It’s a Scary Thing…

The beginning of the fourth quarter is already here.  Where did the year go?  I celebrate with you for the work and jobs now available in our industry and feel for you with the challenges that go with sustainable growth and personal life balance.  Unexpected circumstances are a way of life these days and many curve balls get thrown our way—a scary thing for sure.

The book Give and Take by Adam Grant was recommended to me recently in a conversation regarding who is more successful in business and life in general–givers or takers?  I answered, “givers,” only quickly corrected with “not necessarily so.” There are two types of givers–the wrong kind of givers and the right kind of givers.  That surely was enough right there for me to want to get my hands on the book.

So, what is one of the scariest things to me in our industry?  It is the fact that we have some of the most generous people in the world working in the construction industry, but so many of them cause more hurt and pain and sacrifice financial rewards to themselves and others because they give expecting something back, or expecting (because they gave of their time or finances to others) that those people will appreciate them or be there for them when they need them back.

Our industry is full of hurts from missed expectations resulting from giving for the wrong reasons.   For example:

Subcontractors who help someone, from an executive to a general contractor, get elected to the board of an association, or they give to the executive’s favorite charity thinking that they will get to bid the next project or get the last look on a project, only to find out that the project was given to someone else.

A general contractor doing a favor for an owner or owner’s rep, thinking that the owner will give them the next project or be easy on them through the current one.

An employee staying late, traveling, etc., at the expense of the family, only to find out that it is expected and not followed by a big reward of promotion or money.

An employer who helps an employee with education and training and through personal trials, only to have him or her leave to go to another employer.

An executive who runs a construction company for an absentee owner and makes him a lot of money, only for that executive to ask him to go down with the ship when the executive’s personal lifestyle has drained the company finances.

These are just a few of hundreds of examples I could give, especially after the recession we just had…

One of the quotes in the book Give and Take is by Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor: “Some people, when they do someone a favor, are always looking for a chance to call it in. And some aren’t but they’re still aware of it–still regard it as a debt. But others don’t even do that. They’re like a vine that produces grapes without looking for anything in return…after helping others…They just go onto something else…We should be like that.”

So, join with me as we move forward and get rid of any past or future expectations.   Learn to say “no,” ask questions and communicate what works for you to find a balance.

One of the most difficult things for a giver to do is learn how to and when to say “no.”  If someone is always asking for your help, a discount, or you are always trying to help someone who can’t seem to do it for themselves, then it is time to love them, but give them some tough love, say “no” or stop doing it for them. There is a big difference between a hand up and a hand out. Listen for things like, “I have nobody else to do it,” “I tried, but I can’t,” “Would you show me again” (for the 10th time), etc.

Learn and practice discernment with takers.  Takers usually steal your time and money or get you to be the front man taking time and money for others.  “Wow,” you say. “What if this is my boss?”  “My boss is always volunteering me to work at his or someone’s house on weekends, but doesn’t compensate me.”  You will hear takers say things like, “You will be rewarded when _______happens”; “Off the record…”; or, “I had to do it for______.”

Stop feeling guilty if you have to say no or offer an alternative solution. When one of my employees from Brazil first started working for me, she was the only person in her family who spoke English here in the United States.  They would call her all the time and ask her to do things for them.  She always felt guilty if she said “no” as she knew how difficult it is here with a language and culture barrier. They did not offer her help with what they could do for her and often expected it more than appreciated it.  We coached her to not say “no,” but control when she was available to do it so it would stop affecting her job and family.  She did this by saying, “I will be happy to do it for you.” “How is tomorrow at 4 or Wednesday at 2?”  They would then either find someone else or wait until it was convenient for her. It was amazing, though, how most often they easily found someone else, but were going to her and taking advantage of her because they knew she felt guilty if she said “no.”

Do you want to become the right kind of giver and be successful beyond your greatest expectations? Start by when you are asked for something, or to do something, don’t immediately answer unless you know that you are doing, or giving it, with no expectations of anything in return–not even appreciation.

Secondly, you don’t have to flat out say “no.”  Communicate options or why you are unable to assist, especially if what they are asking you to do for them will cause you or others in your life unnecessary sacrifice.  It is even okay to say you are just choosing not to do something.  To become the right kind of giver, it is all about the right communication and where your heart is. If your heart is not in it, or it is not being done from the heart or due to other circumstances you did not communicate, you can’t make it a win-win situation; you will miss the blessings set aside for you as the right kind of giver.

Author Tiffany Madison said, “I believe the world is divided in three groups: givers, takers and the few that can balance both impulses. Giving and loving is a beautiful thing. It is the currency of compassion and kindness; it is what separates good people from the rest. And without it, the world would be a bleak place. If you are a giver, it is wise to define your boundaries because takers will take what you allow them to; all givers must learn to protect that about themselves or eventually, there is nothing left to give.”

The final line in that quote is the warning for the many of you in our industry that are so quick to give. Learn to protect yourself so you can keep on giving!

Thank you for your balanced generosity.  May the fourth quarter of this year be filled with the right balance in your life. Make sure to write to me at suzanne@constructionconnection.com and share with me your tips on givers and takers.

Suzanne on behalf of myself and the team at Construction Connection!