Energy Management Part III: Prioritizing Your Best Output /2-19-2014

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In the first article of our series on Energy Management we discussed eight contributors to our personal energy that might influence how focused we are during the workday.  This often directly impacts our efforts to manage our time during the workweek.   Most of us have those brief periods of time when we are more or less energetic, thus making whatever we’ve scheduled more or less effective.

As I shared in Part II, it’s not uncommon to find contractors who schedule their day from 6:30 a.m. until after 6:30 p.m. non-stop.  This is simply foolish and poor business wisdom no matter how tempting it might be to do.  “More is not better” in the world of energy management.  While we will seldom reach business “nirvana,” it is wise for us to prepare our days knowing what our energy cycles are, schedule as many important calls and meetings during those higher energy level times, while also preparing for additional action and focus during our admittedly lower level times.

Remember, our personal energy, that precious resource that “we own,” is ours to protect, to better utilize and to leverage so that we can position our best effort to achieve the best results.  In today’s article we push on to the fifth and sixth contributors to our energy.  We will then see how we can leverage the two for better performance.

To recap, the first four contributors to Energy Management were:

  1. Energy “ups and downs” during the workday
  2. Impact made on performance by rest breaks, including lunch
  3. Attitude and enthusiasm as contributors to focus
  4. Clarity of the day’s mission and recognizing weekly goals


The two contributors we will examine today are:

  • Preparation for known daily “headaches”
  • Chemistry of the workers and the degree of synergy or teamwork

Preparation for Known Daily “Headaches”

First consider the types of things that can give the construction leader a few headaches, including:

  • Knowing that you have to terminate a long-term employee
  • Having to “eat crow” with an angry customer for having performed poorly on a job site
  • Meeting with the toughest city inspector first thing in the morning
  • Preparing to “have it out” with a material plant owner for their providing poor material for yesterday’s pour
  • Hosting another day, the fifth day in a row, of an IRS auditor reviewing your previous three years of invoices, tax payments etc.

Hopefully you haven’t experienced all of the examples above in one day!  However, many contractors are wise to what is often in their pathway each day.  Whether it is the unhappy customer or the city inspector just doing her job, many things can weigh on a contractor’s mind that lowers his energy or redirects it in a negative manner.

Let me share a few secrets that more than a few contractors have shared with me to better handle known headaches.

  • Make a written list of issues that are in the different stages of known problem status. (Writing them down often enables the brain to actually start solving the issue.)
  • Always admit the known headaches; don’t keep pushing them  to the back of your thinking
  • Write down all that you know about the possible causes behind the issue causing the headache (i.e. Why is the customer angry? What are the specifics associated with the poor material?)
  • Really work to clarify the reason behind the headache issue, looking to see the issue through the eyes and positions of all involved
  • Think through possible solutions that provide some level of “win-win” for both parties. (Tie this in with the first suggestion.)
  • Map out a brief approach you want to take to deal with headache issue
  • Come to peace with all that you can and cannot do to resolve the issue causing the headache; don’t play “God” but realize that there are limits to what you and your company might be able to do for any given situation
  • Realize that give-and-take will be part of most final answers
  • Be proactive to seek the real lessons learned and adjust or change your company’s processes or systems if needed
  • Take some long walks or runs to allow your brain to contemplate approaches while breathing in fresh air and taking in some visual appreciation
  • Engage other leaders associated with the cause of your headache to see if they have any wisdom to offer
  • Always try to schedule dealing with the headache during one of your “higher energy” level periods; if this isn’t possible, take any needed extra preparation to be primed for dealing with the issue (i.e. quick shot of coffee, energy bar, some deep breathing outside in fresh air etc.)

We have enough surprises in construction so to know in advance about some of the potential producers of problems and headaches is a “gift.”  Use such gifts to prepare your day both for scheduling and for your mental preparation to maximize your performance and minimize your weaknesses.

One of the common traits I’ve observed over the years with contractors is their inherit desire to please all the people all the time.  This is, of course, wishful thinking. Worse, it’s a sure sign of a contractor who will attract headaches in his leadership efforts.  You and I are incredible creatures but we are not perfect…no matter how much we may want to think that we are!

Chemistry of the Workers and the Degree of Synergy or Teamwork

Let’s face it, not everyone can work together.  There are a host of reasons why this is so but consider just a few below.  See how many you have witnessed or experienced in your company.

  • Two workers simply argue about everything done during workday
  • One worker “let down” another worker and there is no forgiveness or apology
  • An employee shoots down the idea of another employee
  • When project members are working there are different approaches taken without first discussing the “one way” the crew will complete the work
  • The technique used by one employee is not appreciated by others
  • Workers who have been together for years prevent a new employee from being part of the team
  • Little appreciation for differences in skills and knowledge exhibited by workers
  • Seldom does an employee ask for the advice of a more experienced or skilled employee
  • When a problem does take place there is a lot of “finger pointing” or talking behind other’s back
  • No one takes responsibility for a job poorly done
  • Little to no respect for the leadership in the company

As contractors, we have all witnessed some or all of the above… but hopefully not often!  Such behavior does suck us dry, and that often happens during the day when there are better uses for our time – such as completing work right the first time!

While it is not imperative that everyone in your company are “beer drinking buddies,” it is important that you drive greater chemistry within your workforce.  This is surely a great contributor to great synergy among workers.

Let’s take a shot at how you might improve the chemistry among your workers, thus strengthening your effort to encourage better energy management for better productivity.

  • Have every employee take a personality or behavior “assessment” so that styles of workers, communication tendencies, personality likes and dislikes can be identified and better understood
  • For your workers working together, have them exchange the before mentioned “assessment” to read each other’s profile
  • Conduct periodic “team building” sessions where the workers share their likes, dislikes, ideas etc.
  • When a job goes very well, engage the workers involved to discuss what happened that helped the project’s success
  • When a job goes poorly, engage the workers to discuss what happened, how it happened, what can prevent the same from happening again etc.
  • When two or more workers argue -- or worse, sabotage each other’s efforts -- bring them together quickly and discuss the cause for such behavior
  • Communicate clearly what your expectations are for working together as a team, acceptance of different traits, skills, and personalities among the workforce
  • Recognize great teamwork and where the chemistry really produced great results
  • Consider your best “matches” of workers for the types of projects you are scheduling; always try to include the personal side of people as part of who will do what projects
  • If you’re putting a “misfit” crew together, at least sit down with the workers and lead them to how they will coordinate, communicate, and execute the scheduled work without killing each other and wasting valuable time
  • Educate your workers on how to resolve their own issues and how to problem solve as a team

Certainly having a company of valuable employees is key to any successful contractor.  However, we’re not guaranteed to have the “pick of the litter” in hiring our employees.  In most cases, we might have to expend some energy to better manage the chemistry of our workers. 

In our Energy Management, then, it is critical that we honestly assess some of the “headaches” that we know about and look to put some finality to what we can do to resolve the root issue.  Just as critical is to recognize that not every combination of individuals will be harmonious and productive.  For both contributors it requires our leadership to leverage our time and energy to proactively address how to turn potential disasters into winning experiences.

Strive forward in your efforts to better manage your performance output.  Take a few aspirin when needed but be committed to keeping those known headaches -- and those people issues -- in full view so that you can better schedule your time and energy to succeed!

Brad Humphrey  

© 2014 Brad Humphrey, Pinnacle Development Group/The Contractor’s Best Friend™