Restoring Success | iRestore - Part 2

Restoring Success: Red Flags

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “RED FLAG”?

restoring success red flags
June 5, 2020

You may be thinking of something bad or good. Maybe you are thinking about a situation that you saw “Red Flags” and the result was something bad? A red flag is, “a warning signal or sign; something that indicates or draws attention to a potential problem, danger, or irregularity” Is it good or bad?

Red flags built into your systems and embraced by the team can be a very good thing. The restoration world is complex and fast moving. It is very easy for even the best of the best to make a mistake or miss something. When we embrace and pay the appropriate attention to red flags, it gives us the ability to proactively manage things to have a positive outcome. Let us remember that a red flag is only a signal; if we react to a signal of a coming problem or irregularity, we can get things back on track.

True story about the purchase of RED FLAGs

We may think of reports, software, and alerts that present data in the form of flags, but it is equally important that team members understand that they can and should throw up flags. Team members should not lose sight of the fact that everyone in the organization is on the same team and should all be working towards the same positive results. There is no room for defensiveness or a “cover yourself” mentality in an organization that fully embraces red flags into their culture.

A particularly vociferous and enthusiastic supervisor charged with the reconstruction of a home based on a specific scope of work, came running into the building, “Red Flag! Red Flag! I am red flagging this job!”, he screamed.

He approached me and exclaimed, “I am red flagging this job!”

I replied, “Why?”

He said, “There are many things that were missed from the scope.”

I said, “Good job! Now, go speak to the estimator, get it corrected and execute.”

Nobody was offended. The supervisor did his job and reviewed the scope before executing, he threw up the flag, the estimator was open and thankful, they collaborated, got it done and successfully completed the job both from a service and profitability standpoint.

And so, we bought actual red flags for the team to throw up in the shop with pride.

Perhaps, the person answering the phone notices frequent phone calls from one customer with lots of questions; a flag to the manager that the customer may need a complete review of the process may be in order. A possible communication issue headed off at the pass?

During high volumes, the team is working around the clock, mistakes can happen in the field; put the flags on high alert. Explain to the team that when dealing with high volumes and long hours, it is easier to miss something or make a mistake, everyone is on the same team, keep an eye out and communicate or fix things that someone else may have missed.

The following are a few considerations in using Red Flags to proactively manage positive outcomes:

  • Culture: Our culture is an important ingredient as there most be unity amongst the team.
    • Objectives should be clear so that everyone can rally common goals.
    • Safe: Our environment should feel safe. If an occasional problem or mistake occurs, an individual should be able to see it as an opportunity to improve, learn and grow with the support of colleagues and leadership. We should be able to celebrate the success that the red flag helped the team achieve.
  • Systems/Data/Reports/Software: The following is just a short list to get the wheels turning; the are many complex considerations to using the flags that lie within this area:
    • Less is More: Be cautious of looking at too much information at once and losing site of the “flags”.
    • Proactive and Timely: Workflows, information, and operations should be designed that flags can be used proactively. As an example, looking at job profitability after the job is complete has limited or no use as a “flag” or signal and gives no opportunity to change the outcome.
    • Accessibility and Communication: The flags must be accessible or communicated to the right people within the organization so that they can use them to positively impact the outcomes.
    • Training and Understanding: We must understand and be trained on the information that we are looking at to use it properly. There are infinite ways to present information and flags; the key is understanding it. Simple example:

6/1/2020: In Progress – Water Loss – Start Date: 5/22/2020

At a quick glance, by the dates, something is going on with the loss. At 10 days, if the file is reviewed there should be clear documentation that tells the story explaining 10 days of drying. The dates are a flag indicating irregularity. (And someone should be accountable and compelled to look at the job file)

  • People: As with most things in the operation, our people can be the most important. With the right tools, training/education, and culture, the team can be the best flagging system out there.
    • Consistency in using flags: Flags should create action consistently when they present themselves.
    • Praise and encourage flagging with constructive communications and the collaboration of solutions.

Next time something goes off track, consider the systems and culture. Flags help us better proactively manage desired results.

Happy Restoring Success.

A Fresh Look at Online Training

restoration business development, restoration business management, continuing educationOnline training, e-learning, virtual classrooms, and other terms are becoming a new norm. In the landscape of education, there are limitless resources that are accessible to us and applicable to a variety of disciplines from technical to soft skills. Although there is a new light, none of this is new. As we operate and adjust to a world stricken by the challenges and changes brought on by the pandemic, in last month’s restoring success, A Cultural Shift, we considered some adjustments and speculate on what a new post pandemic world may look like. As an industry, we can embrace, adjust, and utilize training opportunities in new ways.

Children, college students, and adult learners have been nimble; educators have rose to the challenge to help others learn in new and innovative ways. For the first time, the IICRC has approved certain courses and certifications to be offered online via live streaming. The transfer of knowledge and experience to those that serve our industry’s training needs must rise and challenge the status quo in delivering education. Companies and the individuals can benefit from the value that training and education can bring to careers and company results. As with most things, there is not a crystal ball about the training landscape that may exist at any point in the future. However, we can easily speculate by understanding of ripple effect of the pandemic both culturally and economically. We can also look at trends, other industries, the rapidly evolving learning technology and the understanding of distance learning. As individuals and organizations, we can anticipate, seek opportunities, and shift so that we may best embrace the potential benefits of expanded online and virtual training opportunities.

All good and valuable things require effort and nurturing. Training is a tool and an investment that can be utilized to grow, develop and create opportunity. It does not necessarily define success but can help lead us to it. It has been a long-time hurdle to on-board those new to our industry and organizations in a way that is engaging, efficient and productive. Benefiting from on-line training opportunities starts with choosing engaging and valuable courses that meet your learning and possibly credentialing objectives. As well, our organizations’ cultures and individual’s desires for growth and self-development must be fostered to support training initiatives.

The following is a list of a few considerations in embracing on-line training for your Restoring Success:

  • Online training benefits: The are many benefits that when deliberately embraced can be fully enjoyed.
    • Accessibility: We can access subject matter, skill training and development, educators and expertise, anywhere in the world at any time.
    • Flexibility: In the 24/7 world of organized chaos, programs that offer flexibility can be very helpful. In addition, self-paced learning allows individuals to move through curriculum at a comfortable pace on an individual basis.
    • Cost Savings: Some programs may present the opportunity to save.
  • Choosing Training Programs: Use the proper due diligence and thoughtfulness in selecting courses and programs. Consider specifically what you are looking for from your educational choices:
    • Gain insight and understanding to a discipline
    • Gain or develop a certain skill or competency (technical, soft, other)
    • Consider the level: Fundamental, Intermediate, Advanced, etc.
    • Practical Application
    • Certification/Credential/Documentation of Competency
  • Company Tips: As an organization, training and career development can be proactively managed, celebrated and be a part of the culture.
    • Be Deliberate: In the New Tech Under Your Wing, there are a variety of tips to help incorporate training and learning in your day to day operations. One of the most important that applies to in-person or on-line is to encourage field training and mentoring when applicable.
    • Engage: Reward and celebrate learning and growth.
    • Invest: Time, resources, and attention to the utilization of on-line training as a tool.
  • Individual Tips: There are a variety of resources available on-line to help individuals with being on-line and/or adult learners.
    • Be an active and engaged learner
    • Limit distractions
    • Scheduled your courses and be as committed to your commitment as you would be with a live, in-person course.

The time is now to develop your company and individual training and education programs while enjoying all the benefits in the worldwide land of learning opportunities.

Best wishes for happy, safe, restoring success.

A Cultural Shift

restoration managementLisa Lavender, M.T.R., M.F.S.R., M.W.R.

A quick internet search yielded millions of results on: Proper Handshake. Years of practicing and talking about how to give a proper handshake down the drain? I recall giggling with others when someone is a bad hand shaker…too limp…squeezed to hard…well for now, it’s one less thing for everyone to worry about.

The history of the handshake is very interesting. Many of us have likely been doing this for years when meeting new associates, customers, networking, and more. History tells us the handshake has represented a gesture of peace, a sign of good faith, a commitment to a promise, and even has represented an eternal bond. Now what?

We don’t know if the worldwide pandemic will permanently change our behaviors and culture, but we do know that it is changing it now. A few short months ago, in many circumstances, it was considered a social faux pas to not greet someone in what has become our cultural norm. Today, it is socially unacceptable to shake a hand.

How do we adjust our culture, our ways of expressing ourselves, our ways of bonding, and our ways of building and developing relationships? This is a challenge for many businesses and for restorers who take pride in delivering empathetic and compassionate services. To those who have experienced damage to their homes, belongings, and businesses, this is an important element in our service to them.

  1. Individual Self Awareness: As individuals, we need to have extreme self-awareness and be open to working as a team to adjust. We all have our own ways of expressing ourselves and connecting to others and as we shift, we can help each other. We have huggers, we have close talkersand more. Be open and positive in helping each other make the shift. I have a coworker, a hugger, who has extreme empathy for customers and creates bonds in her approach. We have open discussions about figuring out ways for her to express herself and establish bonds. “We can make her signs to hold up?” I myself can be a close talker (not too close…LOL). It is a way for me to express my focus and attention to a person, subject, or conversation. I am extremely self-aware, am now extra cautious to keep my distance, and open myself to others helping me; I will adjust.
  2. Documents/Plans/Procedures: As many of us must develop our systems, processes, and procedures to accommodate the presence of COVID-19 in our day to day, consider the process of integrating these new initiatives into our culture. In Restoring Success It’s All a Matter of Culturewe discuss how to integrate these types of developments into our actual culture. The following are a couple of concepts to serve as a backbone to the cultural shift.
    1. Precautionary Measures: Have a documented and thorough precautionary measure program that can be integrated into your day to day and make them part of the new culture.
    2. Operational Adjustments: There are many general changes from meetings to means of communicating. Phillip Rosebrook’s Creating a Coronavirus Business Action Plan is a great place to start.
  3. Technology and Digital: It is likely that you have all experienced virtual meetings and maybe even a happy hour or two. We have an abundance of technology to enjoy that helps and supports our cultural shift. In this context, challenge yourself and the team to stay up on all the latest; not just in tools but in the use of these tools. We must look beyond the technology and challenge ourselves to consider the importance of engagement, collaboration, and bonding which may or may not be fully replaced with technology. As an industry, we are tactile. If we employ technology without the appropriate attention to this, our relationships, our training programs, and more could suffer.
  4. Training: We should consider training for ourselves and team to help us best adjust.
    1. Soft Skills: I have a few co-workers who are amazing at expressing their care to a customer on the phone. This is just one example of a very important skill at this time. We must be on the top of our game at listening and all means of communicating. Our voice and writing are going to be front and center.

(I mean no offense as some of my favorite people use these terms, but I will use this opportunity and platform to share two words that are my pet peeves, 1) “Hey” – I don’t think it is a good greeting in writing…”hay is for horses” 2) “Yup or Yep” – it could seem flip and insincere in a response to something very important. No “hey or yup” …LOL!)

  1. Other: From technology to body language, keep it top of mind that as we adjust, there could be needs for training to do it best. As an example, at Restoration Technical Institute, we have begun the process of training and developing ourselves to learn how to best engage and train in an online environment. It is more complicated than just buying a webinar platform and we want to be excellent and so we must learn and train.
  1. Be Creative: There is a great opportunity to engage the team to be creative and at the same time keep the need to shift our culture to top of mind. Get the team started and let the ideas flow. Some examples may be:
    1. Pictures: We can do quite a bit with a picture of a smiling face. We can text them to customers, put on social media, and they can even wear them. Not only are we socially distanced, but some of us may look a bit intimidating with a face mask or full PPE.
    2. Proactive Communications: There are all kinds of proactive communications that will let people know how you feel and what to expect. Let people know the masked team they must stay far away from still cares. One idea: send a thank you text with a picture after an emergency.
  1. Company General Environment: There are many general things that could be considered in your organization that could help the shift.
    1. Huddle (far apart or from a distance): Talk about it frequently. Keep the lines of communications open. Keep it all top of mind in a positive environment and it will serve you well.
    2. Openness: Transparency and collaboration are key. There is no place for defensive attitudes and an unwillingness to change or adapt.
    3. Lead by Example: This universal truth is more important than ever. Leadership must exemplify what is expected and necessary during this challenging time.
  1. Eating: Some may call foul on this item being on the list! I am half Italian and breaking bread, eating together, feeding others; food is a big part of my world. I am stumped.
    1. I often recommend taking candidates to lunch because people let their guard down and are more relaxed when eating. It’s a great way to get to know each other.
    2. In our training center, we have food rules! No pizza and sandwiches and we have an ice cream machine because ice cream makes people happy. Now what!?!
    3. On someone’s first day, it is a rule to take them to lunch.
    4. We celebrate, bond, reward with food. I love feeding people. I love eating with others.
    5. I want your advice! The eating situation has me thrown for a loop. A GoToMeeting does not replace this for me. I would love to hear your tips for this big change.

This is a short list of things to consider in the wake of the necessity for a major cultural shift in our world. Although we can only speculate on the long-term impact on our behaviors, we can proactively and positively begin to adjust.

#MOGA: Make On-Call Great Again

water damage restoration, fire damage restoration, disaster restorationIn the restoration industry, being on-call in some capacity is part of the job. In recent years, many seem to view the commitment to being on-call as a drawback rather than part of responsibility and reward that a career in restoration offers.

A positive outlook is where it all begins. The following perspectives, from experienced restorers who serve in an on-call leadership capacity, are valuable. The perspective of the on-call leadership not only allows us to focus on the positive but also influences the rest of the on-call team, company, culture, and the industry at large. Attitudes are contagious; passing along good on-call leadership vibes and positive on-call attitudes will help Make On-Call Great Again.

Pete has been in the industry for over 11 years and he recalls his interview at J.C. Restoration over 10 years ago:

When I interviewed at JC Restoration over 10 years ago, I sat with the Owner and President Warner Cruz. I remember him asking me specifically what I enjoyed most about the restoration industry. The answer I gave him still holds true to this day – emergency responding – the opportunity to gear up, rally the troops, and lead the charge in helping families and/or businesses in their time of need. I knew that we would be one of the first teams out to assist when others needed us the most. We were the first step; we were the knights in shining armor – it’s that exciting opportunity that fuels my passion to help others in the restoration industry daily. I truly believe that the initial emergency response team plays a big part in the end result – how we make our customers feel from the onset will positively set the tone for the duration of any given project.

Jon, an on-call leader for more than 10 years, points out:

I enjoy being able to do what I love as a restorer, without some of the regular pressures and distractions that the normal business day entails.  I have complete focus on the customer and the team, and enjoy mobilizing into action to help others in a time of need. 

Barry, with nearly 15 years in the industry, reflects on a very specific type of after-hour call:

I feel greatly rewarded when I respond to a biohazard/trauma scene. My compassion and empathy are heightened and I am filled with a deep sense of purpose in serving those who have called upon me during what may be one of the most difficult times of their lives. When the remediation is complete, there is deep appreciation from those being served; it is particularly fulfilling and rewarding for me.

A career in restoration demands a commitment to the customers call in need of action, 24/7. Let’s make it great again and keep it great:

  1. On-Call Leadership: The leadership sets the tone and influences how others perceive and view on-call.
    1. The call:  When calling the team in for after-hours duty, it should be done so in a positive and constructive manner. Imagine the impact of calling a team member at 1:00 a.m.: “Hi Joe – You need to get up! It stinks! We just got a big sewer backup an hour away.” Find a better, more positive way to call.
    2. Set a good example: Stay positive and engage the team accordingly.
    3. Teamwork: The thrill of teamwork can be at its peak after-hours. When possible, work along-side the team. Foster the comradery and bonding that can be enjoyed by tackling after hours calls through the challenges and the successes.
    4. Care: Take care of the team and keep them motivated. Food, drinks, and gestures of gratitude and appreciation can go a long way.
  2. Companies: At the company level, we can build a foundation that involves the on-call commitment that will help Make On-Call Great Again:
    1. Interview and On-boarding: In addition to thoroughly explaining the on-call commitment and expectations of a career in restoration, we also want to fully engage and give understanding, Why do we offer fast, 24/7 service?
      1. We do this to “reduce further damage” or mitigate damage. This is true of nearly all the services offered from water to fire.
      2. It is the ultimate show of empathy and support to those we serve. The assurance of trained and caring restoration professionals on site at the time of loss gives people the peace of mind and support they need after they have experienced damage to their property.
    2. On-Call System/Expectations: It is important that the expectations are clear and communicated. The following article includes some useful tips for developing a system: Developing an On-Call System. Included in the system should be a substitution or back up process.
  3. Individuals: While staying focused on the benefits and rewards of a career in restoration, there is personal responsibility to maintain positive balance.
  • Utilize a calendar system to manage your time
  • Plan personal time off in advance
  • Develop or utilize systems for back up coverage (and be sure to reciprocate to your co-workers)
  • Have a positive mental attitude
  • Prioritize time with family/friends
  • Travel,
  • Rest/Sleep
  • Unplug: Hobbies, exercise, sports, music and entertainment

Enjoy the reward of serving as a restorer, 24/7. Share the pride and joy of your work #MOGA.

Restoring Success: Lisa’s New Year’s Resolution

restoring success, restoration management

By: Lisa Lavender

No more tacit approval.

I know that I do it; I do it too much. I know it is counterproductive to many objectives and I know that it sets a poor example for others in leadership positions. I am resolved to stop giving tacit approval.

What is tacit approval? It is giving “approval” by a lack of addressing something; the unintended consequence of silence is the implication of approval.

Let’s take a very simple example. Appropriate footwear in the restoration industry is a must. Someone reports to work and is walking around the warehouse in flip-flops. You see it, walk by it, say nothing and do nothing. As a leader, your silence is implying approval of wearing flip-flops to work. The next day someone else is wearing flip-flops; everyone in leadership sees it and says nothing. Next thing you know, you walk into work one day and you have a full-on flip-flop disaster with half the company in flip flops with toes exposed to danger everywhere.

Our culture and operating results are often a result of what everyone is consistently rallying around both in the “most important” operational movements to the values and behaviors. The things that stay front and center, get attention, and get talked about often become part of the organization’s everyday norm. Likewise, the details and performance issues that go unaddressed also can quickly become the norm, not through formal policy or declaration but via tacit approval. Tacit approval is related to the concept of accountability; however, the result is that it is literally perceived as approved and acceptable behavior.

I personally have had this experience with the policy of personal cell phone use during work hours. This is prohibited but often goes unaddressed. Every so often, we see an excess of personal cell phone use, do a crack-down, a couple of months later, the leadership (including myself) starts walking by as phone abuse happens and then once again, it is a problem. If it was consistently addressed in a positive and constructive manner by leadership, it would likely be less of a problem.

Tacit approval can be a problem with details like positioning cords that create tripping hazards or larger performance issues like failure to update job documentation according to company standards. Why is tacit approval committed?

  • Not wanting to seem difficult to please or picky.
  • Lack of time.
  • Our attention is drawn to other things.
  • Avoidance of confrontation.

My resolution stems from my Dad. A retired insurance executive, he has been coaching and developing the leadership in our organization for many years and has bestowed much valuable wisdom upon us. Thoughts from Dad, Paul Pinchak, affectionately referred to as our Senior Consultant:

Too often, managers use the following thought process:

“I’ll talk to him next week…”
“I’ll wait until her review to bring this up.”
“It’s really not that bad, maybe he’ll do better next time.”

Managers and supervisors at all levels need to be aware that by not addressing a work-related performance issue, an individual is likely to assume what they are doing is acceptable. The longer it goes on; the longer the reinforcement that all is well. The manager who puts off (sometimes indefinitely) talking to their subordinate on an issue that needs to be addressed is doing their organization and the employee a disservice. Is it always easy? No. Is it part of a manager’s responsibilities? Yes.

After nearly 20 years of lecturers about giving tacit approval and my own awareness of what I am doing, I have made this my new year’s resolution. No more tacit approval or excuses for giving it.

I wish you the best-restoring success in 2020 in both your goals and resolutions.


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