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We self-perform testing and provide full reports and investigations.
We provide assessments, electronic leak detection and roof moisture scans.
We tackle quality assurance, commissioning, condition assessments, and design review.
Our AAMA Accredited lab features state-of-the-art equipment for fast and accurate results.
We self-perform testing and provide full reports and investigations.
We provide assessments, electronic leak detection and roof moisture scans.
We tackle quality assurance, commissioning, condition assessments, and design review.
Our AAMA Accredited lab features state-of-the-art equipment for fast and accurate results.
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Most employers on the hunt for new recruits are looking for someone with a “can-do” attitude. What employer wouldn’t want to have that kind of employee? And for that matter, what employee wouldn’t want to have that kind of attitude? The problem is that most of us don’t actually have that kind of attitude 24/7, and it’s very hard to fake.
A can-do attitude is normally something that is inspired, not something that spontaneously springs up out of a select few. Hoping to find the perfect employee with a perfect attitude and resume may not be all that efficient. Instead of starting over from scratch, try working with what you have. So how can you, as an employer, begin to cultivate and inspire that kind of attitude in your workplace? In a few words: productive & open communication.
Let’s explore just how great communication inspires employees who want to bring their A-game to work with them daily.
The Cog in a Machine
In boat races, you normally have eight Rowers and one Coxswain. The eight Rowers are the muscle and sit facing backward. The Coxswain sits at the back of the boat facing forward. His job is to keep his eye on the other boats and bark out instructions to his teammates. He keeps his eye on the big picture and orders the rowers to adjust accordingly. The rowers obey without question.
What makes this system work is communication. The Coxswain is in a position to be able to see which way the boat is headed, and from there he is in a position to encourage or correct his teammates. If the Rowers don’t know what is happening, they have absolutely nothing to motivate them.
When a rower is not being told how far behind the next boat he is, or how far till the finish line, his mind will begin to focus on the single repetitive action of pulling the oar out of the water, pushing it forward, and then plunging it back into the water. His movements will begin to slow as his mind fixates on the burning in his arms and the numbness in his fingers.
Where You Come In
Great communication is essential if you want to keep your employees working hard, excited about what they are doing. Communicate clearly where they are currently, and what they are working toward. Inspire them. If you leave your employees to find their own motivation, they will stop feeling like important members of the team and more like meaningless cogs in a machine, like the Rower lacking direction from his Coxwain. If they don’t see a finish line, then there is no reason for them to work hard, or efficiently, or even work for you at all
The difference between a rowing team and a business is that communication goes both ways. Commands cannot just be barked out, objections to those commands need to be heard. You can’t treat your employees like a doormat, and expect them to not feel like one.
Sometimes the term “open communication” can have a negative connotation. For instance, many people think that a company that promotes open communication is encouraging employees to feel comfortable talking back to their boss, or complaining loudly about new company policies. Obviously, you want an environment that allows for negative feedback, but that shouldn’t be the norm. Open communication should mean that employees are encouraged to take ownership of the company and propose better solutions to the problems they encounter.
Inspire Productive Open Communication
So how do you do that? One way is to set up incentives for employees to troubleshoot on their own. Tell them that you are interested in hearing their ideas. If an employee figures out how to get a job done with ten nails in three minutes, instead of thirty-five nails in eight minutes, reward them. Maybe it’s public praise, maybe it’s a monetary incentive, but make sure they know you are interested in hearing their ideas, and you are willing to adopt their ideas if they are worth adopting. Remember, they are the ones out in the field doing the heavy lifting. They often have a very different perspective on a project than you do.
Communicate Some More
One of the easiest and most important ways of showing your employees that you are looking out for their best interests is to communicate obstacles and difficulties before they hit. If your business is falling on hard times and needs to cut back on some things, communicate that. And communicate why that is. People are much more patient and understanding when they see that a bad situation is outside your control. Tell them that the next couple of months are going to be hard, don’t let them find that out once the hard time hits. Give them time to prepare.
From an employee’s perspective, your job as a boss should be partly that of a cheerleader. Like any relationship, the relationship between an employer and employee can’t function unless its foundation is built on good communication. Your job is to motivate those who are looking down and can’t see the view. They are dragging themselves through the dirt, and it is very easy to get bogged down, forget what the goal is, and give up. They can only see the trees, and you can only see the forest. You can see the company’s long-term trajectory; they see the daily trials.
Your employees will know where they’re going and how they’re going to get there. And when they have a clear vision and know you understand their concerns, they’ll be truly inspired.
A leader’s job is to get a bunch of people to move from point A, to point B. And if possible, to like it.
A math teacher leads their students from ignorance to competence. A General leads his troops from the safety of their camp to the trenches of a battlefield. A boss has to make his employees work in such a way as to keep his business running smoothly. A leader knows how to get others to act. A good leader knows how to get others to want to act.
The term “relatable leader” can tend to conjure up an image of some pushover doormat of a boss But when done right, relatability can actually strengthen the loyalty of employees towards their employer. When we say someone is “relatable” we mean that we have common ground with them. We see ourselves in them, and we then feel much more comfortable following them. So how do we establish this common ground?
I Was There Once
The first step is to treat individuals like individuals, and their problems like real problems.
Imagine Bill is woken up in the night by his son, Sammy. Sammy is worried that there’s a monster under the bed, and as soon as Bill leaves the room, this monster will leap out and attack him. To Bill, this concern seems trivial and a bit annoying, but to Sammy, this is a matter of life and death. For Bill to roll his eyes, assure Sammy that monsters aren’t real, and to return to bed, is for him to abandon Sammy in his time of need.
Even though Bill can see that this is a non-issue, this is a perfect opportunity for Bill to strengthen his relationship with his son. Let’s say instead of mumbling an assurance and walking out of the room, Bill’s eyes go wide as he leaps onto Sammy’s bed to get out of reach of the monster. From the safety of the bed, Bill begins to tell Sammy about the monster that used to live under his own bed, and how he fought and killed it.
After finishing his tale, Bill carefully climbs from the bed onto the dresser, and from there he can barely reach the nerf swords lying in the corner. With one finger pressed to his lips, he tosses one sword to Sammy and climbs back onto the bed with the other one tucked into his belt. Wielding nerf sword and pillow shields, they plot their attack.
Of course, this situation is slightly different than the kind of scenario you might see in the workplace because the monster under the bed is not a real problem and Bill has to enter into a make-believe world in order to relate to Sammy. However, Bill can still remember when he faced the same fears as Sammy.
Instead of playing the adult card and walking away, he returns to his own boyhood, the very act of which makes him a better father than the one whose pride makes him unable to break through the age barrier.
Allow Them to Contribute
The second step of relatability is to allow others to contribute. It’s easy to repeat the story of how you fixed your own similar problem back in the day, and then to assume that your solution is the only right way.
Allowing others to present their ideas shows respect and shows those under you that you value their opinion. Even if in the end, you don’t go with their idea, hearing them out makes them feel like they’re a valuable part of the team.
Let’s say in their little war council, Bill suggests that they try to outflank the monster. He says that on the count of three, they should leap down on either side of the bed and begin thrusting wildly into the dark cavern. Sammy, however, disagrees. He argues that they should maintain the high ground, and so his idea is that Bill act as a decoy, leaping from the bed and stomping around the room, trying to draw the monster out. Sammy will remain on the bed, and once he has a clear shot, will leap onto the monster’s back.
Disagree, but Explain Why
If and when you do disagree with the proposed solution, you should communicate why you are not going with their idea. You have to be careful about shooting other people’s ideas down, because you don’t want them to think that you think that they are a hopeless case.
Remember, this is where you build the relationship: you disagree, holding your ground. Then you show appreciation for their idea, so they know they’re valued.
Even if the idea is shockingly bad, try to find something about it that you like, and tell them that, before turning their solution down. This will not only honor their efforts but also act as a moment of instruction. And since you worked to highlight the good in their plan, you’ve earned the right for them to pay attention to what you have to say allowing you to simultaneously make needed course corrections and build up your relationship with that employee.
Be the Relatable Leader they Will Follow into Battle
Learning how to be relatable is key in becoming the kind of leader that others can trust. The three steps can easily be summarized in one short sentence: respect others, and they will respect you. This takes humility, time, and love, but the reward is an environment of trust, selflessness, and respect that amplifies the effectiveness of your team and business.
Resourcefulness: everybody wants it in their employees, but few know how to make a resourceful employee. It isn’t like honesty or diligence where you can just resolve to tell the truth or to work harder. You can’t just decide one day to start being resourceful. So how do you build a culture on resourceful people when it’s not something you can just demand? Let’s talk about how to recognize it when you see it, so you can hire and promote for resourcefulness.
Resourcefulness is the ability to creatively and effectively navigate your way through new and unpredictable situations. It is not a personality trait that you are born with, but it’s the manifestation of other virtues that can be developed over time, these being: experience, curiosity, and a creative mindset.
These virtues improve leadership and the ability of a company to run smoothly, even if the main leader is on vacation, at a conference or on another job. So even if you have visions of distributed leadership that can make decisions without you there, if you can’t find and develop resourceful people, all this talk about building a company that can run without you is a far-off dream.
So let’s talk about each virtue and so you know how to spot it. Because if you know what it looks like, you can hire for it, promote for it, and build it into your culture.
Experience is more than just the passage of time. And while time can affect experience, it is not the cause. Imagine two men, Bill and Frank. Bill and Frank are both passengers on a plane that crashes, and they end up stuck on an island for two months with the other surviving passengers. Bill rises to the occasion, organizing people, getting them to gather food, find water, and build a shelter. Frank spends the majority of his time on the beach, curled in a ball, weeping. After two months of this, who has gained more survival experience? They were both on the island for the same amount of time, and one could argue that Frank actually felt the situation more acutely than Bill. He really lived through it.
But experience is more than just living through a particular problem. It means learning how to deal with that problem; it requires a sort of reckoning with reality. While Frank spent his time crying and wishing he wasn’t in a bad situation, Bill accepted it quickly and then worked from there.
You can accelerate experience too. Bill benefited through first-hand experience, but that’s not the only way to gain experience. You can also get it through reading and study, by engaging content from those with experience and implementing it in your own life. Second-hand experience is what police and military rely on in training. The closer the second-hand experience is to the real scenario the better.
Know it When You See It
Experienced people bring a kind of confidence. But overconfident people can too. So how do we tell the difference?
- Experienced people have nothing to prove to themselves, and consequently are much more level-headed in tight situations.
- They can quickly analyze problems and propose solutions, without letting the pressure get to them.
- They tend to have backup plans that they know — from experience — will probably work.
So if they’re uptight and worried at every stage of the conversation or have a hard time being nice to people when things get tough, they might lack experience.
And right away, we see how hiring from within can be so important: you can observe people on good days and bad days. You can really get to know how they handle things. Does their handling of problem show experience or betray a lack of confidence?
Nobody trusts the unengaged doctor who asks very few questions and ends the visit by telling you to take some Advil and give it a week. He’s just not curious enough about the problem to treat the root issue. He just assumes he knows, based on superficial evidence. But just as dangerous as a lack of curiosity is poor judgment about what, exactly, to be curious about.
Einstein once said, “If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.”
A good problem solver should be more interested in the problem than the actual solution. This might seem strange, but imagine a doctor who is intensely interested in cutting-edge medicines, but doesn’t really care if you have cancer or the flu. On the other hand, if you have a doctor who spends most of his time digging as deep as he can into the root of the problem, then chances are pretty good you will get a simple and specific diagnosis, rather than a list of problems that it might be.
And construction is no different. Curious people identify the root problem and solve THAT problem. And that’s who you want in leadership.
Know It When You See It
When diagnosing a problem, there are a few key questions that you should start with.
Why is it a problem? Seems rather obvious in the abstract, but it is a perfectly good question for a sixteen-year-old girl to ask when she sees that light that looks like a genie bottle flashing on her dashboard. Clearly the dashboard light looks like it might be a problem, but why?
Is it worth solving? Let’s say Sarah, the girl with the flashing lights on her dashboard, googles the problem and learns that she is out of oil. Her next question is, does that matter? Can she just ignore it like she does the rest of the lights? What’s the worst that could happen?
Who is it a problem for? For all Sarah might know, being out of oil might mean that her car will start shooting fireballs out the exhaust pipe, posing as a safety hazard to any bicyclists tailing her too closely, but she will be completely fine.
What makes it a problem? No doubt this answer is the one she will receive in a lecture format from her mechanic when she confesses that she has been driving this way for a month.
So when you see your staff focusing on the right things, rather than things they can’t change, things that are in the past, or the shortcomings of other people, it shows good focus.
But that’s just the start. We need people who can obsess over the problem, getting the technical specs of the problem, understanding why it’s a problem, and whether it’s worth heroic efforts to solve.
These are the decision-makers you want to entrust with a project.
A creative mindset is the ability to divorce the conventional use of a tool from the thing itself. You may have seen something like this before in a spy or detective show; the kind of show where the main character makes a homemade bomb in four minutes by using nothing more than some nail polish remover, baking soda, and peanut butter.
A creative mindset sees items as a composite of individual parts, all of which have many alternative purposes. This may seem abstract, but could be as simple as using a coat hanger to get your keys out of a locked car.
For example, to the untrained eye, a pencil might just look like a writing utensil, but for Jerry it is a little bundle of wood, metal, and graphite. On one rainy afternoon, Jerry gets himself locked outside his house when his lock decides to stick. He searches through his car, looking for anything he can use to help, and stumbles upon a pencil. Knowing that graphite can act as a lubricant, and a pencil is made of graphite, he breaks off the tip, shoves it in the lock, and with a bit of elbow grease, makes it into his house just in time for the game.
A creative mindset is a necessary component of resourcefulness because, on top of having a solid understanding of the problem, a creative mindset is able to solve the problem with common objects, which will most likely make the solution much cheaper.
Know It When You See It
A creative mindset doesn’t need to be as fancy in practice as it sounds on paper. It might be as exciting as duct-taping your exhaust pipe back on. One sign that a person lacks a creative mindset, would be if the only solution they see is the first option that pops up on Google. If their only way of fixing a problem is to order the exact missing part online, they are probably not your best bet.
In fact, if you want to see some really innovative, smart uses of common materials to solve household problems, don’t look for this coming from a Harvard grad, but instead add the word “Redneck” to the beginning of your search. Look up “Redneck pool heater” and you’ll see what I mean.
And watch for people to jump in when there’s a problem and find an alternative use for a tool that they have in their truck to avert disaster on the job site.
And then promote that person.
Build Your Culture of Resourcefulness
Look for employees who are confident in their abilities but not afraid to ask for help, who can reduce problems to their simplest forms, and who can find quick and economical ways to fix those problems.
Every employer wants employees who can work on their own, solve problems, and train others, without their boss having to breathe down their neck throughout the entire process. While you can’t make an employee resourceful if they aren’t up for it, you can look for these traits among potential new hires, but even more by watching existing employees at work day in and day out.
Leaders navigate through the uncertain. Cultivate it in yourself, reward it in others, and watch your company start to attract leaders from without, and grow leaders from within.
Large consulting firms bring experience and a certain level of accountability. But small consultancies offer their own benefit. They can be a great value, since they’re often more niched, have experience in your area, give you deeper connections with their everyday operations, and can give you the flexibility that comes from close proximity to decisionmakers.
Ever wonder why people go with small consulting companies when there are some big ones out there that do a good job? Why does there seem to be such a connection? Sure, you can have a connection with someone at a larger company, and you might even like that larger company.
Their branding makes them seem organized and professional. Their rigid processes speak of order and reliability. They might be very well-run.
And on the other extreme, you have fly-by-night companies that show up when they want to, always make excuses for things they didn’t do right, and you’re just sure they’re paying people under-the-table to keep the business afloat.
But then there’s a layer in-between. A smaller, more-specialized group of companies that gives you as much reliability and professionalism as the larger companies, but garner more loyalty. And the question is: why is that?
How can a small consultancy give you a better value than a larger company?
Here are three ways.
Innovation (or dealing with non-standard problems) requires a little more experience and a different way of thinking.
The great, scalable, large consultancies give you a process to deal with normal issues, manned by people who understand the process, maybe even more than they understand the work itself.
Don’t get me wrong. There are some very smart people at large companies, and we all know some of them. But the system is set up to reward people who check boxes, not who can help you see around corners on a job.
Unfortunately, best practices, by themselves, aren’t enough to innovate. You need the kinds of curious people you’re more likely to find in a small consultancy. People who don’t just know best practices, but also understand how and why those best practices work. After all, if you know the rules, you can function. If you know why the rules are there, you can start to break them intelligently.
Small consultancies attract people with experience because they have to be able to function outside of a process, providing value beyond the checklist. Because the owners of these small companies know that this is why people hire them.
Not every small consultancy is great, but you’re much more likely to find fresh, passionate problem solvers in a small organization than at a huge one.
Large consulting firms have to think about process — doing things the same every time. And that’s important because it brings consistency to the process and saves them money. Unfortunately, those processes — the very ones that make them efficient — often harden into a bureaucratic culture that is polite without being all that helpful. And this goes beyond just the report you receive from them. Rigidity often extends to other departments, like billing, or when you ask for something they normally don’t do.
In smaller, you gain more ready access to knowledge and experience, since you’re often dealing with an accounts-receivable department with just a few people who know who you are and can, therefore, understand how to make exceptions or find ways to help you out in a way that won’t hurt their company. Or even just out of goodwill, because they genuinely value your business. And if you’re asking an engineering question, if it’s not something they handle, they’re usually able to understand the request and willing to help you find someone who can help.
You see, that’s what happens when people care about the people they’re doing business with. And although it’s a professional relationship, a good business relationship brings a desire for each others’ success built-in.
Large companies find it difficult to depart from their processes, as mentioned before. This means that your quote on your work is likely to provide a scope that’s heavily boilerplated. This is efficient, but not very custom. It doesn’t give you exactly what you need. Instead, it gives you what they’re good at giving you.
But when you’re working almost directly with the owners — people who started the company because they love what they do — you find a culture that follows that passion. Small consultancies give you an organization that’s built more on curiosity and a love for the work than on the desire to scale. They’re more energized by solving a new problem and leaving flexibility where it’s needed.
They love the work so much that you’re likely to occasionally find the whole team literally gathering around in the office to talk about a problem or how cool as solution is.
And since the owners are involved, they want to see their company succeed. And that means your success. So they’re much more likely to find a solution that works for you, and they have the decision-making ability to do so because of their authority in the company. In other words, unlike working with your contact at a large company, if the owner of a small company makes a promise and wants to help you, they have a complete team to back you up.
Large consultancies can be very professional, but when you’re working with a smaller company, you can see value that the larger companies just can’t offer. You gain specialization, giving you more understanding and experience applied to your job, connection with the company, and flexibility, all of which give you more support and a personalized interest from the owners to see you succeed and the project to go to completion — not just checking a box — but taking a real interest.
Next time you’re looking for a consultant, and you’re tempted to go with a larger company, get a bid or two from a smaller one and see if you can tell why what we’re saying is true.
Balancing everyone’s needs on a project can be tough without goal clarity. Employees, contractors, the client and you might all need different things. So how do you juggle all those needs at once? You create a leadership environment that unifies those needs, helping you hire, set the objectives, and make sure everyone’s going the same direction, no matter what.
Why Accountability Works
Shared values help you, and build your team stronger, both as a team and as individuals.
Accountability is good. It reminds people of the difference between right and wrong and leads to better work.
It’s good because you’re calling people to a higher level of professionalism. When you assume that each person wants to be their best, you’re assuming the best about them. And that’s good. Because if it’s true, then everyone working on this project is going to make each person better.
It’s good because it serves you — as long as your goals are to build the project. When you’re constantly shepherding people toward honorable behavior, you’re helping them help you. And not only is there nothing wrong with it; it’s actually a really, really good thing. And you’d be wrong not to.
“Align yourself with what’s right, and then do whatever you want.” This is something we easily forget; that our desire to align ourselves with what’s right, and then ask people to follow, both benefits us, them, and probably many other stakeholders of various types.
- Future tenants of a building will benefit from solid workmanship.
- The families — spouses, sons, and daughters — of each team member will benefit when their parent becomes a better person. They become more honorable simply by being in a culture that upholds and rewards honor in various ways.
- Each team member will be challenged and supported to grow in integrity and honor. This will improve their career, probably resulting in great job prospects and job satisfaction.
Dealing with People is Tricky
To pull off a project, you have to work with people. And since people have their own best interests and distractions in mind, it’s sometimes important to acknowledge what we’re all here for, even if that means assuming that everyone’s motives are honorable and good and aligned with the project.
Here are a few assumptions you have to make — and boldly assert — to insist that everyone be on the same page.
#1 You Define Team Goals
Remember, when you’re about the right things, you can make your judgments with confidence. So assume that people want to serve the team goals and hold them accountable for it.
For most people, when you treat them like they’re an adult, they feel respected. And if their motives are good, then you’re making an ally by treating them well. And allies make teams. You give people credit when you assume they’re a part of the team, and that they can maintain a professional focus when working on the project. Not only that, but this assumption makes other assumptions possible.
What This Looks Like
From you: Treat them as if they already know how to act. Keep a relaxed, low tone of voice. Don’t show disappointment. Treat them like a partner in leading the team — in their own capacity — and good people will want to step up.
From them: They want to show they can be trusted on the project by others. So they should show up on time and get their work done and talk to you first if there’s a problem, rather than going over your head or sabotaging an important business relationship.
What This Doesn’t Mean
This doesn’t mean putting up with hypocrisy. Rewarding good behavior — not good intentions — goes a long way. Do they do what they say? And when they don’t, do they make meaningful moves — that you can see — to prove their growth? If you make it easy for people to talk their way out of bad behavior, you’re setting your culture up to reward penitent words and bad actions. You’re setting it up to reward hypocrisy.
Remember, there are people with good intentions and there are “terrorists.” Think about how to handle a military dictator in another country. Appeasement doesn’t make them good people, it only helps build trust with people who might align with your goals.
It also doesn’t mean getting mad at people. You don’t ever have to get mad if you know how to take care of the problem and are disciplined and committed enough to do it. So have a plan for discipline and be ready to calmly and helpfully implement it.
#2 You Advocate for Client Goals
Team goals only take us part of the way. There’s a higher purpose, and that’s service to the client. We have to assume it’s right that everyone taking a paycheck is actually working toward the goals of the client.
What This Looks Like
So let’s say you’re on a project, and another contractor is doing things that conflict with the client’s goals. You don’t go to the client, but you go to the contractor or the superintendent.
What This Doesn’t Mean
Even though we all care about the client getting what they pay for, it doesn’t mean we over-invest in things like materials or time. This is especially true when it comes to what doesn’t belong to us. For example, employees can be very generous with materials that don’t belong to them. So employees shouldn’t give away better materials or promising things they can’t pay for. That’s stealing. But remember, they’re probably not thinking of it that way.
#3 You Help Them Envision Future Tenant Needs
The hardest thing to quantify — and, therefore, the hardest to want to be good at — is quantifying future tenant needs. Now, we don’t get to decide the scope, but we can decide how competently things are done. And this is where integrity really shows, since it might not affect anyone until a year down the road. Because if they can’t see it in enough time to complain, is it really a problem?
This shows a subtle, but very real character problem. In other words, if we won’t get caught, is it a big deal?
What This Looks Like
We prioritize things that can be seen over things that can’t be seen. This means we’re performing, rather than really serving. And there’s a difference. The Greek word for actor is from where we get our word “hypocrite.” And that’s apt because that’s exactly what it causes: hypocrisy.
An example is knowing that a floor joist has a problem, but you’d need to rip out some subflooring to get at it, and it can’t likely be detected during inspection anyway, so you don’t do it.
What This Doesn’t Mean
This doesn’t mean we make our own decisions about what the future tenant needs. That’s decided by the scope of the project.
Our job is simply to make sure the work is done in a way that maintains safety and a basic level of quality.
Balancing is Easy When Everyone’s Moving the Same Direction
Leadership means pointing the way and making sure everyone understands their role. You have every right — and even the duty — to expect everyone on the project to have their needs aligned with the needs of the project, the team, and even the future tenant. And if they don’t, it’s their fault and their problem, not yours. But if you can set the vision and goals for the project, holding everyone accountable to those goals, you won’t just have a great project, but you’ll be building a strong team of capable professionals who now feel even stronger for having served with you.
It’s hard to find an honest, trustworthy business. But it doesn’t take an expensive consultant to start the process of strengthening your business’ trustworthiness. Honesty is free. And it builds character by forcing you to deal with your shortcomings rather than hiding from them, giving you a business you can be proud to run. And although honesty is “free,” it takes commitment to exercise. So let’s talk about why it’s worth it and a simple process for making it happen today.
Dishonesty Cripples Success
Dishonesty — whether it’s small or almost imperceptible or outright lying — prevents success and potential for success. It hides your faults from the light, so you can’t see them in order to work on them. And workarounds are usually not ideal, especially when it comes to the integrity of your business. It makes you timid, so people don’t ask too many questions or begin to act and create things that could enrich your career and your relationships. It pushes away genuine relationships that would otherwise help you grow.
So dishonesty costs you, both in intentional and unintentional ways, prevents us from growing as a company (and as individuals as well). Now, let’s talk about how to use honesty as a tool to build your business using people you have around you every week.
Step 1: Build your team
Most of us have people around us — our team members, managers, co-owners, and friends — who can help us deal with things. The first step is to figure out who you’re talking to. So who should be on your team?
Defining your inner circle is one of the most important decisions you make. It may be someone you regularly see on Sunday or at an event. Or maybe it’s someone you’ve known for a while. Either way, you want someone you can trust to be able to give you advice and for whom you can return the favor when they need help.
Here are the requirements for someone in your inner circle:
- They need to care about you. They have to care about you on a personal level. It can’t be someone who has ulterior motives…at least with the topic you’re discussing with them. You may respect your father-in-law, but you can’t expect his objective input in a decision you may make to move (read: move his grandchildren) across the country for a business opportunity.
- They need to want your success. They have to selflessly want you to succeed. Some people are a little jealous, even if you can trust them in other areas. Watch out for people who compare themselves with others and make sure they don’t see you as competition.
- They need to understand the vision…the picture of the person you want to be and the company you’re trying to build. If you’re trying to build a lifestyle business — where you spend more time with family — it doesn’t help to get advice from someone who’s advice is constantly pushing you toward never-ending growth.
- They need to be perceptive. This often means listening and asking a few questions before giving advice. So if an experienced person fails to listen, but would rather tell you how he did it, watch out. You want someone who is willing to understand your situation before dispensing advice too quickly.
Everyone (including employees). This is the second tier of accountability that comes from your employees — the ones who care about the right things, anyway. You can’t count on your employees to be devoted to your company, especially if they’re not an owner. But there should be a level of loyalty and buy-in. This usually means they care about your values, they have a realistic understanding of business and they believe that, as someone taking a paycheck, it’s up to them to live those values out on your behalf.
- Agree with your values. So if they don’t care about your values or don’t understand them, they might not be qualified to speak to your values. They won’t point out hypocrisy (because they don’t care) unless they just don’t like you. And they won’t find ways to build your values into the company’s processes.
- Understand business. If they don’t know how business works or don’t respect the value of free people making deals and keeping their word, they might have less-practical and more idealistic ideas. These people might need more experience before you can really trust them. And if you invite their feedback and never take any of their advice, they could feel a little used.
- They feel responsible to live out your values. This means they put extra effort and thought into how they represent you every day. It’s these people who will sense a problem when what they tell a customer is at odds with the reality, and they’ll tell you. Why? Because they value honor and don’t want to put up with hypocrisy. And they’d like to work someplace that doesn’t cause them to constantly feel they’re acting in a way that’s incongruent with values, both yours and theirs.
Step 2: Paint the Target
Do you have your circle? Tell them who you want to be as a company. Now that you have your people selected, how do they make you better? What do you need to do?
Define: What is the company you want to have?
What are your values? How do you do things? What are your strengths and weaknesses, and what does that mean for how you operate?
Who’s the leader you want to be, in your eyes?
- Who can lead that type of company? The one you just described above?
- What are your shortcomings?
- What are your strengths?
- What kinds of problems are you facing in getting your company where it needs to go?
How do your values compare with real life?
- In contracts and the bidding process
- Employee relationships
- What else?
Step 3: Practice Honesty
Begin practicing truth in your daily activities. Because life is your proving ground.
Where to do it:
- In business deals: Where are you stretching the truth?
- In business practices: What do you hope nobody finds out?
- In how you feel: What, about you, are you embarrassed about? Keep in mind that you could be embarrassed by things that aren’t really bad because of how we sometimes over-blame. This is why you need an outside opinion.
Show your work:
- To your inner circle. Talk about how you do business: what complaints people have against you, what you hope they don’t find out and things you see as failures.
- To your team. Don’t focus on yourself with blame, but talk with each other without assigning guilt. Ask for help and for ideas in executing real improvement.
Focus on change: Instead of lying, hiding, or stretching the truth, change your behavior.
Americans spend tons of money on therapists to solve the problem of dishonesty. They’re not honest with themselves. This spreads to family, business and other relationships. But a commitment to honesty can put the truth right in front of you, in all its ugliness and clarity. Let honesty be your coach. And then accept its tough lessons, learn quickly, and build up the character that will give you confidence and a spine of steel.
Communication is easy when you’re telling people what they want to hear. But when you’re working on something bigger than yourself, with a team of people, communication must be constructive as well. This means it needs to challenge people, as well as supporting them, in order to cause them to grow and the project to be a success. So let’s talk about how to communicate with character.
Goals Refine Us
Goals grow people together. When you share a common goal, it unites people. But it also requires us all to put forth effort, change how we do things, listen, and learn from each other. This means a proper point of view on a project not only leads to a more successful project but stronger team members as well.
And because communication is more than just a signal being exchanged, there’s skill involved. In fact, people who are chosen to communicate on a radio — think of military radio operators or air traffic controllers — must be calm enough in a stressful situation to communicate clearly and understand what the other person is saying. And the information the two people exchange needs to be helpful for the goal and something the person on the other end can absorb and understand.
So what gets in the way? Here are a few examples:
- A team member gets offended, possibly from a feeling of being left out or disrespected.
- A leader fails to challenge people out of fear of their reaction.
- A team member misunderstands the goal.
- A leader fails to properly describe the goal and the way to get there.
The solution: Don’t get offended easily, and don’t lose focus on the goal. Instead, communicate with character.
Communicate with Character
Communicating with character is less about communication and more about character and caring about the right things. It’s more than just not lying. It means actively building relationships, building an understanding of the project goal, and tying it all together, helping to rally everyone around that goal. When this happens:
- Everyone is clear on why they’re doing what they’re doing (not just the task, but the purpose as well).
- A clear goal helps people make decisions closer to the work, because they now know how to make good compromises when problems occur (e.g. is it better to wait for the shipment of supplies for this job or to cancel and order with a new supplier)?
- People can’t make as many excuses when the goal is clear. Clear goals add pressure to grow, rather than make excuses. Goals magnify our areas of weakness and so we can grow through it.
Most times, we’re talking about communication because there’s a problem. It could be an obstacle set up by nature, by another person, or the person you’re talking to could be creating their own problem. But processes represent solutions to problems you know about; only people can solve new problems. It takes imagination to solve new problems. People look at things from interesting angles that you just don’t have time for. They can plan and implement solutions, again, saving you time. So if you’re communicating with them, it gives you a way to help them, whether they’re your boss, another trade (e.g. carpenter, plumber), or an employee.
#1 Define the Problem
If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions. -Albert Einstein
Communicating with character means you’re using communication to build toward a goal with other people, even a building project. Many problems are easy to solve. The ones that are left — and the ones most people talk about — require us to go back to basics, even if it’s just for a minute. Real problem solving takes a three-pronged approach that’s consistent with Edison’s approach above.
- What’s the perceived problem? How would we describe the problem? What’s causing it (make sure you ask this until you arrive at the root cause)?
- Why is it a problem? How high are the stakes? How does it affect the project (is it worth solving)?
- Once the problem is solved, what does the solution look like? What are the steps, starting with step one?
#2 Connect with the People
People need two things in a communication/negotiation/problem-solving interaction: they need to be heard and they need to be included. And, as we’ll talk about below, this isn’t about pandering to someone’s alternative “truth,” but rather making them feel like contributing members of the team.
They need to feel/be heard
Sometimes, people need to feel understood. Lots of times, this is because they value your opinion, and they just want you to understand they’re not a dummy or that they’re smart. But other times, they want to make sure you understand the situation correctly. In either case, it helps to repeat back to them what you think the problem is and how they’ll solve it.
They need to be a part of the process
We can’t leave people behind.
- If he’s an employee, unless you’re pushing them out of the team, this is a chance to let them work.
- If it’s a partner, she needs to be able to do her job and own it.
- If it’s a project manager who’s just asking for your help, you’re the guide, helping them think through things.
So unless there’s an emergency, there’s hardly any reason to leave someone out.
This is where character comes in big as you exert influence on the team’s direction in a way that focuses people not on themselves, but on the goal of the project.
The Project’s Needs Come First (Mostly)
People need to remember (and be reminded) that the project comes first. And you need to be able to sniff out people who don’t share that philosophy. This is challenging because you need to do two things at the same time: create a calming influence that allows them to admit it when their concern is not with their job and help them see that it’s the project’s needs come first.
Ever watch the show “Cops?” They’re great at this. They make it sound like everything’s gonna be okay if you just “Step out of the car for me.” You could have 5 warrants, and they know and you know that you’re going to jail. But they talk like they’re just doing a routine thing.
Be like a cop: soothing.
People need to be challenged.
The workplace is a great place to build character. You’re all working toward a similar goal, and you need each other’s help. So if someone isn’t pulling their weight, everyone else exerts pressure on them to step it up. If a contractor isn’t showing up on time, there’s accountability. This builds professionalism, character, and a sense of commitment. So when problems arise, and someone needs to get up and fix it, it’s not always easy; they have to sometimes dig deep. But it’s this kind of challenge that allows the workplace to build stronger people. And it’s for all of us to provide that leadership focus that helps people grow along with a project.
Communication Builds People and Successful Projects.
Most projects in the workplace serve people, which makes it more important than you and your wants. An apartment complex you’re building provides space for people to live and an office gives them a place to work and earn an income. Not only is this a huge contribution to an economy, but it grows our business and it gives us the opportunity to get better at our work and our communication. It demands excellence from us. But if we can’t communicate in a way that builds character as well as buildings, we’ll be missing out on productivity, getting the most out of each person, and giving them a chance to contribute meaningfully.
So communicate for project success, and never forget that you’re doing this to help others grow, both those you’re working with and those who will benefit from the project you’re building.
Field Verified, Inc. is based in Gilbert, Arizona and was formed by in 2013 with a team of architects, engineers and construction professionals. Our goal was to focus solely on the building envelope field to provide the highest level of value to our clients. We feel that this value is provided through our ability to identify issues early and provide practical solutions. Our in-house testing divisions allows us to maintain the expertise and experience our clients demand in all our services. At Field Verified, our field experience comes from decades spent in both the field inspection of new and existing buildings and as contractors performing the work. We are a leading-edge provider of Building Envelope Consulting & Testing Services.