they need to perform as a team.

Interests

What do you like to do when not at work, do you have any hobbies?
I do Thai boxing a few times a week. Teaching people as well as training. It came about through necessity.

After playing rugby for years, my body gave up on me. Then I did quite a bit of running but that didn’t give me everything I needed. I’d done karate since being quite young, but got into Maui Tai through a friend about five years ago.

I take my kids and mates when they want to have a go. It helps calm my thought processes, lets me review things with some balance. Personal relationships and work life. There’s no other distractions apart from the next pad to hit, it’s a terrific release valve. I add some running on to my sessions for a cool down period after high impact elements.

Social

Although to counteract the good things, I like to go down the pub for the social aspects and a beer. I often say it’s to watch the football but that usually takes a back seat. Sat at the bar with mates and the dog (Guinness the Black Labrador) we take the mickey out of each other, remorselessly. It’s great to get used to people battering you a bit, knocking your ego. If you haven’t got friends to help you bounce off the edges you don’t know where you’re going wrong.

Words to live by. Thanks John, you’ve been great.

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