Obsessed with Finishing Strong

Many of us start well but in a realistic world only results matter. 

It takes a certain amount of obsession to finish strong.

There are people who are gifted at startups or gifted in the middle stages where all the T’s get crossed and I’s dotted, but then there are those who are obsessed about actually finishing it. I love the adrenaline of a startup or turnaround but I get bogged down in the (boring) middle part that is 1. Predictable, 2. Has loads of tiny little boxes to check off, and 3. Is… boring!

Boring and predictable stresses me out like a startup would most people. I love a certain amount of chaos and the challenge to figure out something someone else might call impossible. If you want to get me to do something that I don’t want to just tell me that someone else said they didn’t think I could do it. 
“Oh yeah???? I’ll show you!”

In business and even relationships we spend an amazing amount of time and energy in the first ninety percent of the process. What I’ve noticed in my different careers is a very common trend in most people to be so involved in the middle part that they either assume the final and most important step will take care of itself (it never does), or they are just too busy and tired from the process that they do a halfway job of it. 

The deal must close intentionally. Chaos is for the first and second part. It takes a certain amount of obsession to finish strong.

finish strong

In the building trades we used to be on sites for over a year and I noticed that what separated a decent foreman from an excellent one was an obsession for finishing. After a year in one location people start to get tired of the other contractors and owners and start to let things slide in the final ten percent. If the start and middle have been handled well the last part should be the simplest, but what complicates it immensely is a simple lack of obsession.

As a site winded down the different contracting companies would start pulling guys to start other locations which would leave a skeleton crew to finish. This mountain is hardly impossible to climb, but the site foreman was the hinge for how well it ended.

Some foremen got bored and just wanted to get to the next town. Their attitudes would move from respect to disdain and the normal niceties you simply must observe in the beginning of a long project would slip, then the work itself would start to slide into chaos.

If you lead people you know that most people aren’t self-starters. Everyone slides into chaos and gets a little lazy and the leader’s job is to tighten things up and keep people on track. When the leader gets lazy or no longer upset when people aren’t doing their jobs well a downward spiral accelerates and no one stops it.

If a job is not finished well it is unlikely you will get the next contract from that company. Your lack of precision and attention to detail (including relational intelligence) is noticed at the highest time of stress for the future owner. You might be moving out but they are moving in and need assurance that they have invested properly and are getting their money’s worth out of your company. Their future on that site is just beginning while yours is over. Be obsessed or you won’t get the next one.

The heights of your next task depend on how well you finish this one.

task complete

A saying I created on my sites sums up what I expected from every single crew member.

“Zero Call-Backs!”

Translation: “When you walk away you are leaving a flawless building behind you”
The only call back that was acceptable on my site were normal maintenance issues that every building can expect. If a complicated boiler system control wasn’t working the way it should before we handed the project over I would lose my mind. If the Fire Alarm system had problems I would lose my mind. If a hallway receptacle didn’t work I would lose my mind. 

I’m obsessed about finishing. My crew was obsessed about finishing. If one member didn’t really care all that much they would soon find themselves on another crew with a foreman who was ok with a lacklustre employee. My crew was the best because nothing else was acceptable. 

This is how we did it…

Every task had a box with someone’s name in it. If there was a problem with the task, an issue with the install, a complication with an associated trade, someone followed up with the person responsible. New crew members who were unused to how we ran a site would sometimes try the lost-in-translation-it-wasn’t-me! approach but they only did it once. My number two would look at them and say “Maybe I’ll go get Corey?”. 

I’m not mean, but I am driven. I have no place in my brain that understands blaming someone else for your problem which makes me a very decent troubleshooter. Most people spend more time passing the buck than it would take to fix the actual problem and I expected ownership every time. 

We had another saying: “The only one who doesn’t make mistakes is the one not doing anything”. Mistakes were expected but they were expected to be fixed immediately. Repeat or lazy mistakes and I would lose my mind. We want to have fun, but family’s livelihoods are on the line so get it right!

If you won’t sign your name on the line, history will repeat itself.

sign the dotted line

Nehemiah was one of the greatest leaders of his time because he was a little obsessed. 

His story is found in a book with his name on it in the Bible. I don’t have time to get into what kind of impossible task he took on or the extreme pain that caused him to do it, but his own people’s safety and future were his bottom line. 

In the midst of their enemies Nehemiah mobilizes Israel to build The Wall around Jerusalem in just 52 days. Phenomenal! Miraculous! Impossible!

Six days after the wall was built he is shocked by a turn of events right at what he thought was the finish line. He didn’t really come to build the wall, he came to build a people. His talents were governmental and economic but he found himself surprised by another deeper problem that I bring out in my sermon called Finish Strong (I’ll put a link for it below but it’s probably decent watching:).

Nehemiah adapts. 

The best leader in Israel shows his quality by immediately understanding that he is not best suited to handle an issue of this sort and brings different industry leaders on board and says “Help us!”

He then leverages his own influence to accomplish the original goal he had set out to finish in the first place: the making of a PEOPLE. The wall was just a means to that end. His mission wasn’t the wall but included the wall.

When you get hammered with a disaster at the finish line how quickly do you recover?

Hanging out with obsessed people isn’t always a bad thing, especially if they’re obsessed with finishing the race…


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