Lessons learned as children affect our working lives – and we're not talking Tonka toys
One of my New Year's resolutions is to spend more time with my two sons, aged eight and 12. Many busy people, I suspect, would admit that they do not always give enough attention to their family. The father–son relationship is very rewarding for the father and nurturing for the son. But it's not until you can look back at the relationship you have built with your sons, or that you had with your father (apologies for the male bias) that you realise how important and influential they are.

As a son you are constantly watching, learning from and copying your father's behaviour. When you get older you often find yourself doing things in the same way as your father, and repeating the same good habits. Needless to say, I also find myself repeating the bad habits that I learned, whether consciously or unconsciously.

I have written before about getting the balance right between work and home. One of the best writers on this subject, for men in particular, is Steve Biddulph (Manhood, Hawthorn Press, £10). When I talk to people across the construction and property industries, it is surprising how many men report that they have had an unhappy relationship with their father. When the conversation turns to that individual's relationship with his children, they often admit that they are making the same mistakes.

Poor habits learned from fathers are very often translated into the work environment, and can result in poor relationship management. I believe that this problem often lies at the root of many of the difficulties on construction and building projects.

Now you may think that I have made a big leap from parental relationships to workplace teamwork, but a lot of the problems in our industry stem from poor teamwork and communication. Just take a few minutes to reflect on the last project or site meeting you were involved in where the "male relationship" thing wasn't working properly.

In staff appraisals, ask what his father was like as a communicator, and whether he is taking the same approach with his children

Possibly, people were not listening to each other, or were in send rather than receive mode. Maybe they were not helping each other solve the team's common problem, or were even being positively unhelpful when it came to finding a way to get the issues resolved. No matter how often the subject of poor teamwork is raised in all sorts of books, magazines and newspapers, we seem to keep failing to address the issues.

That is particularly true of construction. With such a high proportion of men in the industry, we can put forward the proposition that one of the reasons it is in such a mess is that men build worse relationships than women because their father–son model is not supportive enough. If that is the case, then having more women in the industry may help to correct the balance. Even though it may not solve the problem for men, if women are better communicators and relationship-builders, then it should improve the industry to have more of them in it. That would be a start!

So next time you have an appraisal with a male colleague and you are accusing him of poor communication skills, try asking him what his father was like as a communicator, and whether he is taking the same route with his children. This could lead to a very fruitful chat about how the lessons learned as a young child may be affecting his work relationships, and could even help find a few nuggets of behaviour that could, by subtle change, help to address and inform his future actions.

On the other hand, you might find that rather too liberal and wishy-washy, and would instead prefer that we all just continue to work the old adversarial, dog-eat-dog, macho building-project approach.