The Law of Priorities
Hello and welcome back! Thanks for joining me again as we continue to look at John Maxwell’s book – The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – and how they play into the construction and remodeling industries. These podcasts explore how these laws uniquely apply to the construction and remodeling industries and how they can impact performance in those industries.
As we have talked about in other podcasts, every construction and remodeling industry member has a toolbox. They know what the contents of their toolbox is. They are often proud of the tools that they have gathered – almost like a badge of honor. They know when to pull those tools out at the right time and right place.
In a similar way, these podcasts are helping you build your leadership toolbox. Your leadership toolbox is the accumulation of the skills that you have developed that help you manage and lead yourself, your team and your company. Learn how and when to apply these laws which will build your leadership skills to make you a more effective leader for those around you.
If you are listening to these podcasts through our blog, you can actually find these same lessons as part of a free course on Construct-Ed. The course explores all 21 laws as laid out by John Maxwell and how those laws can be used to build better team members, better crews and better companies in the construction and remodeling industries.
My name is Chris Jurin and I am the instructor for this course and your guide through these podcasts. I am the CEO of Construct-Ed. My mission is to add value to you and help you build your leadership abilities in your particular industry. I am a trainer and coach with the John Maxwell Team. I am also the president of a commercial roofing company as well as the president of a roof consulting firm.
30,000 foot view of the Law of Priorities
Priorities. Simply put – a priority is defined as a thing that is regarded as being more important than another. Like it or not, each of us has our priorities. Our job, our significant other, our children – ourselves. What is your priority? In order for someone to find success, that person must be able to first define success – and then they must be able to set their priorities in order to achieve success. Naturally a leader will want to focus their priorities on those things that would make them a success.
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I recently watched the movie Woodlawn – great movie by the way. Woodlawn is a film that focuses on Tony Nathan, who was an African American high school student in Birmingham, Alabama during the time of desegregation. Tony was one of the first black football players to play at Woodlawn High School.
At the outset of the movie, the federal government was implementing desegregation in the south – and it was being heavily resisted in Alabama. Governor Wallace stood before the University of Alabama in an attempt to defy the federal government and maintain a segregationist policy. The south was embroiled in the Civil Rights Movement.
As all situations are local – the movement towards desegregation was brought to a head through the Birmingham School System and in particular at Woodlawn High School. The entire student body was affected. It was exhibited by every situation where black and white students were now participating together. In the classroom – and on the sports field.
The movie highlights how the football team – players and coaches alike – used faith and sports to overcome their prejudices. They practiced the Law of Priorities. They focused their priorities on valuing a man based on what he was able to contribute to the goals that lay before the team. They chose to see the God-given value of each person. They chose to focus on the positive.
Priorities in the Construction and Remodeling Industries
Why do you do what you do? A simple question – but one that has a lot of answers and one where most of the answers are deep. Why do you get up each morning or do the job that you do? Some answers are simple – you have a mortgage or rent to pay! You have a family to support. For some – you have bill collectors knocking on your door and you are trying to catch up.
These are the demands that are on each and every one of us. Demands exist – and they create tension and stress in our lives. They drive us. They direct our actions. So – are you allowing someone else or something else to set your priorities? Are you reacting to your environment and letting others set your priorities – or are you positively controlling your life so that you have a say in setting your priorities?
Now extend that to your job – your project – your company. Are you setting your priorities – or do you find yourself reacting to everything that goes on around you. Do you find yourself just executing a task list on a daily basis without really taking any ground? You may get to the end of the day, week, month or year and look back and think that you did a lot of stuff but that you really did not accomplish anything.
In the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, author John Maxwell discusses Law #17 – The Law of Priorities. He builds this law on the premise that “Leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment”. What are your priorities? Are you achieving your goals by setting your priorities – or are you continually just completing your task list only to watch it fill up again and again?
Construction and remodeling projects are complex. They typically have a lot of moving parts. The larger the project, the more complex it becomes. And the more complex a project, the more leaders must be able to focus on priorities.
Priorities can be divided up between project specific priorities – such as safety and quality – and company priorities – building a sustainable business, growing your teams and your staff. Leadership in construction requires a dual-focus. It requires leaders to be able to compartmentalize and shift between those areas of focus. Focus too much on project specific priorities and the company can suffer because you are not building your team members. Focus too much on the business and the projects can suffer from a loss of quality and financial performance.
Setting Priorities in Your Company and Your Projects
Construction projects have demands. There are deadlines to meet. Quality standards that must be upheld. And safe working conditions that must be maintained. These areas are non-negotiable. They cannot be abandoned.
While leaders must maintain these areas within their businesses in order to remain competitive in the market, leaders must also be able to build their businesses towards a sustainable future. Face it – there will be sometime in the future where you will no longer be in your current position. You will eventually retire or will move on to take another job. Who is coming behind you? Will the business be sustainable for future generations?
In the Law of Priorities, John Maxwell offers three key questions that leaders need to ask when setting priorities. Take some time to reflect on these questions.
- What is required?
Many leaders and non-leaders in construction are aware of what is required of them. They are aware of the requirements of the job – quality, schedules, deadlines. They are aware that they need to complete their work on-time, under budget and without any injuries. They have a good idea of what the project needs to look like when they are finished – and they work hard to accomplish that goal.
But what about the issues facing the company? What is required in order to help the organization sustain long-term performance? Is it required that you grow the business in order to remain competitive? What skills do you need to train into your staff and teams in order to grow the business? Make sure that you are not losing sight of the what is required when you are focused on the horizon that lays just beyond the completion of your next project. Timelines in construction have a way of demanding our immediate focus – but they can also take away from focusing on long-term goals beyond the end of the next project.
- What gives the greatest return?
It is pretty simple to calculate the return on the next project. The bid is for this much – costs for materials and labor are budgeted at this. Subtract the budget from the bid price and that is the project yield. If you are self-employed, that is your paycheck. If you are part of a larger company, the yield is what covers the overhead of the business. You can prioritize your projects in part based on the potential return for that project.
Leaders now need to be able to extend their decision making horizon beyond the end of their next few projects. Financial performance is key – but returns are not always measured in dollars. How else can you measure return? Employee morale. Employee growth. Your ability to take some time away from the business to spend time with your family. Short-term gains will not take away the sting of long-term losses.
- What brings the greatest rewards?
In the movie Woodlawn, two opposing teams – brought together through a shared faith – conduct pre-season camp together. The two teams actually wind up playing for the championship at the end of the season.
The coach of Woodlawn asked the other coach about what he values more – winning a championship or the opportunity to coach a true star player. It turns out that both teams produced a pro-player from their squads. Tony Nathan – who the movie focuses on – played for Woodlawn and went on to play for the Miami Dolphins. Jeff Rutledge was the quarterback for the opposing team – and went on to play for several pro teams. Both players played for Bear Bryant at Alabama.
The opposing coach replied to Woodlawn’s coach by simply saying that rings collect dust. We naturally set our priorities based on what gives us the greatest sense of personal reward. The greater the leader, the longer their time horizon for defining what is a great reward. Where do you find your reward? Is it in the short-term gain. Or is it in the long-term development of those around you?
I get it – construction companies and business in general requires a company to make a profit in order to stay alive. There is no company out there that can turn out consistent losses year after year and stay in business. It cannot happen. Companies have to make money.
Companies are like the human body. Profits are a sign that the company is healthy. If your body is not healthy, you cannot get out and do good for others. A body must be healthy in order to allow the person to be able to contribute. Much in the same way, a company must be financially healthy in order to be able to contribute to the world around it.
But what happens when a person becomes fixated on trimming down just a bit more. Or someone becomes infatuated with their appearance and spends hours upon hours at the gym trying to sculpt that one area of their body. They miss out on being able to get out and be a part of the world.
Do companies – do people – that make great money and are very successful get to the point where they are spending too much time in the gym? What are their priorities? What are your priorities and how are you setting them. Remember – leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment.
There is a scene in the movie where the Woodlawn coach is faced with a decision to play Tony Nathan after he is hurt. The coach realizes that while he needs Tony to play in order to win, that playing Tony will only leave him hurt – possibly for the rest of his life. Tony breaks down in the hallways leading to the locker room and yells at his coach for not playing him. The coach takes Tony and let’s him know that there are more important things than football – Tony is more important than winning.
Remember to set your priorities not based on just being busy, but by asking the questions of require, return and reward. Asking these questions can help you develop a long-term perspective and help you set your priorities in your professional and your personal lives.
Thanks for taking your time to talk about the Law of Priorities. It is my hope that you realize the importance of the learning to set priorities and how it can focus you on achieving your goals and not just being busy.