Tag: responsible

Work Ethic and Success

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge is about work ethic and being successful.

A few months ago, we started tearing down our 102 year old garage to convert it into my new office space. This is a dream I’ve had for awhile, but after meeting with an architect and engineer, I soon realized that the realities of turning such an old, crumbing structure into something suitable for my current day professional needs, was far more extensive and expensive then I imagined.

After I received my first bid from a contractor for this project, I pretty much decided that it wasn’t worth doing. Discovering that the cost could be almost twice as much as what I had expected was enough to talk me out of it, not to mention all the permits, notifications to neighbors, licensing, etc. that would be needed to even start the project.

After talking with my reasonable and steadfast husband who reminded me that we would have to do something about the garage since it was in such a bad state, I continued down the path of getting more bids in hopes that someone out there could do the project within our budget.

On my third try, we found a contractor named Gerry who came much closer to our original budget. More importantly, he had a way about him that gave me confidence that a quality job could actually get done for a reasonable price within an agreeable time period.

So what made Gerry different than the others? As we sat in our living room with him in our first meeting, I realized that Gerry had a way of approaching everything in the project as ‘doable’. The other contractors emphasized parts of the project as being ‘very hard to do’ or something that would take exceptional effort on their part (which only translated into more dollar signs to me), in contrast to Gerry who would say, ‘This will be tricky, but it’s very doable’. He gave me the hope that we could get past the tough parts.

Secondly, Gerry assured us from the beginning that he would try to approach the project as if he was doing this to his own house. He would look at every cost and try to get the best price possible. I had heard this in varying forms from the other contractors, but for some reason, I didn’t quite believe them, particularly after I saw their total cost estimate. I knew from everything I observed about Gerry – his old wristwatch, the beat up truck he drives, his faded U of O sweatshirt – that he loves to get the best for the lowest price. His philosophy reminded me of my mother-in-law who’s always had an uncanny way of getting something for nothing, the result of having grown up with very little and turning it into quite a lot.

As we began the project, I quickly saw Gerry’s work ethic and commitment. Although he lives 30 minutes in good traffic from my house, he showed up early each morning, ready and raring to go. It was still summer when he started tearing down the old garage, so he used some of his high school aged kids to help. They had a great time doing the destruction. Gerry knew that my neighbor was quite concerned with the project since a wall of our garage is only one foot from the wall of her garage. Each day, Gerry found a way to chat with my neighbor to assure her that he was doing everything possible to guard against any damage to her structure. Throughout each stage of the project, he continued to give me detailed information about what he was doing and why. He continued to ask me what I would prefer and gave me pricing information to help me make decisions about lumber, windows, doors, etc.

Most importantly, he worked from early morning until late afternoon, with only 30 to 45 minutes for lunch in his truck, to get the work done. And, he’s done most of it himself. As I’ve watched him pick up large sheets of plywood, shovel out huge amounts of dirt and gravel, install skylights, and re-do decking, I’m amazed at his energy and drive. The work that has been sub-contracted out has been equally inspiring to watch. All of his sub-contractors love working with him and have been working with him for, in some cases, 25 years. The concrete guy commented to me, ‘Yup, Gerry is reliable. He sticks to a schedule and is always there to give us what we need to do the job. And, most importantly, he pays us on time!”

During the course of the project, we had a mini-monsoon. For 3 days, torrents of rain fell on Portland. At one point, I looked out at the project from an upstairs window and it looked like a swimming pool. Throughout all 3 days, Gerry continued to work steadily as the water poured off the rim of his hat. Instead of seeing it as insurmountable, he took it as an opportunity to create a much better way to divert water around the house and away from the garage and porch. By the third day, he jubilantly reported to me that the water was gushing out of the new pipe he had installed – a sure sign that he had fixed an age old problem that the house had had for more than a century. Seeing his smiling face in the rain as he pointed to the new pipe, I realized what joy this guy gets from doing the work, even in the worst conditions.

Taking all this into account, I’ve learned some great lessons from Gerry about work ethic. Here are the high points:

1) Nothing is impossible – if you have the attitude that whatever the problems are, there is always a solution, you won’t get overwhelmed or give up. It’s all in how you see the problem – what to some is insurmountable, to others is an opportunity. Anything is ‘doable’.

2) Run it like you own it – if you personalize what you’re doing, people will see the ownership you’re taking. Putting yourself in the customers shoes makes a huge difference in seeing what’s most important to them. If this was your house, your business, your deal, what would you want to experience?

3) Show up and stay engaged – there’s a lot to be said for just showing up each day with consistency and commitment. Keeping yourself physically, intellectually and emotionally engaged throughout the project is a key to your success. Your level of engagement impacts the entire project and you’ll find that it’s often mirrored by everyone else involved.

4) Work hard – there is no replacement for hard work. When someone is paying you to do a job, they watch you. They take note when you’re there and when you’re not. They notice when you put in the extra bit of effort to accomplish something. They feel your level of enthusiasm and determination.

5) Stay cool and have fun – in the midst of all the work, a cool head and sense of humor goes a long ways. Something always goes wrong, and the ability to not overreact and use logic and good problem solving skills to make your way out of it, is worth a great deal. Plus, having a good sense of humor throughout the project is an added bonus. At one point during the monsoon, I saw Gerry slip in some mud and as he picked himself up off the ground, covered in mud and muck, he commented, “Well, the wife will have no doubt that I was playing in the dirt again today.”

This week, take some of Gerry’s work ethic and habits to heart. This one man embodies so many of the qualities I see in someone who is successful in their work. Maybe you already approach your work in the same way he does. But see if there’s something I’ve listed here that you’re not doing. In my case, I realized that having that ‘can do’ attitude sometimes eludes me. If I get overly analytical about something, I tend to focus on everything that can go wrong, get overwhelmed, and don’t even start the thing I’ve wanted to do. It almost happened to me with this project and it was only with my husband’s steady encouragement and Gerry’s ‘everything is doable’ attitude, that got me started.

Whatever it is, take a lesson from Gerry this week to help you, not just do the work, but to do it with commitment, reliability, and determination. You’ll impact everyone else around you and have a better time doing it!

Have a good week,


© Copyright 2013 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

7/26/10 “Capable”

Good day, team,

This week’s challenge comes from my good friend and former client Jan
Foster. It’s a poem for all the capable people out there who every once
in awhile dream about being irresponsible, unpredictable and a little
bit bad. Your challenge is to do as the poem suggests: Appreciate
yourself for being so capable or try being a little incapable this
week and see how that feels!

A Prayer for the Capable

And as you stand there
On time and
Appropriately clad for the event
With a high-fiber bar in your bag
And extra pens
Let us take this moment to applaud you.

You, the prepared.
You, the accomplished.
You, the bills-paid-on-time and the-taxes-done-in-March.

You, who always returns the shopping cart.
You, who never throws a tantrum.

While the moody, the irresponsible, the near-hysterical and the rude seem to get
All the attention
Let us now praise you.

Just because everyone always expects you
To do well
Does not make it any less remarkable
That you always do so well.

So thank you.

For picking up the slack
For not imposing
For being so kind
And mannerly
And attending to all those pesky details.

Thank you for your consideration
Your generosity
For always remembering and never forgetting:

That a job well done is its own reward
That the opportunity to help someone else is a gift
That the complainers, the cry-babies, the drama queens, the never-use-a-turn-signals, the forgetful, the self-involved, the choleric, the phlegmatic and the your-rules-don’t-apply-to-me-types
Need you to rebel against in order to look like rebels.

(You provide the lines – for without the lines, what would they color outside of?)

So take a minute
To pat yourself on the back
And say, “Job well done.”
And as you consider someday
Showing up stoned
Or unprepared
Or not at all

And as you imagine someday being imperious
Or demanding
Or the one with the temper

Hear the unspoken “thank you” from a
Grateful nation that is a
Better, smarter, calmer, easier, friendlier and more organized place
Thanks to you
And your dogged diligence.

You are beautiful.
You are precious to us.

You are the hand that stills the water, the wheel that never squeaks, the one we all rely on
And while you probably would have remembered to send a thank-you note,
We forgot.

And just because everyone always expects you
To do well
Does not make it any less remarkable
That you always do so well.

And I would tell you to take the afternoon for yourself
Or sleep in tomorrow
But I’m pretty sure you already have plans.

So just take this very moment right now
To appreciate you
And all that you have done and done well
Even by your own high standards.

And remember:
You are beautiful.

And just because everyone always expects you to
Do well
Does not make it any less amazing, delightful or delicious that

You always do so well.

© Samantha Bennett 2009

Have a good week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2009 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search, Inc., all rights


Good day, team,

This week’s challenge comes from an excellent article–“The Responsible Manager”–which appeared in the January-February 2010 issue of the Harvard Business Review. The author, C. K. Prahalad, is a distinguished professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, and he ends all of his MBA courses with the following 11 suggestions about ways managers can be more responsible.

1) Leadership is about change, hope and the future. Understand the importance of non-conformity. Don’t be afraid to venture into uncharted territory, and be able to handle solitude and ambiguity.

2) Display a commitment to learning and developing yourself.

3) Cultivate the ability to put your career in perspective. Over your career you will experience success and failure. Humility in success and courage in failure are the hallmarks of a good leader.

4) Invest in the development of other people.

5) Learn to relate to those less fortunate than you. Good leaders are inclusive.

6) Be concerned about due process. People seek fairness, not favors.

7) Be loyal to organization, profession, community, society, and, above all, family.

8) Assume responsibility for outcomes as well as for the processes and people you work with.

9) Remember that you are a part of a privileged few. Balance achievement with compassion and learning with understanding.

10) Expect to be judged by what you do and how well you do it. Balance your actions with empathy and caring for others.

11) Be conscious of the part you play. Leadership is about self-awareness, recognizing your failings, and developing mastery with modesty, humility and humanity.

We often find ourselves having to compromise or to weigh one possibility against another without really knowing which will yield the results we wish. These 11 suggestions can act as a good compass to help us chart our way through the process of managing people and projects.

This week, try committing to some of these suggestions in your managerial position. If you’re not a manager, take a look at these suggestions and see if one of them serves as a good guide for you to improve your performance.

I’m going to try this one out: “Assume responsibility for outcomes as well as for the processes and people you work with.” Although we can’t control how other people work, we do have an opportunity to positively influence others every day. I’ll try being a more positive and creative influence this week.

See which works best for you, and don’t be afraid to experiment with it.

Have a good week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2010 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search, Inc., all rights reserved.