Contractor Tip of the Month: Seeing Issues from the Other Person's Perspective

Words: Damian Lang

Sometimes, our own viewpoint and limited line of thought can hinder us when we are confronted with an issue. This lack of perspective can make you your own worst enemy. But incredible things can happen if you take a step back and view a problem from the other person’s perspective. Doing so can give you fresh insight and enable you to spot new possibilities and solutions. 

Early in my career, I received some valuable advice from Ed Davenport of Davenport Masonry. They are words I live by to this day.

“Spend three times as much time considering the other person’s point of view as you do your own, and you will always find the solution to the problem.”

This advice came when I was spending a lot of time worrying about my employees leaving the company. What if they all walked out at once? I considered that to be the ultimate disaster. I had no idea what I would do with a mountain of work and no one to do it. It got to the point that I would lie awake at night to avoid my thoughts becoming a nightmare. 

Because every business in the country was looking for good help, I constantly struggled to find the answer to what kept my team from wanting to go to work elsewhere. Finally, I heeded my friend’s advice and started looking at the issue from the employees’ point of view. My new perspective allowed me to concentrate on why they would want to leave so I could focus on their issues instead of my own. 

Shifting my focus to my employees’ concerns allowed me to address them head-on. As a result, our job satisfaction numbers climbed, and our turnover rates decreased. We now have over 600 employees, and I am getting some much-needed rest. 

Another example of shifting my perspective involved addressing a government regulation impacting masonry projects. By law, we were required to crush leftover blocks and bricks on our job sites and either leave the materials on site or dispose of them in a certified landfill. 

Being the marketing committee chairman for the Mason Contractors Association of America, I dug into the issue. I knew that if we wanted to reverse this regulation, we would need to have a clear understanding of the regulators’ perspective. 

In their explanation, they cited several examples. For instance, if leftover materials were used on a riverbank to keep someone’s property from washing away, it puts a second site at risk of contamination along with the potential to negatively impact the water in the river. Additionally, they cited materials used as slag on a driveway and as mulch in flower beds would result in four contaminated sites instead of just the original site where the materials should have remained.

Although I did not agree that all materials should be considered contaminated, I realized my efforts would not result in a change to the regulation, no matter how long and hard I fought. 

Because I invested my energy in understanding the government’s position rather than futilely fighting the regulation, I was able to reverse engineer the issue and focus on fixing it. 

Their proposed solution was for contractors to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase a concrete crusher or pay to have the leftover material removed and hauled to a certified landfill. I did not consider either to be a good option, so my engineers and I got to work and designed the Hog Crusher. 

This machine quickly crushes the leftover brick and block allowing them to be used as backfill, access roads, or other uses that would keep them on the jobsite. If the contractor has to remove the materials to a certified landfill, the size of the pile of materials would be reduced by 80% after being crushed. The shrunken material pile means fewer dumpsters are required to remove it, greatly reducing the costs of removal. 

But what really sets our product apart from the other crushing machines currently on the market is our price. Our Hog Crusher is a fraction of the cost of a traditional concrete crusher. 

Please do not read this and think I am trying to be slick and slip an advertisement into my Contractor Tip. That is not my intention. While this regulation is still in effect, it has not been enforced. So, my advice to anyone dealing with this issue is to not go out and invest in a Hog Crusher (I bet you did not see that coming). The last thing I want is for you to purchase a machine and leave it sitting in your yard. The more important takeaway from this example is that I changed my perspective, which allowed me to develop an effective solution.

As I have grown as a leader, I have become quite adept at practicing Ed’s advice. I have found it to be a reliable and much-used tool in my decision-making arsenal. 

The ability to consider the perspective of others is a valuable skill for leaders because it impacts your business on so many levels, including both your internal and external constituents. Here are five valuable outcomes that result from considering the viewpoint of others:

  1. Promotes creativity and innovation: Changing your perspective can help you see things in a new way, which can generate fresh ideas and solutions. This can propel your company to great heights.
  2. Improves your relationships: A shift in perspective allows you to see others in a more compassionate and empathetic light. Your satisfied customers will want to do business with you long-term because they know you are listening and care about their issues and not just your own.
  3. Increases resilience: Rather than viewing hurdles as insurmountable, a change in perspective can help you view setbacks and problems as opportunities for growth and learning. This can help you become more resilient and bounce back more easily from difficult situations.
  4. Encourages repeat business and referrals: Being open to the perspectives of others makes you more relatable. Those around you will be willing to share their ideas because you have shown you are receptive to outside thoughts. This makes customers happy, which results in not just repeat business, but referrals. 
  5. Sets you up for growth: When perspective shifting becomes a regular part of your decision-making process, you will be able to identify new possibilities and opportunities more readily, which can result in business growth and prosperity.

So, why lie awake at night trying to get others to come around to your way of thinking? You will only find yourself sleep-deprived and upset with everyone. Instead, once you have identified the issue, take the time to understand the other person’s point of view. In today’s competitive landscape, this can be the difference between thriving and merely surviving. 

Listen closely and reverse engineer an effective solution. Then, implement strategies that specifically address the other person’s pain points. This will cultivate lasting relationships built on trust, satisfaction, and mutual value. In doing so, you will create not only repeat customers but ones who refer your business to others. Ultimately, a new perspective is a shift in the right direction for a healthy bottom line.

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