Restoring Success: 5 Steps to Balance Leadership & Technical Skills
Leaders need to find a balance between knowing the industry, and effectively leading their team
March 4, 2016
I have been in the restoration industry for nearly 16 years. When I started in the industry, I had an accounting degree and experience in public accounting and business management; not restoration, nor construction. My husband brought a lifetime of technical skills and a high aptitude for all things restoration and construction related.
My strengths: processes, procedures, papers, and numbers. A couple years into the business, I found myself frustrated. I had trouble developing and controlling the processes, procedures and even the finances as the company grew. Like every good accountant, I like checks and balances and things to reconcile. Without any technical knowledge, my frustration grew with each day and ended with eruption!
I exclaimed to my husband and business partner, “I need you to help me! I don’t know all the technical stuff!” He calmly looked at me and said, “then learn it…”
I stomped out of his office and went to my desk to sulk…
After a couple of minutes, I pulled myself together and enrolled in my first restoration class, IICRC WRT (Water Restoration Technician). This was the beginning of my formal education in restoration. Today, I hold my IICRC Master’s Certifications in Water, Fire and Textile. The courses I choose gave me a solid foundation to continue learning the restoration sciences through experiences, reading and collaborating with colleagues. I also gained the confidence to communicate and continue learning.
I became able to establish sound work flows that produced quality results. I was able to work with other leaders in the organization to develop sound operating procedures and best practices that allowed for the delivery of quality services and accommodate growth as well as a bit of decorum in a chaotic industry. And I created marketing and other pieces of communication that were technically sound and established the expertise offered by the organization. By no stretch am I the most skilled or knowledgeable restorer. However, I now have the ability to work with my colleagues to develop and tweak our moisture map and the process, as an example. I can combine my understanding of the application of the processes and the objective of the drying plan with my operational skills. The benefits of the balancing that I personally went through have served me, my organization and those I work with well.
On the other hand, if the operator’s strength is the technical side, take initiative to understand and learn processes, procedures, financial information, and so on.
Operators of restoration companies (many considered small businesses and/or family businesses) need to seek balance between management skills, soft skills (leadership) and technical skills. As an organization grows, this concept may not be as important as you find the equilibrium with various positions and people.
You do not need to be an expert at everything. However, balance will serve you and your organization well.
Your journey to balance:
1. Start with a self-assessment. Give yourself a true evaluation and be honest about observing your areas of development. Look at all relevant skills: technical proficiency, budgeting, logistics, communications, etc.
2. Evaluate your operation. You may find developmental needs in your operation that are a direct reflection of your own personal vulnerabilities.
3. Evaluate your team. Surround yourself and build teams with complementary strengths. Have a strong sense of organizational awareness and understand how all of the disciplines in the organization interact and affect each other.
4. Make a commitment. Commit to coming up with a game plan on how to find balance.
5. Ask the right questions. Once you are self-aware of your strengths, you can effectively leverage the talent and knowledge within your company when you are an operator that asks the right questions of the right people. Questions will help you make sound decisions, lead and learn.
By finding and working towards balance, you will reap many benefits that will have a direct impact on all operating units of your company: restoration, construction, estimating, contents and the marketing department will benefit from a well-rounded operating approach.
It can be uncomfortable to learn or do things that are out of your comfort zone but the rewards can be great. Stay focused on your strengths and seek to find the optimal balance for you and your organization.