I was so excited this year when I was asked by a local organization to give the commencement speech for their statewide conference. As was the case for most of these large in-person gatherings, the event was moved to an online platform. The leadership team for the Washington Association of Maintenance and Operation Administrators (WAMOA) pivoted to make the best of the changing conditions of 2020. 

It is quite different preparing for sharing concepts through Zoom as opposed to being in a room where you can feel the pulse. As I structured content that I thought would translate, I thought about what my friend, Idan Shpizear, who is the CEO of one of the fastest scaling property restoration franchises in the United States, shared when he was a guest on The DYOJO Podcast. He discussed how he had to learn that, 

“Often we OVER estimate what we can accomplish in ONE year, but UNDER estimate what we can achieve in FIVE to TEN years.” 

He is not the author of this prescient quote, but he has proven this concept as he has taken his business, 911 Restoration, from lugging around a portable carpet cleaner in an undersized 1978 Volvo with 100,000 miles on it to a company grossing over $50 million in 2015

The Mindset of Leadership in Chaotic Times

Have you heard, or used, the statement, “Control what you can control”? When you really take some time to think about it, and in the ups and downs of this year time to think has been something we’ve had a little TOO MUCH of, you realize there is VERY LITTLE that we can control. 2020 has made us question the illusion of control even more. 

And yet, we are still here.  

WAMOA was not able to carry out their plans for a physical event that so many were looking forward to in beautiful Yakima, Washington. But that reality did not stop the resolve of their leadership team. The show must go on, even if the show is different than it has ever been.  

Idan and his partner Peleg Lindenberg came to the United States with a dream and $3,000 to their names. $800 of that was spent on the run-down Volvo. They didn’t have an elaborate business plan but they knew they needed to get to work. If you are reading this, you are one of the many growth minded professionals who are continuing to make the best of whatever curve balls life has thrown at you. 

Like many of us, even if you are pushing through there are lingering doubts as to how 2020 will close out and what new challenges 2021 will bring. I want to encourage you to remember Idan’s words, “Often we OVER estimate what we can accomplish in ONE year, but UNDER estimate what we can achieve in FIVE to TEN years.” 

This encourages our MINDSET for how we will cross the “finish” line for 2020 and how we will resume our journey in 2021. We are moving forward and we are going to control what we can control. 

The Habits of Leadership In Uncharted Territory 

WAMOA’s vision statement is one that resonates with all organizations - Developing successful facility leaders through professional collaboration. Whatever 2020 has thrown at us and whatever 2021 brings, does that take away our responsibility, our calling, or our ability to, “Develop successful ______ (fill in the blank for you industry) leaders through professional collaboration?”


WAMOA’s 2020 president, Marina Tanay, from Sumner Bonney Lake School District, has stated her vision as, “Leading by action and example.” She was elected to the role because she is a visionary and she works hard to live out that vision statement. To her it is not aspirational, it is actionable. She shared a quote by Donald H. McGannon, “Leadership is not a position or title. It is action and example."

Speaking of what we can accomplish, even in the face of 2020’s challenges, we recently experienced this outpouring of support for our First Annual The DYOJO Podcast Socktember Event to Support Local Charities. Our inaugural event was a great success with the impassioned participation of Lindsey Ward (Contents Specialists of Washington), Tammy Birklid (Merit Construction), Jon Isaacson (3 Kings Environmental), Kelsey Isaacson (Home with Kelsey Isaacson) and Luke Draeger (Aramsco Seattle). Collectively we were able to raise over 5,500 new pairs of socks as Lindsey and her Sisters for Socks teams took the 2020 #socktember trophy. 

So, what does it look like to be a person in a position of leadership as we approach 2021? I want to challenge you to think about development in terms of The Ladder vs. The Mountain.

The Ladder Mindset: 

Too often we constrain our organizational and personal development vision by conforming to the mindset and habits of the leadership ladder. Think for a moment, what is the view like when everyone is on the same ladder trying to reach “the top”? 

  • On a ladder, there is a limited view and therefore limited opportunities. 
  • On a ladder, the perception is that there is always someone above, regardless of how far someone climbs.   
  • On a ladder, team members feel like they are either being stepped on or pulled down. 

The Ladder Habits: 

  • On a ladder, there’s only one “top spot”, so there is little room for collaboration; it all but ensures conflict.
  • On a ladder, those with unique skills, perspectives, and abilities feel limited by their chances to contribute to the mission.

If you are in a position of leadership and you have the ladder MINDSET, you will have and will perpetuate:

  • A limiting view of opportunities and challenges.
  • A bottleneck of upward mobility and idea flow.
  • A challenge in getting your team members to collaborate.

The Mountain Mindset: 

In the Pacific Northwest we are so blessed to have beautiful views. Picture a local climbing trail or nearby mountain, what are the views along the upward trail from those landmarks? 

  • On a mountain, there are no limits to the views (opportunities).
  • On a mountain, there are many ways to get to “the top”. 
  • On a mountain, the more challenging the climb the more we need our team mates to help us overcome and work through obstacles (collaboration).

The Mountain Habits: 

  • On a mountain, the “top spot” is only one of many desirable opportunities. 
  • On a mountain, there are unlimited success trails and collaboration enhances progress for the team. 
  • On a mountain, there is plenty of room for people with unique skills, perspectives, and abilities to contribute to the mission. 

If you are in a position of leadership and you have the mountain MINDSET, you can:

  • Create an unlimited view of opportunities where team members embrace challenges together. 
  • The best ideas flow throughout the organization as obstacles require that everyone works together to achieve big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs). 
  • Collaboration and creativity help the mission move forward.  

PROGRESS, rather than position, becomes the goal. Team members are empowered to find unique roles that unlock their creativity at work for the good of all rather than being funneled into a system that rewards a limited range of success parameters. Taking even a few small steps in the right direction is worth more than thousands of busy steps in the wrong direction. 

What is Your Mindset for Success?

In positions of leadership, we have to constantly ask ourselves if our lack of progress is baked into the systems we are creating or managing. It is difficult to make deep changes when job security is often tied to maintaining a system rather than taking a step back in order to take multiple steps forward

Success is not easy or guaranteed. But each of us has the ability to chart a path to progress. You may not have the ability to control sweeping changes, but are you making the changes that are within your control? 

  • In your own MINDSET are you stuck trying to climb the ladder or are you tackling the mountain? 
  • Are you cultivating HABITS for your team that are limiting the flow of ideas and choking collaboration or are you opening pathways to success that unlock the creativity of your team members? 

Will You Adapt Your Habits?

What we believe will shape how we act. If you believe that you are powerless, you will be. If you believe that you cannot achieve, you won’t. Perhaps you are stuck in a rut, whether internal or external or a combination of both. I hope that Idan’s encouragement will ring in your ears, empowering you to think about things a bit differently and therefore act a bit differently. 

As a practical application, maybe we take Idan’s words and break that down further:

“Often we OVER estimate what we can accomplish in ONE year, but UNDER estimate what we can achieve in FIVE to TEN years.” 

  • What about ONE month vs. FIVE months?
  • What out ONE week vs. FIVE weeks? 
  • What about ONE day vs. FIVE days? 

We are all dealing with a laundry list of challenges, similar to Idan’s start up story which included limited funds, battered resources and tired bones. 

What are the First Steps Towards the Mountain Mindset? 

  • Update your INPUTS, get around people who talk about opportunities rather than commiserate about obstacles. 
  • Update your VIEW of your situation. It is much harder to climb a mountain than a ladder, but it is also much more exciting and rewarding. 
  • Update your MINDSET. Revise your one year plan and broaden your five year goals. 
  • Update your HABITS. Get off the ladder and start training, preparing, and gathering a team to tackle the mountain.

One Small Change in Your Habits 

One of the board members at the online WAMOA conference shared that president Marina Tanay launched 2020 with inspirational 3x5 cards handed out to the leadership team. As I did for our conference guests, I want to challenge the reader to open 2021 with 1 ⅜” x 1 ⅞” post it notes. 

I don’t want all of you to leave with a mountain mindset and then implode tomorrow when you start trying TOO HARD to take on TOO MUCH TOO SOON. I actually want you to encourage you to REDUCE to PRODUCE. When you tackle a mountain, you need the right equipment in relationship to your journey. If you are carrying too much you won’t get very far.  

Get yourself some Post-It Notes and start to be realistic about what you can accomplish TODAY. 

  • If you have an 8 hour day, start planning your day with 4 Post-It Notes to represent 2 hour blocks of your time. Set realistic goals for what you will accomplish each day. 
  • Put a big X through those items you accomplish. 
  • If something comes up that is more pressing than your prior plan, move that new Post-It Note in and move the prior note to another spot.      
  • Some items may carry, but you have them on the board and you are prioritizing for yourself as you attack the mountain.

Small steps in the RIGHT direction are more valuable that many steps in the WRONG direction (or leading to NO PROGRESS). 

For more from Jon Isaacson, The Intentional Restorer, check out The DYOJO Podcast, the INFOtainment podcast for the skilled trades. If you are having issues with profitability or consistency in your production process, Jon has written Be Intentional: Estimating to help estimators, managers, and business owners to achieve better outcomes for insurance claims.