Choosing Words Carefully

How does a person convey what they want in such a way that the best results are achieved, and everyone is at peace with one another?  This is a continuing problem for me as a project manager for  remodeling projects.  I have the vision of what the finished job needs to look like.  Several components make up the avenue to making that happen.  The materials and their cost makes a difference.  If there is a limited budget, smart shopping and purchasing less expensive materials may be needed.  The cost of labor limits the people a person can hire.

The labor I can afford to hire usually are independent men who have some sort of history.  I don’t judge their history if they are dependable, honest, and do their work well.  These men usually have a network of other men they can call if they need help on the job, or they hear of someone who needs a few days work.  They support each other, or can tell you who not to hire.  They can generally tackle any job and do it well.

My problem is how to communicate with them.  As I said earlier, they are independent sort of people, and won’t tolerate rudeness from an employer.  Now rudeness toward each other is another story.  But it is an art form.  One man will say, “What are you talking about?”   And the other one will say, “I was just talking about your mother…”  They laugh and go on about their work.

My best approach is to treat them with respect, ask their opinion occasionally, and look after their  safety.  Don’t ask them to do something that will put them in jeopardy.  Pay a fair salary.  Give simple and direct instructions.  And I must choose my words before I say them.  This is where I get lazy at times.  I tell them what I want and assume they have the same vision or picture that I have in my mind.

Yesterday, a man was painting a small house with a sprayer.  He did a good job.  I decided to help him with the trim, so I painted as far as I could reach and asked him to pain the top portion.  He assumed I wanted him to paint all the trim so he started painting trim the wrong color.  I could see he was offended when I stopped him three times, so he went and sat down in his auto.  I felt bad that I didn’t take time to explain clearly up front what I wanted.  I know I cannot micromanage a project.  I was as frustrated as he was, but my words were frozen.  I didn’t know how to make the situation better.

I talked to the head carpenter the next day and asked him what the problem was, and he explained how I could have handled it better.  I’m so glad I can learn from them, and I’m so glad they seem to forgive me fairly easily.

I guess it’s that way with life.  If we try to respect each other, learn from our mistakes, and dismiss it as in the past, then we can move ahead in this humanity thing of loving one another.