Navigating the Skies of Construction Communication: Insights from Aviation Expert Chris Wong - Speak in Flow

Welcome back, flow-seekers! In today’s high-flying episode of Speak In Flow, your host Melinda Lee takes you on an adventure through the world of aviation construction with the incredible Chris Wong, founder and principal of Richmond Construction Consulting. Buckle up as they soar through tales of construction challenges, stakeholder juggling, and the art of relationship building at 30,000 feet!

In This Episode:

✈️ Flying High: Chris shares his fascinating journey into the aviation construction world, revealing his passion for building amidst the clouds and the unique experiences that have shaped his expertise.

🚧 Navigating the Runway: Get ready for a turbulence-free discussion on the complexities of aviation construction. Chris delves into the challenges of working in live airport environments, where precision and coordination are key amidst continuous operations.

🤝 Building Bridges: Discover the importance of effective communication and relationship building in the construction game. Chris lays down some serious wisdom on fostering cooperation among stakeholders and championing their interests.

🔊 Clear for Takeoff: Listen in as Chris shares his top-notch communication strategies tailored specifically for construction projects. From one-on-one pow-wows to proactive communication, he’s got the insider tips to ensure your project lands smoothly.

About Chris Wong:

Aviation industry construction expert that specializes in client/stakeholder management and operations coordination. Experience with phased construction delivery, construction in operating environments, and tenant improvement projects. Effective communicator that develops relationships with personnel in all levels of an organizations and project teams.

Key aviation experience:

-Airport operations (landside and airside)

-Airline coordination (United, American, Alaska, Southwest, Delta, and SFOTEC*)

-Airport concessions (retail and food & beverage)

-Federal Agency coordination (FAA, TSA, & CBP)

-Security Screening Checkpoints

-Checked Baggage Inspection System and baggage handling

-Airport Facilities and Engineering coordination

-Signage and wayfinding

*SFOTEC is the airline consortium responsible for managing the operations of the International Terminal at SFO.

Website/social handles: www.richmondconstruction.co

Fun facts

– I’m a fourth generation Chinese American, my maternal great grandparents immigrated through Angel Island

– I like to cook and road bike around the Marin headlands

– I like spending time outdoors. My wife and I got married in Yosemite.

– I’m a new dad, my daughter was born earlier this year in February

About Melinda:

Melinda Lee is a Presentation Skills Expert, Speaking Coach and nationally renowned Motivational Speaker. She holds an M.A. in Organizational Psychology, is an Insights Practitioner, and is a Certified Professional in Talent Development as well as Certified in Conflict Resolution. For over a decade, Melinda has researched and studied the state of “flow” and used it as a proven technique to help corporate leaders and business owners amplify their voices, access flow, and present their mission in a more powerful way to achieve results.

She has been the TEDx Berkeley Speaker Coach and worked with hundreds of executives and teams from Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Caltrans, Bay Area Rapid Transit System, and more. Currently, she lives in San Francisco, California, and is breaking the ancestral lineage of silence.

Website: https://speakinflow.com/

Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/speakinflow

Instagram: https://instagram.com/speakinflow

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mpowerall

Thanks for listening!

Thanks so much for listening to our podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and think that others could benefit from listening, please share it using the social media buttons on this page.

Do you have some feedback or questions about this episode? Leave a comment in the section below!

Subscribe to the podcast

If you would like to get automatic updates of new podcast episodes, you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. You can also subscribe in your favorite podcast app.

Leave us an Apple Podcasts review

Ratings and reviews from our listeners are extremely valuable to us and greatly appreciated. They help our podcast rank higher on Apple Podcasts, which exposes our show to more awesome listeners like you. If you have a minute, please leave an honest review on Apple Podcasts.

Transcript
Melinda Lee:

Welcome to the speak in flow podcast where we

Melinda Lee:

share unique experiences to help you elevate your leadership

Melinda Lee:

voice and effective communication. Today we have

Melinda Lee:

Chris Wong's so glad he's here. He's the founder and principal

Melinda Lee:

of Richmond construction consulting. He's an aviation

Melinda Lee:

expert. So construction expert focus and specialise in the

Melinda Lee:

aviation industry. And so, so fascinating to me, we get to

Melinda Lee:

hear someone in the aviation industry and doing the hot, big

Melinda Lee:

things and SFO and other airports and so welcome, Chris.

Chris Wong:

Thanks, Melinda. Thank you for having me.

Melinda Lee:

I'm glad you're here. So why don't we just get

Melinda Lee:

started? Can you tell us a little bit about how you even

Melinda Lee:

got into this industry and what you do?

Chris Wong:

Sure. I studied civil engineering at UC Davis.

Chris Wong:

And then quickly kind of got a couple internships with the city

Chris Wong:

and county of San Francisco, their project at SFO, their

Chris Wong:

project management department, and really kind of fell in love

Chris Wong:

with construction. Both of my parents are kind of have

Chris Wong:

construction adjacent careers as well, my dad's an architect, my

Chris Wong:

mom, ran facilities at hospitals and helped do execute various

Chris Wong:

construction projects in the healthcare industry. And that

Chris Wong:

kind of led me to then pursuing my own career in the

Chris Wong:

construction field.

Melinda Lee:

Wonderful. Wow. So you just right out the gate,

Melinda Lee:

Hollywood has gotten an amazing, amazing opportunity for you.

Melinda Lee:

Yeah,

Chris Wong:

so I was fairly lucky in terms of how we came

Chris Wong:

upon that opportunity, and was something that really interested

Chris Wong:

me in terms of having a balance of being out in the field and

Chris Wong:

seeing something be built, as well as a tangible or, like,

Chris Wong:

office aspect of a job. Yeah,

Melinda Lee:

I mean, that's requires post the hard skills,

Melinda Lee:

and then also the soft skills. Yeah. So what is the what are

Melinda Lee:

some of the key challenges that you see, when it comes to

Melinda Lee:

aviation construction? And getting something built like

Melinda Lee:

that? I mean, it takes an amount, an enormous amount, all

Melinda Lee:

these different teams, partners. It's a lot going on?

Chris Wong:

Yeah, I think you could take him to take a step

Chris Wong:

back before adding the aviation just get a construction project

Chris Wong:

in general, yeah, we're fairly difficult to execute from, you

Chris Wong:

have so many different entities involved from whichever owner,

Chris Wong:

you have your designers, architects, engineers, you have

Chris Wong:

your contractor, your subcontractors, there's so many

Chris Wong:

different parties that go and are involved in getting a

Chris Wong:

construction project executed. Adding the layer of aviation on

Chris Wong:

top of that is that your typical construction project, you may be

Chris Wong:

able to put a fence around it. And that site is the contractors

Chris Wong:

to be able to go build the project. And aviation a lot of

Chris Wong:

that, more often than not, you don't see too many brand new

Chris Wong:

airports being built, you're working in an occupied

Chris Wong:

environment, that it's operating 24/7 And you need to it's like

Chris Wong:

working in somebody's house, and they're still living there. And

Chris Wong:

they're still living right, exactly right. You're not going

Chris Wong:

to be start tearing down walls without telling the your, your

Chris Wong:

landlord or the owner that I'm going to be working here and

Chris Wong:

when you're going to be working on it. So it's a much different

Chris Wong:

type of level of coordination required to be able to do

Chris Wong:

construction and airport.

Melinda Lee:

So what do you think it has helped you?

Chris Wong:

I think it's what's helped me is really I learned

Chris Wong:

from a couple other people just observing how, imagine I started

Chris Wong:

as an intern serving, how they manage their relationships with

Chris Wong:

the stakeholders, and kind of at an early age, just kind of

Chris Wong:

putting things away in terms of okay, I like this, I maybe

Chris Wong:

wouldn't do this this way. And then kind of when I eventually

Chris Wong:

gained a little bit more responsibility, develop my own

Chris Wong:

style in terms of how I was able to develop relationships with

Chris Wong:

the stakeholders and communicating with them. I think

Chris Wong:

my approach has really been to spend a little bit more one on

Chris Wong:

one time when I have the opportunity to understand what

Chris Wong:

are their risks, what is what each stakeholders

Chris Wong:

responsibilities are, what are their priorities when it comes

Chris Wong:

to a particular project, so that I'm able to help advocate or

Chris Wong:

advocate on their behalf when it comes to certain design or

Chris Wong:

construction decisions that are being made throughout the

Chris Wong:

duration of a product execution of a construction project. And

Chris Wong:

so it's I think it's really Just to for me, it's communicating

Chris Wong:

with them developing the relationship and then also

Chris Wong:

demonstrating an understanding to them of what their priorities

Chris Wong:

and values are for a particular project. Yeah, I think I've

Chris Wong:

there's instances where in a lot of these large projects, 100

Chris Wong:

million dollars or more billion dollar projects I've been a part

Chris Wong:

of, we have meetings that are have 1520 different people, the

Chris Wong:

stakeholders have are typically independent of individual

Chris Wong:

contributors by independent contributors, that have their

Chris Wong:

own job, and then being a stakeholder to the project's

Chris Wong:

secondary, right. And they're trying to advocate on behalf of

Chris Wong:

the larger organisation like an airport, what they think needs

Chris Wong:

to be incorporated into the design. But in those settings of

Chris Wong:

15 to 20 people there, they're a little bit shy, or for whatever

Chris Wong:

reason, and I think it's, I've taken upon myself on certain

Chris Wong:

times to kind of be able to advocate for them and prompt

Chris Wong:

them certain times when I need know, I know, they need to

Chris Wong:

perhaps speak up. And it shouldn't always be coming from

Chris Wong:

me, even though I'm a consultant or an owner's rep, that the

Chris Wong:

design team or the rest of the project team really needs to

Chris Wong:

hear from the stakeholder so I can help tease out some of

Chris Wong:

those, the communication from them, because I understand what

Chris Wong:

their priorities are, as it relates to the project.

Melinda Lee:

Wow, that's a lot of work on your part and sincere

Melinda Lee:

sincerity. I mean, I think that also I can even sense you know,

Melinda Lee:

your your approachability and your genuineness to you build

Melinda Lee:

that relationship, even though it does take some extra effort,

Melinda Lee:

but it sounds like it's gone, you know, to help 10,000 times

Melinda Lee:

forward because, you know, the people, you know, the

Melinda Lee:

stakeholders, you know, what their priorities are, and then

Melinda Lee:

you're even advocating for them. And so that's really awesome,

Melinda Lee:

that you have both the the knowledge of the project, the

Melinda Lee:

industry knowledge, your your area of expertise, but also the

Melinda Lee:

genuineness and the relationship building, like you said, you

Melinda Lee:

learn how to build these relationships in a way that I

Melinda Lee:

think ultimately helps the team overall. Yeah, and how about,

Melinda Lee:

yeah, how about when they don't agree? What do you do?

Chris Wong:

You know, I think they're, if you're, if you're on

Chris Wong:

a construction project, you're not always going to agree on

Chris Wong:

Yeah, a lot of those decisions, though, are made based upon what

Chris Wong:

budget schedule. And the owner, the owners of the projects have

Chris Wong:

to have to make some of those decisions. You just have to

Chris Wong:

present them with that information and explain to them

Chris Wong:

why we made those decisions. And that it wasn't me those

Chris Wong:

decisions weren't made in a vacuum in terms of like, no,

Chris Wong:

they made a request, and we're just telling them no to that one

Chris Wong:

request, it's that there is a laundry list of requests. And

Chris Wong:

we've methodically are the project team has methodically

Chris Wong:

gone through in terms of what items they can or cannot proceed

Chris Wong:

with in terms of what does the building need, or the airport

Chris Wong:

want to prioritise from an execution standpoint from from a

Chris Wong:

budget?

Melinda Lee:

Right, mainly budget and time? Yeah, I mean, I

Melinda Lee:

mean,

Chris Wong:

those are the the big drivers. But I mean, there

Chris Wong:

are certain instances where, you know, from there's

Chris Wong:

sustainability decisions or driving things as well, like

Chris Wong:

billing to invest in the airport willing to invest in sustainable

Chris Wong:

alternatives and delivery methods that aren't always going

Chris Wong:

to be the most economical decisions. Right. But they're

Chris Wong:

doing that with a very thoughtful approach.

Melinda Lee:

Yeah, has someone have you made that decision

Melinda Lee:

before and then someone came and actually influenced your

Melinda Lee:

decision? It woke me? Have you thought about what made that

Melinda Lee:

successful? That communication in terms of influencing your

Melinda Lee:

decision about something?

Chris Wong:

I think sometimes or maybe it's not influenced but I

Chris Wong:

think you have to be when you're when you're talking dollars and

Chris Wong:

cents. And a project standpoint, you can't always make a be

Chris Wong:

influenced by some of that. I think it's the it's those

Chris Wong:

decisions aren't made individually, like independently

Chris Wong:

by me. They're made by the team and evaluated holistically as it

Chris Wong:

relates to the overall project because an airport project will

Chris Wong:

have 80 to 100 different stakeholders that like, you

Chris Wong:

can't just be swayed by one Now, right? Every single time

Chris Wong:

somebody wants something, it's it needs to be taken into

Chris Wong:

consideration of the overall picture of the project.

Melinda Lee:

Right or right. So if someone is trying to propose

Melinda Lee:

something, they really have to consider the overall project and

Melinda Lee:

know all the pieces and components of the overall

Melinda Lee:

project and how their PC affects everybody else.

Chris Wong:

Yeah, explaining the context of how decisions are

Chris Wong:

made. So as much as they may attempt to influence and

Chris Wong:

everybody's going to advocate for their interests. It's like,

Chris Wong:

it's a given, it's a give and take.

Melinda Lee:

Right? And so what thing Do you want one or two, as

Melinda Lee:

a project manager, one or two strategies, tips that you can

Melinda Lee:

share for someone who's running a large project?

Chris Wong:

So I would say, some tips, I mean, everybody's a

Chris Wong:

little bit different, you know, I don't say the way I do things

Chris Wong:

is the best way or not, I mean, it's everybody's different. But

Chris Wong:

for me, I think it's, I really focus on the relationship side

Chris Wong:

of things. In terms of you understanding them, you get more

Chris Wong:

much more cooperation or participation, from stakeholders

Chris Wong:

who know your meetings are going to be productive, and you're

Chris Wong:

actually going to be they're going to be heard throughout.

Chris Wong:

Versus if you don't have a relationship with them, you

Chris Wong:

throw meaning on somebody's calendar, and they don't, they

Chris Wong:

don't show up. And you're like, Well, why why didn't they show

Chris Wong:

up to the meeting? It's like you haven't, they don't know who you

Chris Wong:

are for? You're new to the organisation. Yeah. And there's

Chris Wong:

a lot of that as the airport having a large capital

Chris Wong:

programme, there are not just one project being executed at a

Chris Wong:

time, there's like a dozen projects being executed at a

Chris Wong:

time and save stakeholders times are being constantly being

Chris Wong:

sought after. Right. So that's a whole nother aspect of just

Chris Wong:

trying to coordinate schedules, which is not really the

Chris Wong:

communication side. But if you have a good relationship, and

Chris Wong:

you've established those stakeholders, because you

Chris Wong:

reached out to them individually, they're much more

Chris Wong:

likely to kind of participate or and or, you know, if they aren't

Chris Wong:

able to participate, you find 15-20 minutes one on one, hey,

Chris Wong:

this is the agenda we're going to cover if you can't make it,

Chris Wong:

can you help me understand what are your priorities and then you

Chris Wong:

some will trust you to kind of speak on their behalf in those

Chris Wong:

meetings, and but because you've had that chance, and so it's

Chris Wong:

really about the role, the relationships, I'm gonna get Kim

Chris Wong:

gotta keep. Yeah, I love that. Yes, your ability to communicate

Chris Wong:

with folks? Do you see

Melinda Lee:

any? Like, what are some of the things that you see,

Melinda Lee:

when people are trying to build relationships that do not work?

Melinda Lee:

You know, there's, yes, there are certain behaviours in in

Melinda Lee:

that maybe let's just focus on the construction aviation

Melinda Lee:

industry, certain behaviours that people have, that are like,

Melinda Lee:

No, you don't want to do that.

Chris Wong:

I wouldn't say it's behaviours, it's to dissern

Chris Wong:

people's approach in terms of just being passive. In terms of

Chris Wong:

their communication, it's got it. They don't, they only

Chris Wong:

correspond over eat as much as we're in a technological world,

Chris Wong:

right? These days. People really appreciate the face to face, or

Chris Wong:

you pick up the phone and talk to them versus having playing,

Chris Wong:

just emailing back and forth, five or six times and you still

Chris Wong:

don't. And because of the problem, right, yeah, you're not

Chris Wong:

aligning? And, yeah, I think that is really a challenge.

Chris Wong:

Something that happens more often than not that like a

Chris Wong:

problem can be solved by the 30 or 62nd. Phone call versus you

Chris Wong:

spending 1520 minutes preparing restaurants. And that like still

Chris Wong:

didn't actually answer the question. Right. Yeah, hit the

Chris Wong:

point. So I think that is how we communicate these days with

Chris Wong:

technology, right? Is is different that I think is not as

Chris Wong:

many people do, and I Yeah, and I may be speaking out of turn,

Chris Wong:

but I think just what I've observed in terms of who was

Chris Wong:

more successful are the people who pick up the phone or go meet

Chris Wong:

somebody in person for a sidewalk versus the ones who

Chris Wong:

just sit back behind the computer. And yeah, email away.

Chris Wong:

And then hopefully somebody's doing what they asked. Right.

Melinda Lee:

Right. Right. I agree. I agree. I can't I mean,

Melinda Lee:

I'm I just pick up the phone. I feel like typing it out. That

Melinda Lee:

requires more work for me. So I just I did pick up the phone,

Melinda Lee:

but there are people that are really, yeah, they're just

Melinda Lee:

accustomed to on the phone or text. And it's like, why are we

Melinda Lee:

doing this? I just pick up the phone. So I agree with you on

Melinda Lee:

that one. I mean, but what I do know that it's even meetings, so

Melinda Lee:

sometimes I could do better with meeting and personality that has

Melinda Lee:

been the Yeah, just so let's just do virtual meeting. So but

Melinda Lee:

then I think there's so much value, and like you said, the

Melinda Lee:

successful people will take the time, it does require more

Melinda Lee:

effort on our part, but at least having that one to one

Melinda Lee:

relationship, meeting in person, this is so different. And that

Melinda Lee:

adds value.

Chris Wong:

I mean, there's plenty of even just this like

Chris Wong:

seeing each other face to face turning the camera on when

Chris Wong:

you're talking to somebody Yes, yes. is better than writing,

Chris Wong:

maybe not necessarily. hireling hiding, but just being behind a,

Chris Wong:

an email address. Right? Yeah.

Melinda Lee:

But in but I still think some people like behind

Melinda Lee:

the email, and this is better, but there are still people that

Melinda Lee:

present and turn off the camera. They're the presenter, and they

Melinda Lee:

have the camera off. Yeah. So I mean, there's nothing else to

Melinda Lee:

take away. I mean, I think like you're saying, the importance of

Melinda Lee:

building relationships, it does sometimes take a little bit more

Melinda Lee:

extra effort. But I think it'll pay it does pay off, right?

Melinda Lee:

Especially when you when you need to work as a team, when

Melinda Lee:

there's two important decisions that need to be made. But at

Melinda Lee:

least you had the initial contact, like you said, you you

Melinda Lee:

met with the person privately one to one got to know them got

Melinda Lee:

to know their priorities. And later on, when you had to make

Melinda Lee:

important decisions, you had that initial contact, to to have

Melinda Lee:

been with a person and the person knows you. And so and

Melinda Lee:

that trusts you to start to form the trust and the relationship,

Melinda Lee:

because those difficult conversations and discussions,

Melinda Lee:

decisions without that initial trust are going to be harder to

Melinda Lee:

make, and then ultimately cost the job.

Chris Wong:

I will say like I've, I've benefited from being

Chris Wong:

at the same client site for over 10 years. It's like, yeah, I

Chris Wong:

don't expect everybody to be able to like, pick up the phone

Chris Wong:

and call somebody. And like, I know, I know, like, oh, this

Chris Wong:

person had a kid recently, like all the personal details of

Chris Wong:

this. Yeah, people that we work with right now, don't expect

Chris Wong:

that. But I think there are some things that people could do

Chris Wong:

better in terms of when you're introduced to a new client site,

Chris Wong:

or a new project that you're, it's a new environment that

Chris Wong:

you're just not familiar with to be able to create that network

Chris Wong:

for yourself. Yeah, help you get a project delivered.

Melinda Lee:

Right, right. Like you said, some of the subs that

Melinda Lee:

come on board, they're like, oh, they don't know what it is to

Melinda Lee:

work at the Aviation they think it's going to be same as what

Melinda Lee:

they do in another construction site. Right. So they could have

Melinda Lee:

benefited with just like really taking the time to get to know

Melinda Lee:

the environment, the new environment, that they're in the

Melinda Lee:

new players and new people and yeah, yeah,

Chris Wong:

absolutely. I mean, I think a specific example for

Chris Wong:

me is that like, you know, if, if I'm, I'm not perfect, I will

Chris Wong:

admit, like, I've made certain mistakes or overlooked

Chris Wong:

something, I got a project, right. And, you know, having

Chris Wong:

communicated or establish the relationships with those folks

Chris Wong:

that like maybe adversely affected by a miss, they're

Chris Wong:

willing, they're much more willing to work with you or try

Chris Wong:

to help you solve whatever happened, if you like, because

Chris Wong:

you've taken the time to work with them. They know, yeah, it

Chris Wong:

wasn't maliciously done or wasn't just like that your

Chris Wong:

oversight wasn't malicious. Right? And so they, they're more

Chris Wong:

likely to try to help you out in those instances when something

Chris Wong:

does go right. So I think that's another benefit as to what we're

Chris Wong:

describing in terms of communicating with folks

Chris Wong:

developing those relationships.

Melinda Lee:

I love it. I love it. Thank you, Chris. I really

Melinda Lee:

appreciate your time, your wisdom, sharing your your

Melinda Lee:

strategies for relationship building, I think they're so

Melinda Lee:

important. And it's a good for people to start doing it to

Melinda Lee:

start keeping it at the forefront to start keeping it as

Melinda Lee:

a purposeful. Yeah, way of living and being especially as

Melinda Lee:

professional. Right. And as a leader. Yeah. Yeah. Thank you,

Melinda Lee:

Chris. And so Chris Wong was Richmond construction

Melinda Lee:

consulting. You're in San Francisco. The area Yeah.

Chris Wong:

Well, thank you for having me. Oh, Linda. Really?

Melinda Lee:

I'm so glad you're here working at our aviation and

Melinda Lee:

our airports and we're in good hands.

Chris Wong:

I like to believe so. But you

Melinda Lee:

are your humble. You're humble to us why? Okay.

Melinda Lee:

Thank you, Chris. Thank you listeners. Glad you're here.

Melinda Lee:

Take care. Bye