“Unwavering Commitment to Change”

Posted by Justin Zeller, CR, Red House Custom Building, President of EM NARI and Chair of Marketing/PR Committee

On a recent North Carolina visit with my peer group, I gave my colleagues an update on the state of Red House. If you aren’t familiar with peer groups, at these meetings, members have to explain and justify how their company performed over the past year. This includes describing what we have changed & why. After covering some personnel changes, a few company procedure changes, staffing changes, and a few ideas for future changes, one of the long term members of the group got the attention of the room and said, “Man, Justin, at some point you’ve got to stop changing things! Your team is going to rebel.”

Yes, changes can discourage and frustrate a team, especially if those changes seem directionless or top-down only. However, team dynamics, the changing winds of the market (see the latest LIRA release), and the equally shifting directions of industry software and building science dictate that as captains and crew of our endeavors, we have to constantly adjust and evaluate our efforts to ensure our best performance. Many times these changes are minute adjustments to fine-tune our voyage. At other times they may mean a major overhaul. A Red House client recently gave me a book by her father, a hall of fame sailor and innovative businessman, Jim Kilroy, who describes how even small changes affect success at sea:

It’s difficult to describe how a few inches of sail trim, or a small adjustment of sail pressure, tuned to the rhythm of the sea, even in stormy conditions, may increase your yacht’s speed.  But it’s true.
In much the same way, with equally small adjustments, opportunity always exists. ….  To be successful, one must adjust to the variables of life and the sea, always trying new ideas, a new rhythm or a counter rhythm. [1]


In our company, I work with our team and the prevailing conditions to adjust and improve our performance. There are two main concerns I keep in mind as the steward of this venture. The first is having a destination and communicating it with the team. I have a one year plan, a three-year idea, and a ten-year target. The second is that I listen to the concerns of the team on the journey to that ten-year target[2]. This formulates the workflow needed between now and then.

By having and sharing a vision of the destination, I’ve received great feedback from our team. Sometimes, it’s not the feedback I want, but it helps to hear a diverse set of opinions to help balance my personal bias of eternal optimism for the future (sometimes at the neglect of the present).  Sometimes I hear that we aren’t working well enough toward our one-year plan. Conversely, in setting goals, I’ve been told we aren’t ready for obtaining what I have my heart set on. This helps tremendously in truing-up and aligning team engagement with hitting organizational goals.

I try and keep my eyes and ears open to assess the engagement of our team members in the changes that are occurring. I especially listen for verbal and non-verbal communication from those who are the best fit for and highest performing in our team. They are the leaders we rely upon. Sometimes that listening is what prompts the discussions about changes. In fact, I sit with our leadership team to evaluate and edit our yearly plans to set to our goals.

I was recently tooling around the web, and I came across this quote. On the Remodelers Advantage website, they simply state that those who are most successful in growing and maximizing the performance of their companies RA round table have these three traits in common:

The unwavering commitment to change
The humility to accept criticism from their peers
The resolve to fight through the challenges

When you find the right plan for success in your business, and your team is engaged with the process and the changes, they will let you know. For instance, I was recently interviewing designers for an open position. As we’ve recently started utilizing hiring committees to help with the selection process, four teammates sat in on the three finalists. One after the other, the candidates had to answer the questions of our team, asking how they’d respond to the changes this group has helped to create over the past several years. There was a lively discussion of what our process has become, and why it works. This was an indication to me that these changes have been working, and no one is looking to rebel.

[1] See Kialoa, US-1: Dare to Win, by Jim Kilroy

[2] See Traction, by Gino Wickman

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *