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Letters to a General Superintendent (Part 9)

What follows is the ninth letter in a series of letters supposedly written by an owner (Jack Owployer) in response to a general superintendent’s (Joe Gensup) request for something more than the typical job description. Though the company had provided a generic job description, what the superintendent needed and received was much more personal and heartfelt when compared to the sterile notion of do’s and don’ts so commonly emphasized throughout our industry.

Dear Joe:

I hope my last letter left you pondering one particular paragraph that needs to remain in your brain, echoing unforgettably: “Most of our problems at the bottom originate at the top! Managing well translates into executing well and vice versa. Poor execution is more often than not the result of poor management. Forget the blame game and complaining about how poorly our subordinates perform. Their performance is a direct reflection of how well we manage.”


Too much of our time is wasted trying to change others. We are nearly powerless when it comes to changing others. The only person you have the power to change is you. So, let’s get busy and do so.


Great managers self-manage. They lead by example, practice what they preach, demonstrating by their lifestyle and work habits/ethic exactly the kind of behavior they want to reproduce in others. Consequently, others respond in kind. They produce followers, imitators, they clone themselves—in a limited sense.


There is no such thing as a leader without followers. Great leaders gender great followers who themselves become great leaders. Though they may not put it into words, their mantra is a simple two-word command: “Follow me.”


However, you can’t lead others when you yourself don’t know how to get there. How can you lead your followers to the shared destination unless you know the way? Need I remind anyone that the age-old “do as I say, not as I do” approach doesn’t work?


Let’s apply this to the topic at hand: communication. If you want to produce great communicators, you must first be one yourself. If you want subordinates who are attentive, answer the phone, follow up on emails, texts, voicemails—you must do so in all of your dealings with them. In essence, among other things, you are proving that it can be done and done well by doing so in an exemplary fashion. By your actions you must make it clear to the struggling Spanish-speaking worker who is faced with the daunting task of learning English that he can learn English—because you have learned Spanish.


Moving on.


We get a lot of the resistance to mobile devices and computers in general. Some people are intimidated because of their lack of knowledge and understanding of technology. The result is poor communications. If they don’t understand their devices, they won’t use them. Worse yet, maybe they just use an iPhone as a telephone. What a waste!


So what are we going to do about it? We can’t just sit on our hands and let this continue. We must develop a good understanding of the devices ourselves so that we teach—and lead.


I’ve been impressed with the Apple model for training made available daily in Apple stores around the world. An app can be added to your Apple device that allows you to schedule free classes. It takes about two minutes to sign yourself up for a class that’s being held nearby at a time convenient to the trainee. If you are a business person, you can get free training setup for departments, and it’s even available in languages other than English.


The model is brilliant, as is so many aspects of the organization, developed by the late Steve Jobs. Steve wanted to put a dent in the universe and if you ask me, he did. He and Apple must have done something right. In the last quarter of 2014 they sold 20,000 iPhones every hour of every day, generating over $42 billion in revenue, netting about $8.5 billion in profit.


I’ve attended all of the available classes and taken others in our organization with me. How about you? Leaders must take the time to learn so that they are prepared to teach or at least facilitate the training of others. Pave the way.


One final analogy: Most of us have come up through the ranks, learned the trade and were ultimately promoted to management. As tradesmen, we had our collection of tools necessary to do our jobs. A drywall axe or screw gun, a tape measurer, a utility knife, rasp, T-square and so on. Nowadays, managers have an entire tool chest in the palm of their hand. They are the tools of our trade.


It’s nothing short of amazing. We currently possess devices with dozens of features useful to the effective manager. When it comes to the capacity to communicate, there has never been another generation better equipped than today’s manager. There is absolutely no excuse for the inability to maintain high levels of communication throughout our organizations, and it all starts—or stops—at the top. The onus is on us.


That’s a fact.


Doug Bellamy is former president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif. Visit him on LinkedIn or contact him at

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