Canadian Contractor


What to do with demanding people

Steve Barkhouse of Ottawa-based Amsted Design-Build wrote the following guest editorial in our most recent issue…

I think many of us can relate to the comfort of working with the known, the reliable, the predictable, the controllable. It’s a great thing being a skilled tradesperson as these are appreciated skills that are in high demand. The challenge is that it’s driven by those whose unpredictability we set out to avoid – people!

Good news: As entrepreneurs, we have two important character traits working in our favour:

1) A love of learning. We’re willing to try different types of projects, study new and better ways to build; and

2) A demand for perfection. We are driven to complete the best possible end-product, period.

Now, you may be wondering how these two characteristics make good news? Well, put together and directed at the challenge of learning how to deal with people, they acquire and perfect the new skills we need.

This is what I have found drives business success. Dealing with people and their inherent unpredictability is a challenge for sure, but one we can manage because we know and enjoy the benefits of learning new skills and we will work at perfecting this new craft. This is what I suggest you use to drive both personal and revenue growth in your company.

As company owners, we decide when we will start and stop, what will be completed, who will work with us and what they will do. Now, through our technical skill and knowledge and through our people skills, we can develop and control every aspect of our daily work towards business success.

More good news: there is a huge range of opportunities and resources available to learn people skills. There is a mountain of books to help us. Our industry associations and local colleges offer courses. There are podcasts, videos, magazines and peer groups. There are networking opportunities, mentorships and consultants. Find your preferred method of learning and get’r done!

Remember, without people, you have nothing to build. However, with some easily learned people skills, the sky is the limit. And there is an added benefit: when you translate those skills to improve relationships in all aspects of your life you make going to work and coming home a lot more fun.

Finally, while we may not like that people are unpredictable, we are still all people pleasers. I find nothing worse than that moment just before the grand unveiling when my self-doubt says ‘what if they hate it?’ Fortunately, with well-developed people skills, you don’t ever have to worry. You have learned to communicate expectations to everyone involved and your trained team has worked equally hard to understand the results that the clients are expecting. The result is a smooth handoff that you already know they will love. BOOM, Mic drop, Elvis has left the building.

Dang that feels good.

So, add your love of learning, your perfectionism, and your peoplepleasing desire to your skill as a tradesperson and meet the demand being driven by those whose unpredictability we set out to avoid—people!


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