At Your Service: Oct. 15, 2008

During the Fleischmanns First Floor’s house tour on Sunday, someone lamented about the quality of workmanship the once prevailed in the region, as evidenced by the elegant and elaborate woodwork on display. A gentleman quickly responded, “You can still find people to do that quality of work here.” Around the room, heads nodded; but it wasn’t clear on which opinion there was agreement.
In the brief conversation that ensued, I made my own observation. The man defending the area’s workforce was impeccably dressed and had an air of perfection about him. He appeared to be the kind of person who would never settle for less than the best and I could not imagine working for him and delivering anything that was substandard.
Perhaps the quality of one’s work should not be dependent upon the personality of the person for whom you are working; nonetheless, there are those who elicit something special from those in their employ. Whether customers or employers they seem to bring out the best in those they supervise.
Motivating people to do their best is a skill that we can all use from time to time. It is made up of three simple steps, represented in the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Thought is the blossom; language the bud; action the fruit behind it.”
In order to accomplish anything, particularly through hands other than our own, we must begin with the idea. The clearer our picture of what is to be done, the more likely it becomes that it will be brought to reality. Take the time to bring your ideas and thoughts into a concrete form before seeking the help of others.
Having the idea does not require that we actually know how to do it ourselves. We can lean upon the talents of those who will do the work, but they cannot do the work until they know what we want. Language, or the ability to communicate the idea, is a vital next step. In practical terms, architects begin with a rough drawing that they embellish with the details of a project. As the idea develops, more and more details are applied to its accomplishment.
When the project is less physical than a building, planning and more complete communication must be brought to bear. It is not enough to simply say what you want; you must also make sure that what you said was actually heard. Confirm that the person you expect to do the work has the same understanding of the job that you do.
Confirmation can come in many forms, but the simplest is by question and answer. Ask the person working for you what they understand the job to be (this includes both the task and its timeframe). Being rigorous at this step will save many missteps down the line. If you start out on the same page, it is less likely that they will venture to a different place on the map.
Having communicated your idea, it is time to let the work begin. No matter how much you think you know about doing the job, once you have delegated it, let the other person do it. That sounds simple enough, but it is most often the place where people falter. We each have our own style and ways of doing things. Skilled crafts people have developed a work pattern that works for them. Leave them to it.
While there are those who believe otherwise, I am of the opinion that everyone will do their best when given the chance. Hovering over workers has never produced the highest quality anything. Personal pride of ownership is the personal motivator that will lead to a successful outcome. It means that we must trust the worker and our own communication. Like fruit on the tree, projects and jobs come to fruition in their own time.
The houses along Wagner Avenue stand as a testament to the quality of workmanship that those of another time were able to elicit from their workforce. We too can produce, or have produced for us, work that will stand the test of time. When we take our idea and communicate it effectively, there will always be those who can make it happen.