Fascinating and Motivating- Gauging Emotional Energy

As we gain experience, that which is “fascinating and motivating” changes. What may have been so at one time can become “just ok,” or even “annoying and frustrating.” It’s alright to move on and move forward into the next “fascinating and motivating.” This takes awareness.

While doing so, we can’t forget that our “frustration” with something now is likely someone else’s new opportunity (just like it was for us prior.) We can delegate it, or better yet, hand it over entirely to another colleague or recruit, someone wanting to step into their next “fascinating and motivating.”

It is liberating to recognize this, and to assess our priorities by gauging our emotional energy. Step back and audit what is exciting, what is motivating, where the value is best provided to clients and staff, what increases emotional energy, and what drains it. Re-prioritize, amend, delegate, delete. Stay present to coach, advise, support, and help those to whom we hand off the work,

What Time Is It?

What time and season is it for you?

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace. “

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Be aware of the time, and the times.

Don’t Always Listen

“I don’t need all the calculations right now, just get me some answers.”

“Don’t send me the proposal, I just need you to get going. I am sure your scope and fee will be just fine.”

“No need to send a change order, just get going on the work, we’ll shake it out later.”

“We don’t need any further context or background, just get us the financial numbers and we’ll send it to the credit analyst.”

These are real statements made to me in the course of business. They also have provided excellent learning experiences.

These and similar statements may sound good on the surface, or perhaps even provide a measure of comfort if we don’t think more deeply. It may lead to us thinking, “no worries, sounds like we’ve got good affirmation.”

But don’t “listen” to the person in these ways. They may mean well, but it’s not good for business or relationship. It doesn’t create clarity, transparency or accountability.

Do the due diligence, send the work product, share the full picture, write the proposal, send the change order, provide the background along with the numbers. Be clear. Document. Share the context. Not doing so will likely lead to some form of negative consequence. Doing so never will. You’ll get answers up front. It will create more peace and reduce risk.

Every client, vendor, or partner has an expectation whether it is stated or not. Putting things in writing and communicating clearly threshes out the expectations. It either aligns, resulting in affirmation, or it exposes the differences and allows the opportunity to re-align, or to move in another direction.

Not listening in these regards is a matter of respecting the other person and ourselves by establishing defined boundaries. “People like us do things like this,” or “People like us do business in this manner.”

Professionals act professionally, and not by whatever whim or request that may come from others. Flexibility is important, but not outside of established standards.

Let’s keep learning, growing, defining. Let’s stay humble. Listen, monitor, own what we can own and manage what we can manage. Let our “yes be yes and our no be no.” Clarity brings more predictability and reduces stress.

What I’m Doing Now

Working a lot. I have been super busy with the totality of work at www.wheatonsprague.com. The business has been very dynamic, as has been the market. This requires constant focus and awareness. We’ve made many changes, the biggest being the implementation of the business operating system known as EOS Worldwide. I am in the position of CEO (Visionary in EOS terms) and also running the Building Envelope Consulting Division at present. We’re experiencing growth there, and I am enjoying bringing more enterprise definition, process, scale, and continuity to it. We are also growing in our other division and various practice segments. EOS provides an A.D.D. idea guy like me a clear operational structure to work within and a path for creating and operating with definition. I like the structure of it, and we are getting results.

Exercising. I am continuing my pattern of exercise, which I have done for most of my life. Right now that means walking every morning, then alternating various forms of resistance work daily, upper body, lower body, core strength, flexibility exercises. The pattern is working and it’s just part of whom I am. This is seven days per week. I only miss if there’s some extenuating circumstance, but I always do something every day. I am working my body in some way about 350 to 360 days per year

Journaling daily. I read the bible daily, write out an observation, an action, an application to whatever I am studying or reading. I also monitor my energy, sleep, nutrition, and take a brief inventory of emotional, relational, spiritual, physical, mental inventory and assess if I am trending positive or negative. It takes adjusting daily to stay on a solid course in increasing measure.

Podcasting; The Creating Structure Podcast https://creatingstructure.buzzsprout.com is a high priority for me, and one of the reasons why the blog has not been populated regularly. The podcast has a strong, consistent audience, and is growing in popularity. Much positive feedback has been received. People look for it, wait for it, and affirm it. Vocationally, this is my “public service” work at the moment. I don’t need to do it for money. I do it because I enjoy it and because I seek to provide content that is encouraging, interesting, and of value in some form. Everyone should know what they do for “free” and for “fee.” I do engineering and consulting work for “fee” (for money.) I provide solutions to clients. I do podcasting for “free,” at least for now. There may come a time when that changes, but now is not that time.

More on the daily exercising; I am walking every day in the early morning. I see the sun come up almost every day. I walk the same path every morning. Some may find that boring, but there’s a hidden beauty and adventure in it; I get to observe the patterns and changes along the path every day. The creativity and beauty is in the observation of the little incremental differences experienced every day. The extra leaf that falls to the ground. The small game path and trails. The deer that like certain locations. Trees that have fallen. The smell of late summer, and the coming autumn. Being outside every day bring more clarity to me on the cycles of days, weeks, months, seasons, patterns. It’s a fascinating experience.

The Garden; I have stepped back from my work in our community garden plot this year. It’s been painful, but there have been too many other priorities in my personal life, so it’s the right thing to do. I haven’t stewarded the plot the way it really should be done. It has been more of a triage exercise. I am reconsidering the commitment to the community garden and what the context might be next spring and summer. I have my seed cache already, but still need to decide what is an appropriate investment for this life season. I’d love to have an abundant, sustainable, fully functional organic garden on my own property now. More on that later. I do have, and have enjoyed, a flower garden I groomed, expanded and have been working for 2 years. This one is at my home. It has Zinnias, Marigolds, and Cosmos, all heirloom seeds. Most of the seed was harvested from last year’s flowers and saved over the winter. I like having a place for pollinators to come and to enjoy. It is connected to a long patch of goldenrod that is thriving with many types of native bees, butterflies, dragonflies. I find it meaningful to have the color and to support the pollinating community.

I’ll leave it at this for now. It’s been a while, so I’ll be back with another post soon. Thanks for reading and being a part of this blog community

Sunday Spiritual – Easter

Just me being me on this significant day called Easter.

The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Christ, is one of the most well documented events in human history. He was executed, confirmed dead, his body made ready for burial, then placed in a guarded tomb. He was not present in the tomb on the 3rd day. This was verified. But it wasn’t just that the tomb was empty. He then appeared bodily to many, hundreds, actually. This was documented as well. He spoke to those to whom he appeared, further explained what was up, what it all meant,  how he had told them about it, that he was leaving to go back to the heavenly realm, and that he would  send the “one my Father promised,” the Holy Spirit.

The doctor, Luke, carefully records this in his letter to Theophilus, which we now call the gospel of Luke. Many chose to undertake to write an account of the life of Christ and Luke’s account stuck, along with the accounts from Matthew, Mark and John.

Here’s a brief account from the end of Luke’s letter, with direct quotes from Jesus, after he rose from the dead:

“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

You are witnesses of these things.” – Luke 24:45-48

I never knew anything about this until I was 19 years old, when I heard about it for the first time. At 24 years old it became life changing. Literally. That was when I felt such a great burning with the reality of this truth, that I had to make a commitment and follow Jesus.

It is just too good to keep bottled up. Anyone who knows me, should know that if I can be forgiven eternally and walk in peace, anyone can. I don’t deserve it, but none of us do. We’re all cracked pots. Thanks to everyone who helped along my path. There were many, some of whom may be reading this.

Personally, I dont think the questions are whether Jesus existed or not, or whether he really died or not, or really overcame death to live again or not. That’s old stuff.  I think the question is “What are we going to do about it?”

There’s another life. It’s available here and after our time has passed here. Life to life.

Happy Easter.

He is Risen. And that makes everything different.

What I’ve been Up To

My business partner and I have been very busy for the last 9 to 12 months on quite a few fronts at www.wheatonsprague.com and affiliates, so here’s an update on some of what’s going on.

EOS

We’ve implemented a new operating system known as The Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS.) It’s built on a Visionary – Integrator (V/I) relationship with a Leadership team. The “visionary” (Me-“CEO” for us) is the “big idea” person, big relationships, innovation, brand, growth. The “rainmaker.” The Integrator (President and COO for us, Richard Sprague) manages the business, P & L, oversees the leadership team. The “gatekeeper.” It’s built on LMA (lead, manage, account), clarity, Level 10 Leadership meetings, and evaluating placing people in positions under the acronym “GWC” (get it, want it, capacity for it.) There’s no hiding in EOS. It’s all visible, connected, and results driven. People report scorecard values that are developed by the leadership team to asess the health of the business, the department, the project, etc. Meetings are substantive and get traction. I’ve cut my internal business meeting time by 3x to about 6 hours per week.

What has it led to?

We defined as a leadership team our Core Purpose, Core Niche, Core Focus, Core Values. It was hard work, but very gratifying and unifying. The core values, collaboration, integrity, client-conscious, communication, capable, are not aspirational. They are real. They are “who we are” as people and as an organization. This clarifies hiring, staff retention, annual reviews, client types, and more. Our Core Purpose (our “why”) is to Enable Facades that Inspire. Our core niche is engineering, design, science, and consulting for building facades. We also defined our ideal client demographic and psychographic. All of this was done as a leadership team with an implementer. It’s not a “panacea.” The work has to be done. The topics dealt with have to be relevant to the need. But EOS provides a format for a path to sustainable, self managed, growing business not dependent on ownership alone or a charismatic leader playing “hero ball.” We’ve tried different forms or operating systems and EOS is our choice long term. Nothing else has made as much sense as EOS.

What about Creating Structure?

So, I have this registered service mark and brand named “Creating Structure” which is no longer part of our core purpose statement. We still own the brand name. My Podcast still bears the name, and will stay as such. Creating Structure dates back to the start of the company, when our primary purpose was viewed more as structural engineers and designers doing facades, building structures, forensics in a broader manner. But it was time for a change. The new core purpose “Enabling Facades that Inspire” will take us a long way on our journey. At heart, this is who we are- curtain wall, facade, enclosure, architectural component engineers, designers, consultants, scientists. BUT with owning the brand name Creating Structure it gives me and us options as we consider other forms and divisions of the business (stay tuned!)

Welcome New Staff

We’ve been rebuilding our engineering department and I couldn’t be more pleased than to have Mark Enos, PE (December 2021) and Nestor Perez, PE (February 2022) back at Wheaton Sprague. Both men are insightful, pragmatic, solution oriented engineers, that align with our core values, purpose, and niche. They are a great complement to Jeff Cook, PE as our core group of PE’s. Our foundation is strong, and with our other engineers, present, and future, we can build a deeply rooted group that can deliver solutions to clients.

Our Operators

Michael Kohler is our Director of Building Envelope Engineering Operations. Mike leads, manages, and accounts for our delegated design, drawing, BIM, engineering, system design, thermal analysis, area of the business delivering work products to glazing subcontractors, exterior wall subcontractors and architectural metal fabricators.

Paul Griese, is our Director or Building Envelope Consulting Operations. Paul leads, manages and accounts for all consulting activities which includes a variety of design, analysis, investigation, QA, QC, field and shop observations, testing and forensic support and more.

John Wheaton, yours truly, is the Director of Marketing. This position has always been a primary focus for me and will always be linked to the visionary and external role for me whether I do the marketing work directly or through a person, team or outside resource. I also still do a lot of engineering work, support, PE review and stamp, advisement, coaching, and participation in the engineering work. I get to also now communicate with everyone in the business more as “good cop” since I have no direct reports outside of the marketing function. When “in the business” I get to help, support, coach, lead, and interact with our people. The staff in our operating divisions work for the directors. Yes, as an owner of a small privately held business I can make any call I choose if I see a problem, but it is only done with and through my partner and the leadership team.

Richard Sprague, my business partner at WSE and affilates, is President and COO. Richard “runs the business.” All the operators in all the business report to Richard. He is a fine steward, a clear thinker, and a focused gate-keeper. He makes the decisions in the business on what gets done and what does not. Richard leads the EOS L10 meetings for the leadership team. In my work “in the business” I work for him

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more of my focus and perspectives in market dynamics, trends, the Creating Structure Podcast, thoughts on results vs performance mindset, what I’m listening to, the power of LinkedIn and more

The Island

You can see it in the feet. The tan lines, the little cuts, the dirt under the toenails, the weathered soles. “Island feet.” Shoes are optional. Flip flops are the norm. Barefoot works often as well. Feet on dirt, feet on grass, feet on sand, feet in saltwater, feet on the warm deck wood. All feelings we lose in contemporary society as adults. Unrestrained feet. It’s strangely freeing. I am reminded of this every time I go to the island to spend some extended time. The roads are all dirt. There are no cars, just golf carts, fat-tired bikes, and legs for transportation.

Tee shirts are the norm. The more eclectic the better. Collared sport shirts are considered dress-up. Clothing decisions are simple. Getting dressed takes a minute or so. Shorts, shirt, flip flops, go.

Most weekends, just put on the bathing suit and water gear in the morning. No need then to change. People understand. No one really cares or judges by clothing choice anyway. It’s the island.

Islands have their own rhythm. Wind, sun, rain, tides, sunrise, sunset, fish movements, all are variables that impact the rhythm. Weather has a lot to do with it. The more remote, the more impactful these realities of nature. Sun up, sun down. What’s the wind speed? Is it a beach day or bay day?

The island I am referring to doesn’t have a bridge, so it takes work to get there. It’s only accessible by boat. When I say boat, I mean a private boat service, or your own boat, not a public ferry. So if you’re there, you’re there for a reason. For an island, the more remote, the harder to get to, the less infrastructure, the more intentional a person’s presence becomes. This creates a culture; a certain common thread. People there for a reason. Certain mindsets.

Friends get together on “island time.” Island time means “go ahead and drop in,” or “come on over.” Island time means “sometime around 4:30,” but it’s not rigid. Island time is fluid. It’s less restrictive.

“Friendly” is a big value on an island. If you don’t need someone now, you’ll need them at some point for a tool, a boat ride, flour, an extra set of hands, and for a hundred other things. Mutual dependence is normal. Community creates a much better experience.

Tired at night is really tired. Island tired. Days are long, nights are dark, fatigue settles in quickly. Physical fatigue, not just mental and emotional. The fatigue of being out in the elements, using the body heavily. The fatigue I remember as a kid in the summertime after running all day from early to late.

It’s an island. The feet know it. The body feels it. It’s simpler. It’s slower. It’s freeing. It’s life giving. Once experienced, it’s tough to live without it.

Contemporary Work

I’ve got my work gear now able to fit into one Italian leather soft shell briefcase. Its got one center compartment, a pocket in back with a zipper, and a couple storage pockets inside. It’s got a strap so I can throw it over my arm and go where I need to go. I can run my business and life from anywhere with this bag and gear. In addition, I have my mobile device. I can’t work without it. The gear includes a Dell Laptop computer, power cord, key for electronic signature, earbuds for meetings or privacy, work journal (5 × 8 Picadilly with grid paper,) positive focus journal sheets to record wins, and some coaching reference material to remind me of my focus. I also have an emergency power supply for my phone just in case I need it. I use secure wireless when out of my physical office, which is typical. If it is not available, I use my WiFi hotspot on my mobile device.

I’ve got connectivity via SharePoint, MS Teams, and the company VPN. Meetings with staff or clients are done exclusively via MS Teams, except my Creating Structure podcast which is done via Zoom.

I can write proposals, do meetings, review work products, PE seal and sign documents, and sign legal documents, all electronically. I can meet with staff, leadership team, clients, vendors, banker, accountant, lawyer, agents, all via virtual means.

If the grid goes down, if I have any connectivity issues, and I am in region, I have a physical office as a back up. Isn’t that funny to say? It used to be that remote connectivity was the back up. That’s not the case any more for me. I’ve got a great office, but at this point it’s really optional. Clients don’t care about my office. They just care about results. They care about accessibility and responsiveness. They care about value, work product delivery, schedule maintenance, and integrity.

That’s speaks well to my current position and infrastructure. It’s speaks well to our core values at http://www.wheatonsprague.com which are “communicate, integrity, collaborate, client conscious, capable.” Nothing restricts us from supporting this regardless of context or location.

In fact, for me, and for many professionals in service related businesses, the phrase, “I’m working remotely,” is irrelevant now. So is “I’m in office.” I’m either at my work or not. I’m either at my “desk,” wherever that is, or I’m not. I’m either on or off, available or not available.

I couldn’t envision 30 years ago, that there would be a day I could run a business from anywhere, work from anywhere, connect via many platforms. But here it is. It’s only going to advance and accelerate more, as long as there’s a grid, power, access to food and clean water. But that’s the subject of another blog post.

Push the edges, but take nothing for granted.

What’s your gear, office, and connectivity look like?

Imagine- Achievement vs Effort

A VISION for those in Professional Services:

The standard form of pricing professional services work among architecture and engineering firms still mostly involves some form of “gross up” cost estimating based on predicted labor investment at a defined labor rate. Even when setting fees on a “top down” basis or “cost of construction,” there’s still a “bottom up” exercise in regards to budgeting labor. Almost all firms “monetize” their time in some way by also filling out time sheets. The hours are loaded into the accounting system by project, by phase, by labor code.

Re-imagining

Let’s just imagine for a moment instead, a professional services business based only on results and value. There’s no time-sheet in the traditional sense. The business is not selling their time for a labor rate, but is focused solely on outcomes.

What is the issue? The time-sheet, recording time by increment, by labor code, by job number, on an hourly basis, is focused through the lens of effort– a justification model, “People like us focus on monetizing our time, documenting that effort, billing for it, while we hope to get the right results on the project.”

The opposite is a business focused through the lens of results- an achievement model, People like us produce results like these for fees like this.

Imagine:

  • Everyone is paid a salary – no hourly workers at any level.
  • There’s no discussion about “billable time,” only expected outcomes within time frames.
  • The focus is entirely on an achievement and income model:
    • “People like us produce results driven by value, scheduled completion dates, project milestones and deliverables that are billed at pre-determined values.”
  • The expected work week is to “complete the targeted work”- no exceptions. Work status is either “done or not done,” or “on-track or off-track.”
  • Jobs are billed based on percentage basis according to the fee and progress against the deliverable, not the time accrued.
  • There’s no accounting for time, but only revenue, only outcomes. We determine the percentage complete based on the results achieved vs the results planned. We set the fee based on the value to the market, region, project type, client.

What about Time and Materials ( T & M hourly) work, you ask? Perhaps there needs to be an exception for certain activities, but then why not charge more for T & M work than for fixed fee work. (We can’t achieve the margin a fixed fee can allow when we bill T & M.)

Alternatively, we simply stop working entirely on the effort-based model of billing for time. No T & M, ever. We work for clients that value the fixed fee model. For those clients that aren’t willing to pay a fixed fee we take the position of, “People like us produce the type of value where we believe a fixed fee is the only reasonable approach.”

Imagine this business, where everything is results, outcome, achievement driven rather than time-effort driven. Imagine piloting a project or a group that tests this approach.

Imagine quoting projects from the top down only, “We think a project like this should cost this much”. Our thinking is centered on the mindset of, ”Our business costs this much to run per year so we need to sell X-times that cost in executable backlog to be completed within this time frame”

Imagine.

Backwards

I think that we often have our values reversed; or maybe it’s just me.

Why would we want to sleep longer in the morning on our day off ? Don’t we want to get on with our free time?

Why would we want to spend the best of our energy during the work day prioritizing answering emails? Shouldn’t we save it for later, when we have used up most of our creativity on more important problems or value propositions?

Why would we consider it a win, like we’ve cheated the system, to skip a workout day, or a good nutrition day, as if we deserve it? Don’t we want to pursue health every day in some form?

Why do we prioritize the tyranny of the urgent over that which is important? Do we always want to be responding to other people’s priorities for us to the exclusion of everything else?

Flip the paradigm. Own rather than be owned. Initiate rather than just respond. Rethink the value system. Start in some measure immediately.