The Island

Names have been changed for anonymity in this blog

Anne and Dave live in the middle of the island. He’s a contractor and handyman. Anne cleans houses. They lived in Panama for a bit and then came back to the states. The island suits them well. They invited our little group for a spontaneous visit while we were driving golf carts down dirt roads past their home one day. Of course we stopped. That’s what one does on the island.

Julius owns a business, but prefers to live on the island so that’s what he does. He’s got a management team to run his company, so his work on the island hosting people is a labor of love. He’s one of the most hospital people I’ve ever met.

Rich and Donna are long term renters. They stay for most of the winter to escape from up north. They are embedded in the community here and have lots of friends from North and South that they visit and entertain. Both are retired and don’t need to work anymore

Gary and his wife Elaine came to the island from up north a few years ago for the first time and bought a house immediately. He owns business as well but is in the process of selling. He can work remotely or travel back and forth. Either works for him. Quite the world we live in.

James and Carol have a home on the island and live part time here. They are connectors. Generosity defines them. We have become very good friends. James never met a stranger and will lend a hand to anyone in need. Hospitality is one of their gifts.

Betsy and Rob are super handy. They live here half a year in winter and spring, and spend the remaining months up North in the snow belt when it doesn’t snow. She is an artisan, he is retired from owning a trucking business. They grow flowers, orchids to be specific, and have a little greenhouse. Rob can fix just about anything. You’ve got to be able to fix stuff on the island.

Then there’s countless others; renters and homeowners, short and long term, the boat dock numbers, the landmarks, the houses, those for sale and those not; the lending library, the dirt paths, the little church, high tide, low tide, and more.

Everyone has a story. There’s common ground on an island. There’s community if you want it. People help each other because you’re always going to need help. Spare parts don’t get thrown away easily, because you or someone else will need them at some point.

We ought to live as such in our off-island neighborhoods instead of always running about in the hustle and bustle. Neighborhoods are islands within a city or suburb, but the vibe isn’t typically there.

When is the last time we talked to our neighbor, volunteered to help at random, stopped at someone’s fire pit spontaneously, or asked someone if they had a spare valve in their toolkit?

We shouldn’t have to live on an island to build community.

Compressed construction 

I mean REALLY compressed. Rarely works.

There are many brilliantly crafted plans on paper that have no allowance for the unexpected, for supply chain issues, for unintended consequences, or poor execution by someone or some organization along the way. Plus the single biggest issue I’ve seen and experienced over and over again that leads to challenges from the outset, is simply delayed decision making, and delayed release of contracts.

Compressed construction requires concurrent, collaborative, (shared-reality) communication; cultural alignment, confidence in each other and in the enterprises involved, and it requires everyone to follow through on the decisions and tasks in their domain within the proper timelines. It can’t be done with the old “throwing it over the wall mentality.” Each decision and event is not “someone else’s problem.” It’s everyone’s problem. This teamwork is difficult to achieve and it requires commitment from all parties, and to be led by the GC or CM.

The thing that happens most often in compressed construction schedules is erosion of relationship, poor profitability, and a project that still takes the time “it needs” to take to get finished. This often results in an unhappy owner asking questions due to failed expectations vs. promised goals and deliverables.

I’ll offer some solutions and suggestions on a future blog.

Advice

Some advice I gave to a staff member the other day regarding an email exchange with a client on which I was bcc’d.

While you’re right, and factual, I’d never say to a client “you’re wrong”
It’s not appropriate expression and just shows the growing frustration on this issue
Words like “I disagree” or that’s not aligned with specifications”
Never directly attack the person no matter how foolish they are, because it wont register to an angry or stubborn person. Attack the problem and suggest an alternative path to resolution
If they are unwilling then seek intercession as you’ve done. As you stated, sometime it’s best to step back and stop

communicating”

Be wise

Be personable

Be clear

Be respectful

Draw appropriate boundaries

The New You?

We woke up to a New Year, but did we wake up to a new “me,” a new “us?”

We carry our same old self into the new year unless something changes on the INSIDE. Circumstances influence us but should not define our reality.

How will we MAKE 2018 different. What will dominate our thinking, reality, identity? Whom will we serve?

Your choice. My choice. In good, bad or mundane circumstances.

Let’s encourage one another

#beintentional

What to Say

Prior to our December staff meeting I wrote this to key colleagues helping me to prepare for the meeting. Sometimes we need to just put it out there. The feedback I got was so meaningful and led to a great meeting and connectivity.

“You know me, normally I have much to say. But I’ve been so deep into the dirt and operations, and I am so fatigued mentally, that I am struggling to even have or organize a message. It’s not often we can all meet in staff meeting, so it’s critical that any message is clear and delivered well. So I need to lean on RS, DP, GR, and you for insight and input. If I could say what I want to say, I am not sure if I would say:

1. Thank you. Thanks to everyone on staff and all our colleagues. Companies are only as good and as happy as their people. Thank you all for everything you do day to day to care.

2. Merry Christmas. Happy holidays. Enjoy your family. We are not our work, it’s just what we do and how we try to bring value to the world.

3. Have Debra to tell everyone what we’ve distributed in 401k match this year to help people in the FUTURE to have an income stream after they retire, and to update on any benefits.

4. Let everyone know we have 6 people in NC and they just celebrated year 6 anniversary.

5. That we need their inputs and engagement in all of their realms to make the company better and to improve service to clients.

6. That I value and care about each person

7. That 2018 can be our best year ever

8. That transparency and vulnerability is some of the magic in bringing strength and connection to relationships

I don’t know what to say. Maybe all of the above or maybe none. You all tell me and we will all come together prior.”

This dialogue opened the door for such good inputs, and a really good meeting. I love our people. We are all in the same boat. We all have to row together.

What’s your message?

The Token

They reminded me after my doctor appointment that I needed a token (coin) to get out of the parking lot. “Thanks for reminding me,” I said.

In my car, I shifted to reverse to back up and head for the exit. But there was a car behind me, then another and another. I looked around and saw that two lines had formed for one exit. 

One exit had a maintenance truck in it working on the machine for lift the gate that allows the cars to get out of the parking lot. The other lane had a car sitting there, taking some time to deal with the one operable machine. The lines quickly formed and got longer and longer. I wasn’t going to get out any time soon. There was clearly a problem with the car trying to exit. It appeared that the gentleman in the vehicle was struggling to figure out how to use the machine. Everyone was just sitting, waiting, not moving. I thought to myself, if someone doesn’t do something we may be here all day. Perhaps that someone needed to be me. 

So I unbuckled, got out of my car , went to the maintenance guy and asked him if he knew what was happening with the car in the exit line. “I don’t know anything about that,” he said grufly (like don’t bother me dude.) So while everyone sat in their cars and watched, I approached the guy at the exit. I saw he had a credit card in his hand. I asked him, “What’s the problem? Can I help you with something?” 

“I’m trying to get out,” he says.

“You need a token,” I replied 

“I don’t know where mine went, I can’t find it, and I can’t back up,” he said.

Gazing around at the growing line, I said, “Here use mine. I’ll go get another one. You’ve got to get out and it’ll take some time for the line to get smaller anyway.”

“Thank you,” he said

“My pleasure.”

A few smiles and nods greeted me on the way back to my car to lock up and head back into the building. 

As I started my walk back to the building I heard a voice. “Sir! Do you need a token?” It was the maintenance guy. “I found a token on the ground here. No need to walk all the way back.” 

That gruff maintenance guy that seemed to be ignoring everything was actually watching. He somehow had found the coin the guy had dropped. I trotted over, thanked him and hustled straight back to my car. A smile came over my face. Problem solved. Cars moving. Done deal.

As I sat and reflected, it struck me how God sees even the little things. That He who sees a sparrow fall, can see a token as well, and works through others to bless acts of kindness beyond our expectation. When we pay it forward it always produces positive results whether we see it or not. 

Some other applications from this little encounter:

Someone has to initiate. All it took was me, one person, providing a solution to break the jam. What can we do today to provide a solution to someone or something?

“God finds” I call them. Little things and big things so easy to overlook. Positive focus. Unexpected blessings.

How can we pay it forward today? Break the log jam? Help someone? Find the value proposition and act on it?

Sometimes all it takes is one small token.

Drawing the line 

One of the constituents on a project I’m working on recently established an extreme position in regards to a proposed solution; very extreme. Their position and proposed consequence has impact on a large, broad body of people, user groups, and businesses. The goal from the  owner was collaboration and shared solution. What they got from this particular group was the opposite.

The problem with an extreme position is that when we make a statement and proposed consequence, we’ve got to be willing and able  to back it up. “If you don’t do this, I’m going to do _________ (fill in the blank.)” 

Are you REALLY going to do that?

Sometimes a clear line needs to be drawn. Think and be mindful about where you draw it. You’ll have to back it up when someone challenges you on it.

Dissent

Allow dissenting voice in meetings, especially around strategic discussions and direction. If  dissent doesn’t define this idea clearly, call it “allowing opposing viewpoints.” Some will say “I’m playing the devil’s advocate for a moment.” Phrasing aside, I find it good to appoint someone to state the “cons”, to point out the roadblocks, to take the opposite view, to articulate the worst case scenario. I’m not always excited about the opposing view. In fact for many years I didn’t think it necessary to hear, nor did I advocate for it. It made me uncomfortable. It still does at times. This is good. It allows freedom for all to vent their perspective and be heard. Collaboration in decision making wins. I’ve made many mistakes alone or in isolated decisions. Again, collaboration wins. Dissent and opposing viewpoints are one key part of that process. All stakeholders must voice input. In the end, the leader makes the decision, but  it’s harder to make the wrong one when all the facts are on the table and we are fully informed.

Sometimes it Seems Random

It was 7 or 8 years ago. I was cranking out decent miles on a trail run. I heard his footsteps approaching while leaning into a hill. He was stride for stride but not passing. I sensed this might be an unusual experience for him, but I didn’t like to get passed on my runs; stupid I know, but it’s a part of me; a throwback to my competitive running days. He finally pulled up next to me and we started to talk. (It’s a “runner thing.”) He had relocated here from Arizona. His wife’s family lived in town and she wanted to be closer to them while raising their kids. He took up running as an adult. He did triathlon’s as well. We cruised through 7:30 miles for the rest of the run and had some fun getting to know each other. We talked throughout. He was in fund-raising, business development, lead generation. I was in the business of engineering and construction. I sensed some connection between us.

Fast forward to present; just a few days ago in fact. My fatigue and the cold air led me to the local Starbucks this particular morning. And there HE was at the front of the line. The same guy. He reached out and said, “Hey do you have time for a visit?” I said, “Yeah for as long as it takes to get my drink.” (I was in a rush.) He rolled his eyes, pulled me to the front of the line, and said “Tell me what you want to drink.” Obviously he meant business. He wanted to talk.

Let’s rewind; two weeks ago.

He had emailed me via LinkedIn asking if I’d ever thought about employing a business development professional to advocate our business, open doors, and build relationships (yes, of course.) I’d asked him why, and questioned if he was still in his present job. He informed me that he was. He was looking to the future and to more possibilities.

Rewind again, this time to a month or two ago. We “randomly” cross paths (again.) This time it was just outside the trail entrance on the road. He was running and I was finishing a power walk. He’d recently started training again. I jumped in with him for a bit. It was totally spontaneous. He talked about his most recent position as a business developer for a General Contracting firm. I knew where he was working through our LinkedIn connection, and through his messaging from time to time. He mentioned how he’d helped to increase the GC’s bid opportunities from $2.5M to $12M.

I’d lost track of him before this, between the initial run on the trail and now, except for an occasional encounter at the grocery store, on social media, or around town at random. Now our paths seemed to be continuing to cross. I know more about his background because every time he changed jobs, he let me know. Every time he changed he got closer and closer to what I do; the business of engineering, design and construction. He’d been in fund-raising for a non-profit,  development for a college engineering department, and one prior construction company gig; business development, people stuff, talking, finding a fit, opening doors, designing connectivity; this is what he loves. It’s who he is. It’s a lot of who I am as well, but CEO duties in a growing organization make it harder and harder to build 1-1 relationships myself unless they are very specific and have high potential in scaled opportunities.

My quick encounter at Starbucks turned out to be a 20 minute conversation while I finished my mocha and he drank his coffee. He talked about his goals. We discussed my business. We talked about roles, philosophies, his and my approach to client and business development. Back and forth, back and forth.

I find it more than “random” that I bumped into him at Starbucks. I find it more than random that our paths have gently crossed over the years. I find it not random. People encounters are unique. They aren’t always planned and aren’t typically scripted. It’s important to take notice when recurring themes and people continue to present themselves. This got my attention. I wasn’t looking for it. I didn’t plan it. I was just going about my daily business. There’s a message for me in this perhaps, regardless of what it is or what I do with it.

We never know what relationship or interaction may turn out to be something of significance. Something that changes the way we think; the way we view life; how we interact. I am not sure yet what will happen from this. I’m still reflecting.

Sometimes strategy is planned and initiative. Sometimes is spontaneous and reactive; “opportunistic.” It’s important to watch, to listen, to stop for a moment, to reflect on what might really be happening; to decide what we want to do with it.

Policy and Common Sense

“That’s our policy sir, I can’t give you access to that information”

“But I have the “information.” I’m giving you the information; line and verse.”

“Right but you are not the person who owns the account so I can not give any more information”

“But I have the information and the money to reconcile the issue associated with the information; right now. I’m trying to pay online and you’ve listed the account as “closed.” I’m trying to get it reconciled. Can you “re-open it” so I can pay? Here’s the balance and the account information.”

“No I’m sorry sir. There’s nothing I can do. I can’t give any more information about the account or balance.”

“BUT I HAVE THE ACCOUNT OPEN AND I AM READING YOU THE BALANCE! How about you make the change on the account website (flip the switch) so I can pay it right this second?”

“I’m sorry sir, that’s against our policy. The account timed out and so it has to be handled another way. I know you want to pay the account balance but I can’t facilitate that. Again, that’s our policy.”

“Ah. So then you don’t want your money. Legalities and bureaucracy is more important.”

Policy. People. Common Sense (or lack thereof)

Policy is good. It’s supposed to safeguard people and companies; create process; manage risk. Mitigate fraud. I get it. Create policy.

But policy can get in the way. It can be counter-productive.

If policy isn’t making sense; if it’s preventing the very thing you are trying to accomplish or facilitate; if it’s getting in the way of something good and productive, then policy needs to be modified. (Isn’t that why there are managers?)

The thing that is sometimes lost in the interaction is that we are working with people, not policy. We shouldn’t be a slave to policy. We should use it as a guide, an important reference, a sensible context, but not as a strict manifesto, unable to be modified regardless of the circumstance.

People, and “doing the right things,” are more important than policy. Remember that in situations that are on the edges or outside the boundaries.