Don’t Let Whirlwind Behaviors Chart Your Course

Shawn Burnum / April 2022

Have you ever made work plans only to ignore them when it comes time to go to work? Maybe I am the only one who works hard to stay organized, but when the unexpected happens, I quickly veer off track in another direction. I become impulsive and reactive, making less effective decisions as a leader and manager. In a training session a few years ago, the speaker called this behavior a “whirlwind.” We have a great action plan until the wind blows us off course. That speaker’s challenge to us was to limit our distractions and keep moving forward on a focused path.
    
We all have daily demands that push and pull us, but we get up in the morning with the desire to be effective and efficient. Nobody jumps out of bed and says, “I hope I get an emergency call that disrupts my entire day,” but it happens. I am not saying that a sudden and urgent need shouldn’t go to the top of your to-do list. It might have to, but we must also spend time working on our businesses and not just in them.
    
There certainly have been some extreme examples of “whirlwind” behaviors that could have blown us off course these past few years. COVID-19 naturally comes to mind, but so do material shortages, labor challenges and the ever-changing market conditions. AWCI, just like your businesses, is reacting to these conditions as well. While we are doing our best at the association to stay focused on our long-term vision, we must react to these new impacts by taking resources and time away from other duties.
    
To stay focused on our critical strategic plan developed last summer, a number of measurables and clear objectives were put into writing, helping us to define how we could roll out the plan’s goals. To paraphrase an old adage comes to mind: “What gets measured, gets improved.” By providing a clear definition of what success looks like, we can hold each other accountable to meeting the needs of our members.
    
These measurables are also a convenient way to communicate our progress. Naturally, many of the items identified in our plan do not happen overnight. They take a lot of work over several months, and it can be difficult to recognize our progress if it is not measured and reported. These action plans also help us keep all members informed.
    
Just know that our executive team is focused on the immediate needs while balancing the desire to work on long-term priorities that really impact our sustainability and growth. We will hold steady even if the winds continue to blow.

Shawn Burnum is the 2021–2022 president of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry and vice president of operations at Performance Contracting, Inc. in Lenexa, Kan.