Laughter among ‘inescapable’ leadership behaviours needed to deliver transformative infrastructure

13 December 2019 London, England

Acclaimed Bechtel engineer and STEM diversity champion completes 18-month global lecture series with Institution of Civil Engineers

Bechtel’s Linda Miller has concluded her tenure as the 12th Brunel International Lecturer for the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) having addressed groups of up to 500-people in more than 30 cities on four continents. The 59-year-old mother of two is the second woman in the institution’s 200-year history to hold the title, in recognition of outstanding contributions to engineering.

During the 18-month lecture series, Linda spoke to students and engineers at all stages of their careers. She drew on her 30-year career at Bechtel delivering transformational projects – including tunnelling under Sydney Harbour and Boston City - to illustrate the dramatic social, economic, and environmental impact of smart infrastructure. She also shared six behaviours - her ‘inescapables’- that helped her build successful teams. Linda brought the behaviours to life using examples from complex infrastructure projects she has helped to deliver on three continents.

Delivering her final lecture in London, Linda said: “Engineers are key to solving some of the world’s biggest challenges including climate change and social mobility, but we can only find the best solutions by having great teams. Teams that are diverse and inclusive. I think the ‘six inescapable’ leadership behaviours including prioritising trust, disagreeing well, and laughing together, make all the difference in building inspired teams and keeping everyone’s eyes focused on the goal.”

President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Paul Sheffield said: “I was delighted to welcome Linda Miller back to One Great George Street where she began her 18-month tour around the world delivering the 12th Brunel International Lecture series. It is evident from the feedback that her insight into the transportation boom and her enthusiastic and motivational tone have been wonderfully received.

I would like to thank Linda on behalf of the Institution for inspiring over 1,800 engineers across the globe, from New Delhi to Doha, Jamaica to Johannesburg, and Canada to Cambridge.”

Throughout her lecture series, Linda called upon the engineering industry to increase its visibility and lead engagement on the ways that engineering can support increased economic prosperity, enhanced social justice, and offer more creative solutions to protect our warming planet. She has also challenged engineers to place building trust with customers, communities, and each other on par with understanding technical specifications. In her delivery teams, Linda shares how she has banned the word ‘they’, citing blame as the beginning of breaking trust. She also discussed how healthy teams must learn to “disagree well” to maintain mutual respect. Humour, Linda said, helps to put disagreements into perspective. 

Linda concluded her lecture by discussing how the industry is now awake to the evidence that people who laugh not only enjoy health benefits, but they are also more productive and produce better business outcomes. 

A full recording of Linda’s lecture will soon be available. ICE members will have exclusive access to the recording before it is accessible to all listeners in March 2020.

About Linda:

Linda has worked on some of Bechtel’s most transformative projects, including a NASA launch complex, Crossrail (a new east-west railway under London) and Sydney Metro (the first rail tunnel under Sydney Harbour). Linda is currently a civil infrastructure director for the Texas High Speed Rail project. Linda joined Bechtel following her service as a U.S. Army officer and helicopter pilot.

In 2017, Linda received an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) from the Prince of Wales for her impact to engineering and in promoting gender diversity. Singer Adele, fashion designer Ralph Lauren, and explorer Ranulph Fiennes have received the same honour. In 2016, the Women's Engineering Society named Linda as one of the most influential women in engineering in the U.K. 

About the Institution of Civil Engineers Brunel International Lecture series:

The Brunel International Lecture was established to help strengthen the links between the ICE and other engineering institutions around the world.