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

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.

“Limbo”

There’s a word and phrase in my culture that we may speak to ourselves when we feel stuck, delayed, or unable to make a clear decision- “I’m feeling like I’m in limbo.” Or “I don’t like being in limbo.”

The other day I woke up in that space. There was a conflict in my mind between two major issues that unexpectedly presented themselves, issues that required attention, disrupting the exact timing on another major event I scheduled many, many months ago.

My first thought was, “I can’t be in limbo anymore about this.”

Then I reflected. There really is no “limbo.” Limbo is a mental construct. Limbo is the tension created internally between what I want to do versus what the situation is requiring me to do now; the true NEED versus my WANT or DESIRE.

Limbo is a signal that I am not living in the moment. That I am not being present in what’s before me.

Once I made the shift, I moved out of that tension. There is no LIMBO.

I get to choose. You get to choose.

Strategies and Scripts – Client Relationship Repair

I’ve found through experience, different tones and patterns of communication that get better response than others. This is important in communicating with clients, whether in prospecting, retention, or restoration of the client relationship. In this post I focus on an example of how to communicate to clients when there’s been a fracture in the relationship; when we didn’t deliver what we promised. For example, when we fail to manage to expectation, we miss a deadline, quality suffered, our delivery wasn’t the same as outlined, our communication was poor, etc.

This form of communication and the initiation of attempting to address the issues, opening the door to listening, seeking restoration, is not intuitive. Most hide behind the failure, make excuses, or blame the client. This type of effort must be learned through caring and through practice. I’ve got all sorts of examples of various forms of writing emails or letters. I’ll provide one here for readers to use as an example, but remember to put in your own words. It has to be sincere. Cutting and pasting is not the intention. The intention is to communicate tones. I will explain why as well.

Here’s an example of one where our client just wasn’t satisfied with a tough project we did together. Before I provide the example here’s another important item. We must give the proper amount of time for things to settle before we come back to it. Pushing, badgering, and trying to reach the client too soon afterwards, will minimize or negate the very thing we are trying to do to rebuild and restore. It also can be very insincere and give the message that it’s all about us wanting to feel good rather than really providing value and care to the client.

Here’s an example (the names are random.)

Hi John

I hope all is well. I am not sure if you want to hear from me or not but I thought I’d give it a try. I saw the cool LinkedIn post from your team on the project we worked on together. We were proud to work with you and your team. I know it wasn’t all the experience you expected. The job looks great. Congratulations on a beautiful project.

If you’d like to reconnect I’d be happy to do so, whether just personally or also professionally. If there’s anything I or we can do to repair the relationship with you and your colleagues at your business, I’d be happy to lean in to that process. If there’s too much energy required for you to do that and you don’t have any interest, I understand.

It’s a great industry we work in. I am glad to have been a little part of the work you did and the time we had together.

Either way, thanks for the post on the project and thanks for giving us a shot together in 2019.

This message got an instantaneous response from the client, receiving a response within 5 minutes (less actually.) His response was “Thanks for touching base. No hard feelings here. It was a difficult job.” This was the first part of the email response. He also indicated that he appreciated and respected me reaching out. He mentioned that things were better when I was involved in the work, but that I can’t be involved in everything. He mentioned that collaboration suffered (one of our core values.) He didn’t say he would work with us again, but he didn’t say no. He left the door open.

Why the response? Probably a number of reasons. I faced the reality of the situation and didn’t ignore the experience. I knew they weren’t happy. It’s easy to hide or not have the courage to be transparent and humble about it. I sent an email with no expectation, didn’t excuse, dismiss or blame. I made it clear that if he didn’t respond it was okay, and that I would understand. I sent the message 18 months or more after the last interaction. Remember, we can seek to reconcile but we can’t force it in any relationship. All we can do is make the first step, be humble, and seek to understand. That way we can have no regrets, or at least fewer regrets. Reconciliation takes two parties, two people, not one.

One other thing to know. They say it takes ten-times as much work to secure a prospective client than to retain one. I’ll bet it takes ten-times more than that to rebuild if trust is broken or fractured.

I’ve won and lost clients. I’ve made all the mistakes. The longer I work at my craft, the more careful I become about delivering the value expected. But the struggle doesn’t go away. We’ve got to be vigilant and to care. Why would we not seek to at least acknowledge the problem? How important is a relationship? Very important. It’s all about the relationships, and Integrity is everything.

Lean In

Lean in to the hills; the upward struggles; the view is better at the top

Lean in when the pain is unavoidable; identify the source

Lean in to good times and enjoy; there’s no guarantees

Lean into that special moment; it may never come again in the same form

Lean in to tough times; experience is gained

Lean in to relationships; there’s nothing more important

Lean in to journaling, to expressing thoughts on paper; personal growth takes place in this context

Lean in to listening; much learning takes place

Lean in to change; it’s one of the few constants in life

Lean in to hearing different views; it expands our mind whether we agree or not

Lean in to being flexible; sometimes the magic is found there

Lean in to growth; no one will do it for us

Lean in to understanding; no one can take it away

Leaning is a mental posture.

Leaning in is better than leaning out