The best civil engineering managers are almost certainly the last people to thrust themselves forward for praise. Antony Oliver explains why it is vital that companies identify their stars.
When Mark Cutler won last year's ICE civil engineering manager of the year award, judges were left with no doubt that he had performed an outstanding role pulling together the massively complex Proof House Alliance scheme on the West Coast Mainline in Birmingham.
Looking at what was achieved by the Carillion team on this £36M rail junction reconstruction and resignalling project, particularly to deliver on time, under budget and without any accidents, it is also easy to see how the job required management and leadership of extraordinary quality.
Yet while keen to enter the project for every award going - and winning the majority - the 31 year old project director was initially reluctant to take credit for himself by entering the management award.
'I didn't put myself forward for the award and to be honest I wouldn't have done,' says Cutler. 'My managing director put me forward and it turned out to be very worthwhile,' he explains. And aside from winning, of course, Cutler is now really glad that he was pushed into entering.
'To be honest, at the time it felt slightly unfair to take credit for a team performance. But the most encouraging thing was after winning people saw it as a team award and were proud that the achievement of the project had been recognised.' Entering was also hard work, Cutler points out, highlighting that judges are looking for really incisive views on what each entrant believes they actually brought to the project.
'At the time I thought 'what did I personally contribute to the team?' It is really only by getting feedback from your colleagues that you start to realise what input you actually had into the project.' That said, he felt that getting in front of the judging panel and being able to talk about the project, the achievements and the team was a great experience.
'The whole process was a challenge, but meeting the other competitors and judges was really good fun and so rewarding,' he says. 'And to be honest I enjoyed the attention afterwards.' Since winning the award, Cutler has been promoted to a new role as Carillion's director of national projects - although he maintains that the two events are not necessarily connected - and now looks after the entire UK rail business for Carillion.
It is clear that, like the civil engineering manager of the year award judges, his bosses recognise talent.
This year's dramatic increase in prize money to £5,000 - enabled by the personal commitment of Laing O'Rourke boss and chairman of the judges Ray O'Rourke - should help to attract the very best candidates.
But nevertheless, it will be as important as ever for every civil engineering managing director to ensure that the best candidates are identified and cajoled into telling the world about their achievements.
'Don't be shy about entering,' Cutler urges. 'Don't see it as an exercise in personal appreciation. You have to see it as recognition for your company, recognition for your project and recognition for your team.' INFOPLUS Details of entry requirements and the entry form for the CEMYA 2002 are at www. ice. org. uk/cemya2002.
Tel: (020) 7665 2230.
Closing date for entries is 24 June Backed by NCE, Chartered Management Institute