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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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Resourcefulness: everybody wants it in their employees, but few know how to get it. 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.
You’re not like every other company. But if your employees don’t know that, their job performance will be whatever they think is acceptable, leading to inconsistent work and a hit-and-miss approach to working relationships. But if you take the lead in defining what makes you different, you can exert a higher degree of influence on your employees and the work they perform. Let’s talk about 3 ways you can do this.
It goes like this. Companies who don’t teach their employees how to think about the work — what good work looks like and how to think about it — seem uncoordinated and awkward. And it usually shows in their work. Even if it’s acceptable work, you might find arguments between employees or inconsistent work or repeated work. All these things amount to inefficiencies and poor job satisfaction.
Let’s see if you notice any of the following:
- The owners of the company don’t realize what makes them special.
- Each employee seems left to guess at acceptable levels of quality of work, armed only with the experience they had at the last company they were at.
- Employees disagree about how to do the work, with neither really understanding how the other person could be so wrong.
- Employees have a lot of unnecessary, back-and-forth communication to talk about simple things.
These problems could find their cause in poorly communicated standards. But what does it look like to bring your team on board to your definition of how you do business? Let’s talk about values, knowing and caring about who you serve, and a basic standard of work that characterizes your company and puts everyone on the same page.
So how do you orient people to what’s important, giving them a consistent “why” to always aim toward? You do it by leading them to agreement on these three critical areas: your values, your love for those you serve, and the standards of quality you expect.
The beauty is that these questions don’t just tell you why, but each one supports the others.
Values define the contents of your heart and what’s valuable to you. What kind of person are you as you’re serving others? The answers to this question infuse your work with meaning.
Values make everything you do make sense to those around you. If they understand why you want something done a certain way then they’ll understand it a lot better. So even if they don’t agree with you and your values, they’ll still be able to align with you, or at least understand how to make something that will work for you.
This reduces misunderstanding and excessive, time-consuming communication in getting tasks done. And if people see how it comports with your service of others, it will build your brand.
What If You Don’t Define Values?
If you don’t purposefully define your values, your people will be unsure of the kinds of solutions to problems you’d accept, and they won’t know how to conduct themselves in a way that reflects the values of the company.
For instance, for many people, practicality is a value. They might short-change additional areas of quality and, instead, focus on delivering work that meets specifications. They might even think they’re doing you a favor by saving you money. But this could clash with your values of craftsmanship and a job well. You’ll have a conflict since your values and their values don’t lead to the same kind of work.
And this could happen all over your company, and it can take all kinds of forms you may not even realize.
Actions You Can Take
So how do you bring alignment in this area? You lead a conversation about values.
Define values. If you have your values defined, have your employees show up for a meeting and talk about one of them.
- Show them the word, but not the definition.
- Ask them to define those values.
- Ask them for action statements that reflect the value. “If our value is x, that means we do y.”
- Let them disagree with you, because that’s how you hear what they’re really thinking and can guide them to agreement.
Do a values/actions audit. In this exercise, you ask them — after you’ve defined the values — what are three things that your company does that doesn’t seem to comport with its own values. Then ask them about three things your company does that best demonstrates its values.
Nothing’s as motivating as love. Companies that care about its clients and their success, find ways to connect with them, share in their victories, and work in such a way that shows that friendship.
We all think we know who we serve. So why is this so important? Because it’s not just by knowing who they are, but fostering and developing a desire to serve them well. And if your team’s on-board with that — if your clients and their successes matter to each of your employees — your employees will pour themselves into it, because they’re doing it for someone they know and like.
This really has a few aspects:
- Your employees need the ability to care. This happens at hiring.
- You need to tell them to care.
- You need to help them understand why your work matters to them.
If you do this well, your employees might start showing more patience, more empathy, and more of a desire to see them succeed.
If you have skill, good workflows and you care about the people you serve, you’re creating your own monopoly in your industry.
What If You Don’t?
If you don’t define your customers and foster a real friendship and desire to see them succeed, your employees might start seeing them as nameless and faceless people who they have no connection with.
It’s important to remember the many conflicts your employees experience in their lives. They have requirements for quality and performance, and then they also have distractions in other parts of their lives. So if you can’t focus them on loving the people they serve, the level of work and quality of engagement, your clients’ experience will depend more on the kind of day your employee is having rather than a consistent kind of experience. And that mixed experience will make it difficult to fully and completely build a continuity of service.
After all, this isn’t just being nice to people; it’s seeing how you’re helping people in every part of your work.
Actions You Can Take
So some quick points.
- Ask your team who their favorite customer is and why?
- Ask your team to talk about what are some challenges that you have with some of your clients?
- Talk about the situation of the client and create empathy for the client and then remind your staff why you serve people what you do the effect that it has on their business and on their lives. How can your work and actions help?
- And then list the things that your company does and why it matters. So separate what it does from why it matters and then connect them, so everyone can see the relationships clearly.
These kinds of conversations will help you to love and serve those who you serve in your market.
Your quality of work becomes your outlet for the desire to see them succeed, infusing your work with meaning.
Why Define Quality Standards?
Defined results show your employees what your values and your concern for your client look like in real terms. It brings everyone on board and provides a measuring stick so that your team can agree.
A standard or a range of acceptable performance for your company, combined with good values and a strong sense that the work you’re doing really matters to someone you care about (your customer), allows you to reach a level of quality that’s beyond most of your competition.
What If You Don’t Define Results?
If you lack a standard of work, it will be hard to troubleshoot or hold people accountable when you fail, because you haven’t clearly defined failure. And you’ll constantly find yourself returning to quality issues because you’re investing an inordinate amount of time and energy communicating with each individual, rather than defining it once, for everyone.
Actions You Can Take
Here are a few ways to start building standards, even if you don’t have them yet.
After-Action Review: When the military runs an operation, it runs reviews that take place after action. They like to find out what they can learn from what just happened, even if it was a good result.
- Ask everyone to list what could have gone better. At least 3 things.
- Ask them to list what went well. At least 3.
- Talk through the reasons for those things and build the outcomes into your processes and standards.
Minimum standards approach: Review what you think are the minimum standards of the industry with a team brainstorm.
- Make everyone list all the requirements for your type of job.
- Where can you outperform the competition? Rank them based on that.
- Create your spec requirements (standard operating procedures) by defining the minimum level of standards for each category.
- Pick 3 you’ll overperform in and define them as well. Hint: they might comport with your values.
Standards are how your values and your love for your customer interact with the real world. Define them, and you’ll show everyone what your commitment looks like in real terms.
So how do you orient your team towards shared goals? You lead your team to agree in their hearts and in their minds about your values as a company, the desire to serve your clients, and a standard of performance that shows your commitment to those values. Talk about these three things with your team and they’ll be convinced that you care about it, and you’ll be working from the same script.
Do this right, and they won’t have to bother you with questions all the time because you will have provided them a standard, and an explanation of why you do what you do and for whom.
And when they have a question or a problem out in the field, and you’re not there, they’re much better equipped to approximate the correct answer given the standards of work, the care that you have for your customers, and the values that the company stands for.
Some call it attention to detail. Others call it skill or pride in a job well-done. But a complete and well-executed job doesn’t happen by accident. Let’s talk about the foundational aspect of mastery. Those things that, if you don’t have them, will make your work deliver unpredictable results.
This article started as a piece praising attention to detail, since that’s one of our values. But it quickly became apparent that attention to detail is built on other things. In other words, it would be difficult to expect a newbie to notice detail when they’re still learning the job. But the quicker they learn the job, the quicker they can reach a state of mastery.
Why Does Mastery Matter?
So what does it mean to build a culture of mastery, and why does it matter? If you lack competence in your culture — if your culture doesn’t have within it the ability to develop character, knowledge and an organized mind in each of its employees — mistakes result.
So how do you build a culture of mastery?
The Problem: Prioritizing Resources
Nobody wants to suck at their job. But with competing priorities, we all feel the strain of limited resources. We can’t always know where to put our attention. We need to rest, eat and sleep. We can’t work all the time. Even if we could, the sheer number of problems would expose the limitation of our mental abilities.
We just can’t think and learn fast enough.
If we had unlimited cognitive abilities, we might be able to get to a high level of detail right away, even as a novice, without knowing much about the topic at all. Think of how much we could get done! But that’s not the case. And since it’s not, let’s turn our attention to the reality.
It starts with focus. If you don’t really know what you’re doing and you don’t — as a company — focus on an area of competence, mastery could take a very long time at the company level, and at the individual employee level. And if you lack focus, the value and price premium you can demand from the market probably won’t grow much.
Focus, on the other hand, gives you the ability to dig deep, to build the experience, to form processes that make it easy to maintain quality standards and notice mistakes early in any process.
Focus builds experience. When you’ve done a job over and over again, you develop process memory, able to predict what a job well-done should look like and quality problems stand out like a sore thumb to you.
Even more than that, you’ve wrestled with the extremes. You’ve seen time, stress and weather take their toll and you know what your materials can take and what they can’t.
You’ve gone through the mental exercise of creating rules for your own processes, and have seen those processes fail.
It’s like when you fight the same enemy. Over time, you probe and you continually try to understand how that enemy fights. His tendencies, his strengths, his weaknesses. And that’s why experience matters. Because experience gives us that testing and allows us to know where to look, and where we likely to need to focus our attention.
And so, with experience comes the ability to focus attention on the right details.
Interesting how focus gives you experience, which allows you more focus. It’s like compounding interest. Invest in focus and get the experience that compounds your focus, saving you time and mental energy.
Belief might sound touchy-feely, but without faith that a certain level of quality matters and is expected, we won’t put forth the effort. Remember, we have competing priorities, we might have stress in our personal lives, fatigue or health issues. That’s the case with even the best of us. And if my employee doesn’t understand that I care about quality, they won’t double-check when that little voice in their head tells them something’s wrong. They’ll ignore it and move on to the next job.
So we have to believe it’s important, or we’ll ignore it and move on.
Leadership drives everything we talked about until now. It creates that accountability from the top, and it works in several ways. But one of them is that the one who signs the checks, if he or she is paying attention to detail, then everyone else knows it’s what matters.
This removes the tension of an employee wanting to do a great job, and maybe you, as a leader, even say you care about quality, but when employees try to do a good job, you rush them to the next thing. So they realize that the boss doesn’t want them “wasting time” getting to know the work, trying things and getting really familiar with the level of quality that’s possible.
Employees don’t just want to keep their jobs. They also realize they’re getting paid, and they owe you that that time. So convince them; demonstrate that it’s important.
Don’t be afraid to set the values, and let mastery be one of them. After all, you, as a leader, set standards and demonstrate that you care about quality work that comes from a culture of mastery. Do this and your employees will see that you’re willing to pay for it. And when they see you put money (read: the cost of their time) on quality, they get the message. And they get it real quick.
It Doesn’t Hurt to Love and Serve
Not to get all touchy-feely, but it helps if you’re invested in the people you’re serving.
This provides the motivation and context. It wraps everything up, giving all of our work a reason. Go back to the beginning, when you first got into this line of work, and remember why. This is a craft, not an assembly line. And although we’ve gotten more efficient, if you create a culture that encourages and rewards excellence in work in order to love and serve others, you’ve created a uniting principle that everyone can get behind.
Because If we love others, our attention to detail takes on a purpose.
And although the limitations of our own humanity, our inability to focus for long periods of time, a lack of experience, and then a constant temptation to cut corners all threaten to pull us off-track, we find focus and stability in a desire to love and serve, making the results of our own work more consistent and growing employees who are masters of their craft.
If It Were Easy, Anyone Could Do It
As a leader, you can create a culture of mastery. But it’s not easy. It takes good leadership that defines quality and rewards attention to detail. It takes an industry focus that helps your company develop processes and experience to make you really good in an area. And it takes the belief that it’s all important. Then you’ll be able to create a culture that can go out there and serve at its best, a company that creates masters, and a company that you can be proud of.
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.