Inspiring others: Leisbel Lam

Jan 14, 2024

Principal at MCE (Minneapolis, MN), one of the largest mechanical and electrical consulting engineering firms in the United States.

By Liisa Andreassen

As a principal at MCE, Lam leads the government, higher education, and corporate markets. He started with the company in 2021 and was challenged to build a sector team from scratch – much like creating a start-up within a mature organization. He was intrigued by the idea and says from day one building his team started with a clear vision – to inspire others. His dream: to reinvent team dynamics in the MEP design environment.

To meet this end, once the vision was clear, his strategy focused on five pillars:

  1. Communicating vision clarity repeatedly.
  2. Assessing organization culture, personality traits, day-to-day workflow dynamics, team microcultures, and work sharing culture among sectors.
  3. Establishing an informal internal network across all functions of the organization.
  4. Soliciting help and support from others to facilitate connections with key clients and partners.
  5. Connecting with key players of his external professional network and updating them about his new role and the story he aims to make a reality.

Team-building tactics. “Attracting top talent has been one of the key challenges facing our industry for years, and it got even more difficult during the pandemic,” he says. “But thanks to the unwavering support of MCE, my clear vision, my authenticity, and mindset, I was able to attract top talent who wanted to be part of a great story.”

Lam gives special attention to employee retention in every move he makes. He coaches and joins forces with managers to cover as much ground as he can when it comes to manager-direct reports’ experiences.

“At the end of the day, people are the only asset we have. Without people our business would not exist,” he says.

To better inform a positive personal management strategy, MCE assesses individual team members as part of their onboarding through a work focus scale. This assessment reveals whether individuals are prevention or promotion focused. They also assess work styles which shows where peoples’ tendencies lie – analytical, amiable, expressive, etc.

To ensure MCE is laying the foundation for great managers, it intentionally gathers this information during its one-to-one meetings and any other interactions it has with employees to understand their dynamics around the six universal human needs. Tony Robbins calls them “certainty, variety, significance, connection, growth, and contribution.”

“Having a sense of what moves people helps a ton to lead and manage them,” Lam shares.

Drivers and challenges. When it comes to specifics about the markets he and his teams work in he says it’s the competitive nature of the industry that really drives him. Since he was a kid, he’s loved competitive sports because it always pushed him to do better, to innovate, and to try new tactics. It also opens up vulnerabilities which only serves to ignite his desire to try harder.

“I get the same rush in my role every day,” he says. “And, let’s not forget, the bulk of these markets’ work is won through open RFPs where the competitive landscape is fierce. I approach it much like a game. For example, for me the stage of teaming with an architect partner is like competing for the state championship. Next, we get shortlisted. It’s like competing at the world championship. In the end, we interview and it’s like competing at the Olympics.”

Lam shares that corporate, government, and higher education markets are facing some challenges. There’s a surplus of underutilized and outdated spaces which is sparking leadership to begin thinking about innovative ways to reinvent how the work is done and to invest to create a different building user experience.

“We’re welcoming such change by being nimble in our capabilities to maximize the building systems design effectiveness,” he says.

Another significant change is the commitment of leadership across all markets to reduce their carbon emissions. To meet that end, MCE is engaging in multiple building decarbonization studies.

“It’s exciting to experience how quickly the mindset is shifting,” he says. “As more companies and organizations move to decarbonization, it’s becoming clear that not all electrification solutions are created equal.”

Despite – and in spite of – these industry challenges, Lam truly revels in creating a team culture where the focus is on enjoying and growing through the process rather than being attached to the outcome.

“That’s been a game changer mindset for the team,” he says. “We celebrate small and big wins. We practice gratitude. We walk the talk. We support each other.”   

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.