Take Your Culture Forward: Mentorship’s Impact on Elevating Talent

Three years ago, Robins & Morton Senior Project Manager James Long was working through staffing plans for his projects.

He had multiple ongoing jobs with long-time client Nor-Lea Hospital District in Lovington and Hobbs, New Mexico, and needed more help in the field. Instead of looking to hire outside of his jobsite, he decided to look within.

Long was sure that project engineers Shane Hansen and Scott Parker would be ready to take on the responsibility of running their own work soon, they just needed a little more experience guiding projects from beginning to end. It’s uncommon for project engineers to advance so quickly, but Long said their attitudes really set them apart – they were willing to learn, do the hard work, and do whatever it took to ensure the project was successful.

One day, he called Hansen and Parker into his office and told them that he wanted them to start running their own work, but only if they felt ready.

“Heck yeah I was scared!” Parker recalled, laughing. “But I had already somewhat stepped into the position – people onsite already looked to me for help and I was motivated by maintaining the excellent relationship we have with our client. It was a natural next step.”

However, Hansen and Parker didn’t face the challenge alone. They had each other and Long was by their sides at every stage, starting them on smaller projects at first – renovations and minor infrastructure upgrades.

“Scott and I built a bond through figuring things out together,” Hansen said. “We share the idea that if one of us makes a mistake, we all make a mistake.”

“We always want the best for the other, so we push each other,” Parker said. “We’re friends – we have each other’s backs, we call each other out.”

In the early days, they learned project flow, how to communicate with hospital staff, and earn respect from the trades.

“One of the ways that I built trust [with the trades] was by being helpful and showing interest in what they do. If you do that, they’ll give that energy back,” Hansen said. “I think every manager onsite has at least one hour of free time every day and I used that free time to be useful and learn – pulling electrical wire, helping hang duct. It really helped me learn how to schedule activity durations.”

“I walked jobsites [with Hansen and Parker] more then, than I have in my entire career,” Long laughed. “It was a lot of accountability and for a while, we were tied at the hip.”

But after a while, it was time for Long to take a step back, letting Hansen and Parker manage on their own. At that point, it meant keeping Hansen as the hospital’s primary contact in Lovington to manage field work there and sending Parker onto Hobbs – one town over – to build a clinic for Nor-Lea Hospital District from the ground up.

Every morning, the three had a staff meeting via video chat at 6:30 a.m., then Long would spend the first half of his day in Lovington, and the second half of his day in Hobbs, 17 miles away.

However, in no time, it became clear that Hansen and Parker were up to the task. Hansen continued to build relationships with the team at the hospital, helping the Robins & Morton team earn more work that led to his current project renovating Nor-Lea General Hospital’s emergency department.

“We developed a strong relationship based on transparency,” Hansen said. “There’s a lot of trust there and I’m the ‘fix-it’ guy. They know that whatever I promise, I follow through with it.”

Parker completed the clinic in Hobbs, which earned a 100% satisfaction rating from a third-party customer survey. He is currently working on a community house project, but will begin work on a freestanding, two-story administration building soon.

As Hansen and Parker take on new work – now as assistant superintendents – Long often reflects on the multi-year journey they’ve had together and the importance of taking the time to invest in talent.

“It’s a part of [the Robins & Morton] culture to mentor and teach people,” Long said. “By prioritizing it, and promoting from within, you take your culture forward and give it to the next generation. It’s so important.”