Contractor Tip Of The Month: You Don’t Get Results by Measuring Results. You Get Results by Measuring Activities that Lead to Results.

Words: Damian Lang

Damian Lang

You can learn a lot about running a business by trying to lose weight. I knew it was time to make healthier choices a few years ago when one of my buddies on the golf course asked, “Are you two going to putt?” as if I were pregnant. The rest of the players in our group got a big laugh out of it. I pretended to smile. But inside, it really wasn’t that funny to me.   I had tried lots of different things to control my weight, including exercising most days of the week. If you have ever tried to slim down, you’ve probably figured out that getting on the scale every day and becoming obsessed with the number is not the best way to get results.   When I weighed myself every day, the needle didn’t move much. Then, I discovered the secret about what it would take to get to the weight I desired and maintain it. Instead of focusing on my goal (the result) itself, I would have to develop a list of activities and focus on those activities.     I finally realized that looking down at the scale each day and asking the scale to drop the weight, or just hoping my weight would go down, was not giving me the results, I was trying to obtain. So, I decided to change my focus from looking at the scale for the results I wanted to focus on the activities that would get me to the weight I desired. If you are paying attention to the goal but not how to reach it, you will never get there.   As I have written about in past articles (See my Contractor Tips: When Too Much of a Good Thing Isn’t a Good Thing, August 2017, and, A Lifestyle Change, February 2018), I designed a plan that included 24 minor changes in my daily routine and focused on these activities. As a result, I went from 233 lbs. to 190 lbs., which I believe is my ideal weight.   So, how does this apply to the workplace? A top manager recently came to me explaining how upset he was with a couple of our employees on a jobsite. I could tell he was extremely frustrated with the employees, so I asked him how he handled the situation.   He said he let them know how angry he was, that he couldn’t believe they did the things they did, and told them what they were doing was unacceptable in no uncertain terms. I wasn’t impressed with how he handled the situation. However, knowing his current state of mind and not wanting to get into a confrontation of our own, I just sat and listened as he got it all off his chest.   The next day, after the manager had time to get his composure back, I discussed with him how I felt he should have handled the situation. I explained that when he lost his cool, he lost the game as he was trying to control the results. Instead of showing frustration, he could have explained how to control the activities that would lead to the results he was desiring but was not getting.   Your employees will lose respect for you if you go out and tell them how bad they are, or about the results you don’t want to see, instead of explaining to them the activities it takes to get the results. They will think you don’t care about them or that you only care about the results you are getting out of them.   I told the manager one of my favorite adages about how to play cards. You don’t hold your cards looking at the back side while the other players are looking at the front of them and reading your hand. Losing your composure shows your hand, and you will lose.    So, instead of showing your hand by getting upset, you need to ask the following questions:  
  • What happened?  
  • When did it happen?  
  • Where did it happen?  
  • Why did it happen?  
  • How can we ensure it doesn’t happen again?  
Then, allow the employee to answer his own issues for you. He will give you all the activities that happened and led to the issue you are facing. If you focus on addressing those activities, it will ensure you do not have bad results in the future.   For example, let’s say an employee missed grouting an upright core fully in a block wall, and you noticed the grout was missing. You could jump on him for not putting the grout in the core, or ask him what the circumstances were that caused him to not put the grout in the wall. He may tell you there was an electric box in the way or too much rebar in the core, so the grout did not fill the void. Those are the activities we need to address to avoid the same issues in the future, not the result itself.   Also, while you are asking what, when, where, why and how, let the employee brag about things he is doing right instead of just dwelling on what he is doing wrong. He will learn much quicker and have much more respect for you due to the way you handled the situation.   Before you discipline an employee, ask yourself the following questions: 
  • What results am I getting? 
  • What results do I want?  
  • How do I get this person to do the activities that lead to the results I want?  
  • How am I going to open up the conversation with this employee in a non-threatening way?  
  • Will he feel I only care about results rather than about him as a person?   
  • Will the employee think I only care about what happened and not the circumstances around why it happened? 
  • When I am finished discussing the issues the employee has, will he respect me for how I handled the situation? 
You can motivate someone you are upset with by letting that person tell you everything he is doing right at his job. Say things like, “This is fantastic. What can we do to get the rest of the team to set the bearing plates as well as you do, install flashing as well as you do, or always be on time like you are?”  When he does have issues, explain to him the activities he needs to do to fix those issues. It is the difference between earning respect and demanding it. Measure your activities, and you will get the results you desire in the workplace and on the scale.   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 or To receive his free e-newsletters or to speak with Damian on his management systems or products, or call 740-749-3512.
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