Dave Fawcett on leadership

John: So, this is part of the Dave Fawcett talks. This is the man who actually taught me how to golf.

Dave: [laughs] No! Actually, I think that you taught me.

John: When I first joined the PDCA, as a young contractor, I decided to get serious. They’re having a marketing event, down at the Design Center. And I came, and I actually wore a shirt and a tie, and I had my notebook, and it happened to be the year that Dave Fawcett was the President of the PDCA. I walked in, and he shook my hand, and said, “Hi, I’m the P – [censored].” I didn’t know what to say.

Dave: Yeah, you did, you laughed, you liked it.

John: Anyways, we spent time lots of time – at the PDCA, we figured out that we lived a block away from each other in Tukwila. And then, we started doing everything – well, I used to spend Saturdays at your shop, spraying lacquer and enamel. And now, you’re at my shop, and the first thing that you said when you came in is, “What is this?”

Dave: Yep.

John: Those are cans of Fine Paints of Europe. I’ve asked Dave to come and drink some of my coffee and bestow some wisdom.

Dave: I think (and I’ll have to stumble around a little bit, get my words right) what you do with people is you [clearly] communicate what it is we’re going to do, what it is we need to do, what it is you want them to do. And then, you track it – you pay attention to what they’re doing, and you reinforce positive behavior. When somebody doesn’t do what they’re supposed to do, you talk about what we’re gonna do to fix that, you don’t talk about what they did wrong, we just constantly talk about what it is we want to do. Everything is action-oriented, and everything people do gets recognized and appreciated. That reinforces what they’re doing, and keeps them focused on a direction.

There’s two things that you can do that are negative (kind of the opposite of what I’m talking about):

- One of them is to send somebody out to do something, and then go out to the job and yell and scream and bitch about everything that they did wrong. And the attitude that you leave that person with is, “Jesus Christ! I work my ass off, and all I hear is, ‘Fuckin’, there’s a paint screwdriver here, and something else here!’ and you sap energy. And what you want to do, is you want to create energy, you want to build energy.
- And then, the worst thing you can do (worse than that) is to ignore people. By that, I mean, you don’t give them any feedback. You just live in your own world, and they go out, and they do what they do, and…no feedback. That would be the worst.

If I relate it to golf – we’re playing golf – and you’re up on the T-box, we’re gonna talk about where in the fairway you’re gonna strike the ball. And, when you hit it into the hazard, I’m not gonna say, “John, Jesus Christ, I told you not to hit it in the hazard! That’s a penalty!” We don’t go through that routine. You know it’s a hazard. You know you weren’t supposed to – because, why do we talk about what we’re gonna do?
So, we go over there and say, “Ok – here’s our options.” You know? We can drop the ball here, or we can go back to the T, we can go back in a straight line…what do you think is the best option? Get the guy involved, come up with the next option, and talk about where we’re going with the next shot.

Well, it isn’t easy to necessarily…I’ve been working on myself for years, and I still – just ‘cause I know what I’m supposed to do and how I’m supposed to do it, doesn’t mean I always do it. I’ll still get angry and fall off the tracks. You make mistakes. It’s pretty obvious to me, when I’m all said and done, that it didn’t work.

So, here again, part of what you do is you set up a list of criteria. A guy’s gonna be a lead guy, and, I don’t know, you might have three or four things that you’re looking for – one of the things that we wanna make sure that they do, is we wanna make sure that they get their guys there on time, that the guys are dressed appropriately, that they’re working within the time that they’re supposed to be working, that they’re doing a good job, and that we’re paying attention attention to what we do.

So, we’ll go through, we’ll have quality monitoring, so one of the things that you’re asking this guy to do is stop periodically and have him or someone go through and look at all the work that we’ve done up until that point. If there’s something that’s not right, we’re just gonna fix it. We’re gonna fix it right now, we’re not gonna fix it later, we’re just gonna fix it. And, more often than not, when somebody knows somebody’s coming to look at their work, that work becomes more important to them, they do a better job, and then you get to come up and say, “God, Bob, that looks good, you’re doing a nice job.” That makes the guy who’s running the job feel good, and it makes the guy who’s doing the work feel good.

I think most people don’t like a lot of confrontation. And so, you have to find ways for them to get the same thing done without all the histrionics, the confrontations, the screaming, the anger…I’m not sure, in the end, that most of us are comfortable with that. Some people are, but most are not.

John: How do you bring a guy back in that’s, let’s say, has had a long history of a good performance as a job lead, and he’s just maybe not treating people the right way, and…I don’t know, in your setup, maybe the first line would be, maybe Matty would kind of talk to him, but let’s say it’s a more serious problem that it needs your attention. And he’s worth the time – maybe he’s not aware of how he’s slipped, and he’s kind of being negative, and he’s taking energy away versus putting energy back into it. How do you do a reset, as an owner? You know, to somebody like that.

Dave: Well, that’s an interesting point, because if you’ve got to that point, you haven’t been doing what you were supposed to be doing in the first place. By letting it get to that point, you’ve let it run off the tracks. And the object is, as often as you need to, to keep these things on the tracks going in the direction, so you don’t have failures. You don’t want failures. But if a guy gets to that point – and that’s a tough deal, ‘cause there’s a certain line. Once that’s been crossed, you might not…might be tough to get the guy back, but you bring him in here, and you say, “John, you’re doing a great job as a painter, as a lead…one of the things I’d like to see us do is to have good moral. And I’m looking for you to help me out with that.

My experience has been that most of us do better when we’re appreciated and recognized for our accomplishments than we do when we’re belittled or berated by failures. John, when I talk to you, and I chew your ass, how does that make you feel?”

John: Sad. Not so good.

Dave: Not so good. Doesn’t give you a lot of energy, does it? I think most of us –

John: Makes me defensive.

Dave: Yeah. I think most of us are the same way. And, one of the qualities that you have (and I’d like to see you work on it, and let’s go in this direction) is – and I’m giving you permission – I would really like to see you work with guys and build them, rather than tear them down. Build people up. You know, they look up to you, and they want your recognition, they want your approval. And that’s a power you have, that’s something you can do.

John: But how is that, compared to two crew leads – one guy is a natural leader. He builds people up, he gives energy…and all the ones that I’ve had, I can really say, if I’m really honest about it, those people already had it in them. I didn’t train them. And then other ones that were unsuccessful? I think they might’ve been, if I could have trained them better.

Dave: I would say most of us have a little bit of both in us. And, I guess what you wanna do is identify and reinforce those traits within a guy that you want them to bring to the fore. I’m not thinking you’re going to be very successful with trying to spend your time extinguishing that which you don’t like. So, build on that guy’s strengths. And not everybody is going to be a good lead. You need to identify what he has and what he can bring to the table.

I talk a lot about kangaroo management versus caterpillar management. And so, if you’re out on a job, and you have your guys out there with you…centipede management. Centipede management. You got a centipede – has a thousand legs, a hundred legs, whatever they got, they got a lot of legs. WAP! A couple of those things get knocked off, we’re still going. Everything’s still going. All legs are functioning. They’re all part of that whole.
Kangaroos got two big strong legs and a tail. You go up there and whack that one tail off, and the whole thing comes over. So, if you have somebody that’s too strong, and they’re not able to release, take some of his legs, and I would say, actually require some other people to stand up erect, take responsibility, and accomplish tasks. And then, when they do, make sure that you appreciate it. That’s the key, that’s what reinforces it…is to ask them to do it, require that they do it, but the key is, appreciate it when they do. Not take it for granted. And it seems kinda silly – well, that’s what he’s getting paid for, anyway, he oughta be doing that shit (I pay him!) – but, in the end, I don’t think that works so well.

John: Thanks, Dave.

Dave: You’re welcome, John.