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Your Moral Clarity Makes Things Better for Everyone

Dec 14, 2020

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.

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