Today marks day 81 of a 3-week home renovation project.

I hate everyone. Especially contractors.

Not hate really, though at a minimum, I am significantly miffed. We’ve been without normalcy at home for going on three months. As someone who works from that home, it’s no small diversion.

Fired first contractor, then lamented because the second one – though faster and more experienced – lacked many of the attributes held by the fired first contractor. Tidbits like honesty, reliability, and integrity, you know, small stuff. /s/

Partly my fault (described below), partly undependable contractors (again, below), but blame isn’t high on my list right now.

Now, it’s just get the damned thing done.

In all fairness, the initial time estimate was aggressive, and I knew it. It went downhill from there. But there are some solid leadership lessons to be learned from the depths of my pit of despair:

Expectations need to be clear, well communicated, and reasonable. I was solid on the first two, weak on the last one.

When someone overpromises, and you know it, have those iterative discussions where we work out a more realistic deliverable timeframe. Most people don’t want to under-deliver, but we allow many to over-promise.

We in leadership can become complicit in their over-promise/under-deliver death spiral.

Know that people will at times disappoint you. We’re all human (well, most of us – you know who I’m talking about), we all make mistakes, and showing some grace allows us, as leaders, to actually demonstrate some of that fancy empathy we’re always reading about.

Miscalculating a deliverable shouldn’t be grounds for a firing squad; it should, however, be a time for discussions, dialog, even negotiations. Now would be the time to get real, and our discussions must allow someone to feel comfortable “coming clean.”

Repeating from above, most people really don’t want to under-deliver; they simply wanted to show competence, gain our confidence, and demonstrate they can do what they promised. Unfortunately, when they “miss,” it can sometimes display just the opposite of those characteristics.

Don’t fall for “the next guy/gal will be better” trap. The first guy under-delivered. His work quality was great, he was reasonably dependable (he’s still a contractor, after all), but I never doubted that he had our best interests at heart.

He only became noncommunicative when it became clear he was going to miss his deadline, by a huge measure. That should have been a clear indicator for me to dive in, but I didn’t.

I had become complicit in his death spiral.

The second contractor was faster, clearly more experienced (and knowledgeable), but we always felt we had to ask him he right questions to get an obvious answer. It didn’t feel like he was our advocate.

We had taken for granted the first contractor’s positive traits, and exacerbated his weaknesses.

Don’t do that.

Having Courageous Conversations. And sooner rather than later.

The first contractor got in over his head; Traci and I discussed it, we made a light, non-specific comment or two to him, and then continued to stew about his slow delivery. It didn’t end well.

The lesson there is three-fold:

  • Know when you need to have those difficult discussions,
  • Have them at the onset of difficulties, not when you start getting perturbed, and
  • Allow the person the opportunity to correct based on the conversation.

Those difficult and courageous conversations are, well, difficult. It does take a measure of courage to dive in and get them done. But we need to do just that. And do it when we first notice something off-track.

Ironically, difficult discussions seem easier when we get angry, but that’s precisely the time we should not be having them.

Fast-forward to today.

I’m writing this as I prepare to go to my daughter’s house to have a few zoom meetings today and tomorrow. We rehired the first contractor (clean slate) who is now doing an incredible job and are keeping the second contractor on a short leash to make sure he does as promised with no corners cut.

Between the two of them, and us, we should be done in time for our beach trip that starts Monday.

Hopefully, that’s not just wishful thinking on my part. If it is, you’ll read part two next month…

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