Contractor Tip Of The Month: Good Performers Propose Answers and Provide a Path Forward

Words: Damian Lang

Damian Lang

To succeed in business, you must surround yourself with people who can get things done quickly and efficiently. Ask yourself this question: Are your people coming to you with solutions, or giving you a situation and asking you what to do next?  One thing is for sure. Good performers do not try to explain why a project may not be a good fit for them or why they need more experience and knowledge before they begin. They do not make excuses. Good performers just get started and figure it out as they go.  If your team gives you excuses for why a project cannot start today or finish tomorrow (even though it is within the employees’ job duties), your organization has performance issues.  The real challenge is determining what good performance looks like. So, let me share a recent situation on a project we are working on and how our star performers handled it.  The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically reduced face-to-face contact in everyday situations, including at the drive-through window of your favorite fast-food restaurants.  Kenny Jackson, who manages sales of our shop work at EZG Manufacturing, came up with a great idea. He suggested we create a device to help workers get the food to customers without handing it out the window directly to the person in the vehicle.  Our team believes it is a fantastic idea, so we have applied for a patent on the device and plan to bring it to the restaurant industry. However, after brainstorming, building a prototype, and doing some testing, the team got bogged down, and progress slowed to a snail’s pace.  In a meeting, I explained to Jamie Lang, our engineering manager, that anyone can start a task. But the secret to making this a successful project is the steps between the concept and the reality of it working in restaurants throughout the country. That includes the idea, design, testing, pricing, marketing, promoting, and selling. “Who can pick up this ball and run with it?” I asked.  Jamie jumped on the opportunity. Within a week, he emailed me with the following details: 
  • A summary of a meeting he and his team had with the owner of a local McDonald’s where we have been testing the device to discuss the feasibility and how the device had been working.
  • The costs we would have to build the device and what he believed we should charge for it. 
  • The market size for the product.
  • How the device can be marketed and sold to end-users.
  • What the installation requirements are and how they would be installed in each restaurant.
  • How we should distribute the device to customers.
  • What the next steps are in bringing this device to the marketplace. 
It was obvious to me that Jamie can work in the future without direction while using his discretionary judgment to achieve a specific goal. This is what great performance looks like! Top performers do not just come to you with issues and problems. They come with proposed solutions.  But remember this: Top performers also need good leaders. If you approve a proposed solution and the project fails, it is your obligation to accept the brunt of the responsibility because you approved the plan. That is good leadership. Why? If the plan doesn’t work, and you put most of the blame on your managers, then they will be afraid to propose solutions next time, and that can curtail creativity and stifle success. A good leader creates a culture in which employees feel empowered to bring forward their best ideas. The average person wastes a lot of time daily doing meaningless things like overthinking, feeling sorry for himself, being lazy, and more. In almost every organization, you will find people rushing around from one meeting to the next, often working overtime to generate more work for themselves and others, but rarely taking the action to close an issue or contract.  Do not mix this up with what good performance looks like. The best performers never confuse motion with results. We need more people around us who can provide solutions, instead of asking what to do next. Damian Lang is CEO at Lang Masonry Contractors, Wolf Creek Construction, Malta Dynamics, and EZG Manufacturing. To view the products and equipment his companies created to make jobsites more efficient, visit his websites at ezgmfg.com or maltadynamics.com. To receive his free e-newsletters or to speak with Damian on his management systems or products, email:dlang@watertownenterprises.com or call 740-749-3512.
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