As contractors we work so very hard to treat our clients better than they have ever been treated before. We watch the way we speak to them, we follow through with promises and we thank them repeatedly for their patronage. But, do we do the same to our own colleagues? Is the way we speak, at times, to the trades we work with and the people around us on a job site different than we speak to our clients? At times are we short on patience when we should maybe work a little harder to understand? Renovations are challenging prospects for anyone in the loop, let alone the men and women doing the work. Considering a few simple things can lead to even greater success, even in the best of companies!
The things that motivate people are as individual as what they pack in their lunch, but there are five things that I have noticed, since I started my journey as a contractor and business owner, a lot of them learned in the classroom dealing with kids….lots of sensitive, creative, wonderful, moody, adolescent, kids. God bless them.
#1 False Praise: One of my favorite quotes from the Novel “Word Nerd” is when the main character laments, “My teacher told me we are all special, which is just another way of saying we are all the same.” Carpentry and renovation is a good deal of know-how and constant, problem solving and hence, learning process. Nobody gets it right ALL the time. If someone misses a step or follows a wrong procedure, don’t waste time tap dancing around the issues, step up and tell the team, “we need to fix this and what can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen again”. Kids and people in general see right through the “start with the positive” crap. Watch the tone change when you “start with the obvious” and treat people like grown ups. Save the praise for when things are going right, and then keep it coming!
#2 Mangled Manners: It would be a rare occasion for me NOT to thank my trades and skilled team on a daily basis for their hard work. Results be damned, I still haven’t had an employee since 1986 that didn’t work their hardest for me and my team. In fact, one long term employee used to ask me, everyday, “Is there anything else you need Johnny…” We love “Thank you’s in my classroom and in my workplace. See how many times you can THANK one of your team members or employees per day. While your at it, thank any sub trades and a client if they are around.
#3 Talk that Cat Down: I learned along time ago, you can’t make a cat come down from a tree by yelling at it like an old grump! People who are abrasive or disrespectful to others in conversation, are communication killers. Talking in a “soothing” tone to one another and speaking to people like you would like to be spoken to is the key! If they are late or struggling, ask if you can help with anything instead of jumping all over their sloppy time keeping. Who knows, maybe next time they’ll be early!
#4 Bus Dodging: Classic classroom behavior leaking onto the job site once again. “He did it, She was late, They didn’t send the right parts, Nobody told me we were building this deck with wood….” Allowing each other to throw one another under the bus is a time honored tradition in most work places. Typically linked to individuals needs to be validated and fear of failure, it is actually pretty easy to bring out into the open and eliminate. However, this one gets out of hand and, trust me, NOBODY is going to want to lead the train! Sit down and make sure everyone knows the difference between ownership of their duties and being some sort of omnipotent super hero that can see through walls and has one lazer eye and you should be off to a good start at putting this one to rest.
#5 Hear no Evil Speak No Evil: This one reminds me of this brass casting of these three monkeys I used to get in trouble for taking off the mantel and playing with in my living room as a kid. Basically this is the premise. Like those three brass monkeys, you can’t have an environment where you just exist and say nothing and hear nothing. You have to encourage your staff to communicate with each OTHER as well as with YOU. Employees must be encouraged to speak their minds, often and openly. Just because you are “The Boss” does not make you a mind reader. As well, just because you show up for work each day does not mean you are “happy” in your job and are satisfied with your position. SPEAK! LISTEN! and amazing things can happen!