restoration business leadership | iRestore Restoration Software

Restorers Need to Ask: To Reply All Or NOT Reply All

By Lisa Lavender M.T.R., M.F.S.R., M.W.Rcommunication in business, company culture, restoration business leadership.

When I created the weekly tip for success, “Know when to Reply All and NOT to Reply All,” I did not expect to receive so much enthusiastic feedback. After hearing the horror stories, the frustrations and the passion surrounding the topic, it was clear that it demanded an entire article. The topic seems a bit silly and if you are reading it, you may already be reply passionate. I encourage to you to add any reply tips in the comments below for all to enjoy. You can use this article as a tool to help train and inspire good reply to etiquette.

Email is one of the most popular forms of communicating in our day-to-day lives. It comes in all forms: Internal, external, instructions, updates, announcements, junk, and more. For many, it is a critical means of communication that we rely on to function.

It is also a skill to use properly. Like all forms of communication, it reflects on our presentation and professionalism. We have to “manage” the email madness. In my ongoing personal quest to “Stop the Email Madness,”  I estimate that I probably spend about 3 hours a week deleting unnecessary “Reply Alls” or the more complex redistribution of information to others because the respondent did not appropriately “Reply All.”  This can cause a flurry of broken communication and inefficiency. Some of you may have had or observed embarrassing situations from haphazard replying. Some of you may have thought or said, “Stop Replying to All!”  Proper replying leads to improved email effectiveness and efficiency for all.

REPLY TO ALL  

The following is a list of things to consider while applying good judgement: 

  • Small groups of participants
  • Work plans, questions and answers, meeting follow ups, etc.
  • Consider that the creator of the string was deliberate on who was on the initial email
  • Whenever everyone on the email needs to know the response; this can apply to a variety of scenarios. This is my personal number one passion as I have to recommunicate with people who get disconnected because someone should have “Replied All” 

NOT REPLY TO ALL

Another short list of considerations that should be applied with good judgement:

  • Large groups
  • General announcements, Dissemination of information, etc.
  • Thank you. I do like thanking and acknowledging, however, imagine an email with 50+ people and each one replies to all with a Thank you. That is fifty extra thank you emails to delete. If is it a large group and I want to express enthusiasm or gratitude, I will sometimes simply thank the sender.
  • Donotreply senders: This is not a person by the name of Dona Reply; this is from an account that is not designed to Reply to All – Do Not Reply = donotreply.
  • When saying something inappropriate or you may not want someone on the string to see, proceed with caution. Or do not share your thoughts in email at all. Yes, there are many horror stories here. Which leads to….
  • Pay attention to who “All” is…pay attention in general. Someone may have included the wrong contact by mistake (guilty!). Maybe a key person was missed. Maybe the person replied to only you with information that is needed by others.  

OTHER REPLYING ETIQUETTE 

REPLY: This sounds simple. It can be difficult to keep up with our email communications. We also have the added complexity of checking our Junk and Spam filters to make sure that important communications are not overlooked. We cannot ignore emails, or not respond in a timely manner, because it can have a ripple effect that includes straining relationships, workflow issues, and more. Not replying to an email can be the equivalent of saying, I do not care, I am not listening, I do not want to collaborate with you and more. I personally strive to be timely and diligent in my replying. Even with my “reply to” passion, I sometimes falter on my own best practices. I take it seriously, apologize, and work to get better.

MOVE SOMEONE TO Bcc: This is good etiquette when being connected to someone and an email string will ensue that is not relevant to the connector. It may sound like: Jane, I thank you for connecting me to Tom, I have moved you to BCC. I will coordinate the next steps with Tom.

ANNOUNCE CONTACTS THAT YOU ADD: Consider this the equivalent of announcing that you put someone on speaker phone and those who are present for the call. I do this often when needing to facilitate or inform key people that I work with. It may sound like: I have added Joe, Director, who can help us facilitate the next steps.

FORWARD: This was a special request for the article. Be thoughtful and considerate when forwarding emails and/or adding people when it may not have been the intention of the sender to share. If in doubt, ask the original sender. If you do appropriately forward an email to inform others, forward it with an FYI or brief description. This will allow the receiver to know if there is an action item in the email or if you are just passing along information to keep them in the loop.

BCC: If you were Bcc’d, it was likely the intention of the creator that you are not to reply, and you are only on the string for informational or awareness purposes.

JUNK AND SPAM: I was recently on a string that was a fraudulent invoice. All participants were Bcc’d. Many of those in receipt, began replying and then began replying to all. All the participants became exposed further, and it was an email scam mayhem string of replying to all. Finally, someone said, “STOP REPLYING TO ALL!”

TIPS TO EMAIL CREATORS: To help control bad replying, as the creator, you can help manage the situation.

  • Use To, Cc, and Bcc deliberately. As a rule, the TO contacts have some kind of action item. Ccs are there for the information and possible ensuing communications.
  • Tell the recipients how to reply. Please Reply All with your response. Or Reply with questions directly to me. 

Email etiquette is something we have to train on and talk about. I hope this seemingly silly topic can contribute to your Restoring Success.

Things I Learned From Running A Restoration Company

company culture employee managementBy Lisa Lavender M.T.R., M.F.S.R., M.W.R.

I absolutely do not know “everything” and am grateful to learn new things every day. As I consider myself an operations person, my work is never done. I have learned and continue to learn from mistakes, others, and anywhere else I can find knowledge. As I continue to expand and grow, I keep saying: “It is just like running a restoration job!” I do not know if those that I work with are finding it obnoxious. However, I keep finding myself amused.

You may have heard of the best-selling book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum. You will find his first nine of sixteen thoughts listed below and see that they are quite profound:

“1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don’t hit people.
4. Put things back where you found them.
5. CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS.
6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.
8. Wash your hands before you eat.
9. Flush…….”

At a glance, you can see the value of these lessons shared by the author.

I am still learning in my role operating a restoration company. The things that I have learned in restoration thus far have been put to good use in other ways — in restoration software, restoration training, and six years as a co-owner and operator of a professional arena football team. I also have had the opportunity to share what I learned with friends in other unrelated industries.

As I continue my career journey, I am grateful to learn, apply, and share some of the things that I have taken from my experience in the restoration industry. The following list has served me well thus far:

  1. Proactively Manage Expectations
    Customers, members of the team, and all involved are best served when we proactively manage expectations. We should train and develop our best practices around this concept.

    1. Be upfront and honest.
    2. Explain the process and/or experience: As we seek to master this in our organization, this applies to both “negative” and “positive” elements of the experience.
  2. Manage Projects
    Project management skills are essential to not only restoring homes and businesses but also executing anything that needs to be done. Projects should be managed efficiently and effectively by:

    1. Establishing a scope of work
    2. Setting timelines and accountability
    3. Budgeting
    4. Managing Resources – in-house and subcontracted
    5. Effective communications
    6. Orders of operations – i.e., critical paths
  3. “Start With The End In Mind”
    Stephen Covey nailed this one and it should be used as a guiding principle in all we do. We must have clear objectives and desired outcomes as we define the path and all the necessary steps. I learned to embrace this in restoration, and it is most helpful to keep top of mind as an approach to executing many tasks and projects.
  4. People First
    At the end of the day, our people in the organization are the greatest asset and make the difference. The right people, values, and leadership are always of the utmost importance to reaching goals. There are countless ways to develop management and leadership skills. There are so many opportunities to grow and develop. A good start is a true and genuine care for people which will propel you to continuously grow and lead you in the right direction. Even if you make mistakes, people who feel cared for and respected will stick together and rise to the challenges.
  5. Things That Get Assigned Get Done
    Be clear on expectations and assignments of responsibilities. The story of Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, Nobody reminds us of this important lesson:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wgucw8ZJijc
  6. Communicate
    This may be the equivalent of “Flush” in the kindergarten book. It is a vital element for effective internal operations, serving customers, managing resources, and even marketing and business development. Not just communicating, but good communicating and listening are critical.
  7. Best Practices 
    Clearly defined expectations that are documented and repeatable are important to create consistently excellent outcomes. Best practices can lead the way in supporting growth, accountability, and training.
  8. Be Resourceful And Never Stop Learning
    You never know what you need or what you need to know.
  9. Continuous Improvement – You Are Never Done
    The world is constantly changing and evolving. Accept that your work is never done and enjoy the challenges and the opportunities as you go.
  10. It Does Not Work If You Do Not Use It
    This applies to equipment, software, knowledge, and the NeoraFit Wellness & Weight Management System that I purchased.

May sharing the things that I have learned help bring you much continued Restoring Success.

Originally published in R&R Magazine online.

The Resilience of Restorers

restoration business development
January 7, 2021
Lisa Lavender, M.T.R., M.F.S.R., M.W.R.

“Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” African Proverb

If you are reading this, it is likely that you overcame challenges, learned new things, pivoted, showed resilience, supported others, and more, after navigating 2020.

Although challenges and change are inevitable as we journey on into 2021, we should move forward with a new sense of confidence and accomplishment. After all, you did it! You, your team, and your company did it! You navigated a year full of endless challenges and should celebrate the achievement.

There are possibly endless lessons and reflections that we can learn from and share as an industry. I look forward to serving on the R&R Panel, Lesson’s from Covid-19, presented by The Experience University, February 10, 2021, learning the lessons of others, sharing my own, and building a solid future together as an industry.

As individuals, companies, and as an industry, there were many journeys, challenges, lessons, and reflections of the year, 2020. As we move forward and start our new year energized, focused on goals, and ready to take on the challenges and changes ahead, I share a couple of thoughts to keep the momentum going strong:

  • Celebrate Our Purpose: Although there may be a wide variety of ways we communicate and lead each other as purpose-driven organizations, it is easy to lose sight of our true purpose in the day today. I quote a long-time industry friend and instructor, Ron Valega, who reminds classes, “We are not just sucking poop! We are giving people clean and safe environments.” Unite as a team and celebrate the new year and future with a deeper appreciation than ever before of the great works of the cleaning, restoration, and remediation industries. After 2020, we know now more than ever that providing clean and safe environments for people to do their work and live their lives is a noble, rewarding profession to be proud of.
  • Post-2020 Huddle: In What the CAT Just Happened, it is encouraged to post-CAT huddle with the team and evaluates what went well and what could be done better next time. Take this opportunity to gather input from every member of the organization to give ideas and input on preparedness and the identification of opportunities.
  • Opportunities: Take this opportunity to think big and seek opportunities. Ajay Pangarkar, CTDP, FCPA, FCMA’s article, 3 Habits to Innovate During a Pandemic gives a great deal of inspiration and three keys to seizing the opportunity. “While tragic, this pandemic is also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do things differently; to think differently. Prior to the pandemic, you know “normal times,” you could have far-fetched innovations, but if they were too extreme, no one would give you the time of day. But guess what? We can now not only dream of far-fetched ideas but are actually encouraged to do so. You now have implicit permission to try anything even marginally viable and no one will hold it against you for trying to make it a reality.” says Pangarkar.
  • Perspective: It is an excellent time to calibrate a very important meter, your Perspective Meter. Calibrating the perspective meter allows us to focus on what is important, see opportunities, and appreciate all the good by which we are surrounded.

My own 2020 experience was filled with successes and mistakes. There were a few times I had a moment and said, “I don’t know! This is my first Global Pandemic!” I would quickly gather myself and journey on, surrounded by an amazing team, supporters, and friends.

As for the lessons, like many of us, I learned quite a few and look forward to sharing them. I do know one thing for certain, although I always feel a sense of gratitude towards my co-workers and colleagues, it is this year more than ever; that this gratitude almost overwhelms me as I know that I would not be prepared and energized as I am now for 2021.

As we reflect on 2020, we must remember there was no “playbook”. Be proud, you did it!

Originally published in R&R Magazine

Use Your Words

restoration business management, restoration business development, restoration business leadershipAs children are learning to speak and communicate, we often say, “use your words.” An important soft skill that, as adults and restoration professionals, we should never stop developing in ourselves and others. The following excerpt is a brief description from childcare.net as to the importance of developing this skill:

Use Your Words

Teaching young children to “use their words” is a well-known educational tool aimed at increasing kids’ communication skills and teaching kids how express their feelings rather than resort to physical means (i.e., hitting, biting, scratching, etc.) to resolve conflicts. All daycare staff should be trained in how and when to encourage children to use their words, and at which ages children need help in finding the right words to express their feelings. Teaching kids to use their words is also a developmental strategy in the realm of “emotional intelligence,” or “emotional coaching,” wherein parents and caregivers teach kids how to name their emotions and learn to deal with setbacks and change. Read the Entire Article Here

The ability to clearly articulate and use the right words is important in our service to others, individual success, and organizational goals. The words we choose and the ability to not just communicate but to communicate effectively in an emotionally intelligent manner helps us succeed in our day to day. In restoration, we are often faced with difficult situations and conversations, being equipped to use the “right” words can ultimately impact the outcome. We can teach, coach, learn and constantly improve much like many other skills.

This important skill helps us in our entire life, and these are a few areas to consider in our restoration companies:

  1. Customer Communications
  2. Management and Leadership
  3. General Internal Communications

Scenarios

Scenario 1

A customer wants the equipment pulled early and does not seem to care about the implications.

Response 1: Fine, but you know you will probably get mold!

Response 2: I will respect your wishes; however, I need to advise you that our company cannot deem the materials dry and I will need you to sign a waiver that you understand that there may be secondary damage up to and including microbial growth. 

Objective: A response that is respectful to a property owner’s wishes while protecting the company’s potential liability.

Scenario 2

On the first day of meeting a new customer, customer states that Joe in the office said all the work can be done by Friday. Caught off guard, it is not possible that the job is done Friday.

Response 1: Joe is totally disorganized and has no idea when the job can be done! Joe should not have told you that.

Response 2: Let us review the job together. I will touch base with Joe and follow up with you on the schedule.

Objective: Clarify the possible miscommunication and take control of the situation by managing the expectations of the customer so that there is the opportunity to complete their job to their satisfaction. Never should we disparage a coworker or the company. Frustrations with a coworker or supervisor should never be presented with a customer.

Scenario 3

A manager is told they must complete their weekly report. It is the second session addressing the lack of adherence to this company guideline.

Response 1: I give up! I am sick of telling you to do your report.

Response 2: You are either unable or unwilling to do your report. Let us discuss…

Objective: Start a productive conversation that can identify the root cause of the problem and potential solutions. While being firm and clear that the guideline must be adhered to, the opportunity to offer help to the manager may present itself. On the other hand, if the person is simply unwilling to do something that is very important to the organization’s process, the conversation may go in a different direction.

Scenario 4

A customer or business partner makes remarks or outward expressions of prejudice towards members of the team.

Response 1: Huh! Well….Ummm…

Response 2: Our team is a diverse team of restoration professionals and if that is of concern for you, it may be best to work with another company on your project.

Objective: Deliver a clear and professional response that is reflective of your company’s values. Core values are those that are not compromised.

These scenarios are just a few of the many difficult situations and conversations that we can find ourselves in on any given day. Our abilities to handle them by using the “right” words can determine the outcome.

The following are a few tips to consider in developing this skill:

Self-Awareness: Have you ever reflected on a situation or conversation and thought, “I should have said…?” Do not dismiss this thought. See it through and play out the words that may have led you to a better outcome. Next time, in a similar situation, you may have just the right words ready to confidently articulate.

Coaching: In the scenario, where the team member called a co-worker, “totally disorganized” to the customer, the job ended with a bad customer review stating specifically that the company is “disorganized”. You investigate the matter. You learn of the scheduling and communication conversation. This is a great opportunity to talk it through and coach the individual to handle the frustration and conversation differently next time.

Practice and Script: Go through scripts and practice with the team. Utilize the most frequent scenarios like the customer who wants their equipment pulled early to engage the team and equip with the communication tools to succeed. Not only will this help everyone best prepare for the situation that they will likely encounter; it will also help develop their skill in general. It is much easier to think through a situation and find the right words when you do not have the pressure of the moment.

Learn from others: Be observant and constantly learn. You are constantly surrounded by people who at any given point articulate something extremely well. I often make note of others use of words and think, “Wow, that was well said!” One of my favorite’s that I have passed on to others came from my dad, “You are either unable or unwilling to…” referred to above in scenario 3.

Our word choices and ability to articulate them are a valuable skill, something we should constantly develop, and can ultimately determine or influence outcomes. As a side note, our culture and values set the tone. Even if it is a script or words that were practiced, they are always best delivered when they are true, sincere, and from our hearts. The reality is that “using our words” is not always easy as it may sound. Never stop learning how to “use your words.” Best wishes for much Restoring Success.

Originally published in R&R Magazine

November 5, 2020
Lisa Lavender, M.T.R., M.F.S.R., M.W.R.

Morale and Engagement: Built on a Foundation of Trust

July 2, 2020

It is difficult to challenge the notion that good employee morale and strong engagement is important in our industry. In fact, being “happy” may be critical to our customer service. We spend much of our time at work, have 24/7 on-call rotations, and serve people who have experienced disaster, so why not do it with joy? In Is Your Organization Happy?, you will find some considerations and tips about creating a “happy” environment.

Morale and engagement are complex and have many contributing factors. Procedures, best practices, training, etc. will have limited value to your company if the individuals and team lack positive morale and are not engaged. Although there is much we can do in our day to day for Employee Morale Year Round, consider the notion that morale and engagement are built on a foundation of trust.

Trust is a big word that has many elements, synonyms, and influences in a variety of aspects of our organizations and lives. At times, there may be relationships within the organization that have voids of trust. If trust issues become widespread and unresolved or there becomes a feeling of distrust towards the organization itself, it will be challenging to successfully employ any morale-building and engagement initiatives.

Imagine for a moment…

  1. You are with a group of people you trust and are working together, collaborating, getting things done; you probably feel good and happy. If one of these people gives you a cookie and a note thanking you for a great job, it would make you feel good, happy, and encourage you to continue to contribute to objectives or the purpose.
  2. You are with a group of people you do not trust. The mistrust could stem from a variety of reasons, behaviors, and experiences with the people in the group and/or you may not even be clear on what is causing the mistrust; it is possibly just a feeling. If one of these people give you a cookie and note thanking you for a great job, may feel like there is an alternative motive, suspicious, and may not even want to eat the cookie!

Same gesture, same note, but different impact based on trust.

A culture filled with fear and mistrust will be a culture with a disengaged and unhappy team. Feelings of fear and mistrust could be a great motivator when perhaps running from an angry bear but imagine going to work every day feeling this way.

Start with reading “Speed of Trust” by Stephen MR Covey. If you are pressed for time and want to fast track your organization and team, watch the video: The Speed of Trust – Stephen M.R Covey @LEAD Presented by HR.com. You will gain the ability to understand, articulate, evaluate, and build trust within your organization. He presents what he refers to as three big ideas:

Trust is an Economic Driver

Trust is the #1 Competency of Leadership

Trust is a Learnable Competency

Where does it all begin? According to Covey, it starts with leadership.

#1 Job of Leaders

Inspire Trust

Give Trust

In building morale and engagement in your company, start with the foundation, trust. A person who is expected to engage in the mission, values, and goals of an organization needs to trust the organization and the leadership. As Covey breaks down the elements of trust, he lists the following “behaviors”:

1. Talk Straight
2. Demonstrate Respect
3. Create Transparency
4. Right Wrongs
5. Show Loyalty
6. Deliver Results
7. Get Better
8. Confront Reality
9. Clarify Expectation
10. Practice Accountability
11. Listen First
12. Keep Commitments
13. Extend Trust

These behaviors are a great place to start if evaluating or building your foundation of a happy, healthy, and productive work environment. The men and women in our restoration companies are the most valuable and important assets. They deserve to feel good and happy at work.

Share topics and ideas that you would like to read in future Restoring Success editions.

Happy Restoring Success.