As we begin 2022, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that it's a great time to be a contractor! Many, if not most, are poised for record volume and margins look very good. The bad news is that it is a tough time to be a contractor. Things are as challenging as ever in terms of supply chain disruptions and the never-ending travails of attracting the right people. Construction is a relentless business. You work hard all year long, then you take a few days off at year-end to relax and enjoy the holidays with your family. On Jan. 2, however, you're right back at it again; you're never far away from hard work in construction!
Contractors tend to be really hard on themselves! As you look back on 2021, you focus on the things you failed to accomplish rather than the things you actually got right. You say, “Golly, if we had gotten that one additional job, the year would've been so much better!” The nature of ambitious high achievers is to use failures, even small ones, as spurs to drive future success. Put that behind you; it's a new year! Zig Ziglar would call that “stinking thinking;” put the stinking thinking away and focus on the positives for a change! Take some time to celebrate your accomplishments. With that in mind, here are four tips to get 2022 started with a bang.
1. Celebrate your victories from 2021. Get your team together, think back through the year, review your calendars and correspondence, and come up with a dozen or more highlights for 2021. Years ago I was watching a Duke University men's basketball game, and a reporter interviewed head coach Mike Krzyzewski (known as "Coach K") afterward.
“What do you think was the key to the game?" the reporter asked. Coach K didn't talk about a spectacular dunk or a timely three-point shot or anything like that. He said, "I really thought when the pressure was on that we did a good job getting the ball inbounds." That struck me as odd. I had to stop and think. Getting the ball inbounds is such a basic thing. What did he mean, and who was he talking to? Was he talking to the reporter or the TV audience? Not so much. I think he was talking to his team, and he was emphasizing the importance of small victories. He talked about the fundamentals because without that small victory of getting the ball inbounds, no other good can follow. You cannot score if you fail to do the first, most basic step.
Think about that with your team. What little things happened in 2021 that helped you get down the court and score? What were the little things that led to your big accomplishments? What are the things of which you're most proud? What people and cultural things made 2021 special? Take time to recognize your people, your accomplishments, and all of the little things that added up to make it a good year.
For the next three items, I want leaders to think about one thing only. Try to distill the next three tips down to one thing.
2. What one thing do you as a leader need to do to make 2022 a success? Not 10 things. not 100 things. There are, of course, hundreds of things leaders must do over the course of a business year. But what one thing, if you did it consistently and well, would make 2022 a bigger success for you and your company?
3. What one thing should you STOP DOING? What should you cease? What one place can you get out of the way for the benefit of others on your team? What things do you hate doing that make you miserable and that you could delegate to others? What one thing, if you stopped doing it, could accelerate your success in 2022?
4. What do you need to clean up? Things that we fail to clean up linger, clutter our minds, and clutter our lives. They cause anxiety, fear, foreboding, and loathing, and who wants any of that in their life? What one thing, if you cleaned it up, would have a positive impact on your team? For example, one of our consultants, the former CEO of an ENR 400 construction firm, told me that he kept a certain employee for years because he was a “rainmaker.” The individual was difficult, caused problems within the team, and was a poor cultural fit, but because he was a rainmaker the CEO kept him around. Finally, a straw broke the camel’s back, and the CEO fired him. Afterward, he realized in his heart that he had waited three, maybe four years too long. Sure the employee was a rainmaker, but he damaged the culture and brought down the rest of the team. My guy regretted that he didn't clean this up ages ago. What can you clean up in 2022 that will make the year bigger and better?
Focus your heart and mind on the tiny handful of things that you can do as a construction leader that are real difference-makers, and you'll be surprised at the impact and positive ripple effects your actions will have.