How Can I Be More Demanding Without Being Demeaning?

The Skill of Walking the Fine Line Between These Two Things

This past week there were a couple of situations that got me thinking about this…again. This is something I’ve struggled with my whole life. It comes down to who I am and who I need to be. Like everything in life there is a balance to be achieved.

Both situations had to do with sub-contractors.

First was a wood fencing project. The customer had some fence boards but not enough. I ordered out more than enough boards to finish the project.

I get a text from the sub, telling me that we need more fence boards. I assumed that I had mis-figured. I let the customer know that there is going to be another material delivery. Customer tells me to not forget to use the ones that they had. I called the sub. He tells me that there weren’t any fence boards there. I go by the job site and there they were…right where they were when I showed them to him.

Back to the question…How can I be more demanding, without being demeaning?

I think the sub just got focused on the stack of new fence boards and forgot about the others.

The problem is that this oversight cost me. I now have boards that were the customer’s and I can’t return them. They will need to be stored in a shop that is already overcrowded.

How should I handle this so that the sub understands and shares in the responsibility, without demeaning them?

Some people wouldn’t have any issues in deducting this cost from the sub. But this might cause the sub to not want to do future projects and it can be hard to find qualified subs.

Second was the hanging of some sheetrock on a small project that was being done by a painter. I went by to check on things and the piece of drywall that was installed…was installed wrong. They had a cut edge rather than the finished edge in the middle of the ceiling.

I had him take it down and turn it around.

In both of these instances I was uncomfortable saying anything and I’m still not sure what I’m going to do about the fence boards.

Ultimately both come down to clearly explained expectations.

Explaining specifics on individual projects as well as overall expectations.

I have high expectations for myself, I assume that everyone else has this same level of expectation…not so.

Because of these differences I need to be hypervigilant in explaining and communicating what I expect. This will require more time and effort on my part and I’m already running short on both.

One of the things that makes this balance hard to find is that everything is different for everyone. What is reasonable for one person might be hurtful to another.

The thing I need to remember is that ultimately, my responsibility to the customer is more important than the feelings of the sub.

This doesn’t mean the sub isn’t important. It means the sub and I are supposed to be working together to fulfill the dream of the customer. Not fighting each other to see who can take advantage of the other.

It’s not supposed to be a competition.

I’m still not sure exactly how I’m going to be more demanding without being demeaning…but I’m going to work toward accomplishing that.

Talk is Cheap…Actions Are What Matter

Practice Makes Perfect

It’s much easier to say that we’re going to do something than it is to actually do it. I think most times the intention is sincere, but too often we’ve said yes to too many things. You know what they say…

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

We often find ourselves on runaway trains, wondering how we got there. Know this…it’s nobody’s fault but our own. We made the choices that got us there. We can make choices that will change that.

It’s important to have realistic expectations. Just because I want to do something and say that I’m going to, doesn’t mean that’s possible.

You need to have clear expectations.

There was a fisherman in town that caught more fish than anyone else. Every time he went out, he would come back with a boat full of fish. No one could figure out how he did it. One day a man came up and asked him how he did it. The fisherman told him that he would take him fishing the next day.

Once they got to a secluded area of the lake the fisherman opened the tackle box and took out a stick of dynamite, lit it, and threw it in the water. After the explosion fish started floating to the top of the water. He took out a net and started gathering up the fish.

The other man reached into his pocket and took out his game warden badge and told him that this was illegal. The fisherman took out another stick of dynamite, lit it and handed it to the game warden and said, “Are you going to fish or talk?”

As funny as this story is, there are other options to blowing up the boat or fishing.

Too often we find ourselves holding a lit stick of dynamite not knowing what to do.

In 1 John 3:16-24 we’re told that Christ loved us so much that he sacrificed His life for us. His actions matched His words. He knew what the cost was going to be before He ever agreed to it.

We need to practice this kind of love when we make promises to others. We need to say what we mean and mean what we say. This isn’t easy, but needs to be done.

We need to be clear about what we say yes to.

Are You Getting What You Pray For?





If Not, Maybe the Problem Lies in Your Expectation


We’ve all had times when we prayed for something only to be disappointed. Whether the outcome we prayed for happened only to make things worse. Or, maybe we prayed and prayed and never got the answer we wanted.


What’s the problem with our praying?

We need to align our praying with God’s plans.

Pastor Lee told a story about a church that was struggling financially. They needed $10,000 to meet their year-end obligations. The church began a prayer campaign to this end and soon they were given some stocks worth $5,000. The leadership of the church met and decided to go ahead and sell the stock and continue to pray for the remaining $5,000.


The next day when the pastor was planning to go sell the stocks there was a snowstorm that kept him from going. After a few days the storm was over and the roads had cleared, he went to complete the sale of the stocks. In the few days he was unable to go, the stock price had doubled. Prayer answered.

Why is it when we pray for peace or healing or some other worthy cause we don’t receive it?

We need to align our praying with God’s plans.

Maybe we need to alter our expectations, but not our faith. In Luke 11:1-13, Jesus teaches us how to pray. Most of us are familiar with the Lord’s Prayer, Verses 1-4, and many can recite it from memory. We’re less familiar with Verses 5-13. Here He tells us to continue asking and you will get what you ask for. The problem is that often what we ask for is not the thing WE SHOULD ASK FOR.

If we break down praying, there are six main points:

  1. – Remember that God is God. He made everything and can do anything He wants. We need to align our wants with His.
  2. –  We’re given just what we need each day. God wants us to have blessings overflowing, but to not be wasteful.
  3. – Forgive us because we continually mess up. Jesus has already paid the price for our failures…we just need accept the payment and mess up less tomorrow.
  4. – Forgive others. This is paying forgiveness forward. If we’ve been forgiven, it only makes sense to forgive others.
  5. – Protection from being tempted. Put on and wear the Armor of God, Ephesians 6:10-16. This protection is ours to use, but we have to put it on and wear it every day.
  6. – Be relentless in your asking. Ask…ask…ask…ask…and ask again, just be careful what it is that you’re asking for. Once you get it, it might not be what you thought.

When we align our praying with God’s plans for our lives, things go a lot smoother and the outcome is much better.

A lady was shopping for an anniversary card for her husband and found the perfect card to give him. On the front of the card it said, “Well it’s not what you prayed for…” On the inside it said, “but apparently it’s the answer.”



We need to align our praying with God’s plans and then we’ll get what we pray for.


Honesty Is the Best Policy – I Don’t Care How Hard It Is

How to Create Realistic Expectations for Customers – Part 2


Last week we discussed the importance of communication to creating realistic expectations for customers. This week we will look at three more things that need to be addressed to provide customers with a WOW rather than a woops experience.




• Everything takes longer than you think

There’s a lot of information out there about this. It is a very common problem. The planning fallacy gives some explanation, but I think it is more than this. I think many of us have a desire to help others and in an effort to fulfill expectations we over promise, which leads to under delivery. Especially when doing a construction project with all the pieces that have to fit together. Many of these things are out of my control which makes planning and scheduling more difficult. In an article by Emily Guy Birken she tells of a contractor friend who has come up with “a formula for figuring out a more realistic time frame: Double the number and go to the next unit of time for your estimate. For instance, if you believe your kitchen renovation will take two weeks, according to my friend, it will actually take four months.” This seems a little extreme, but I know everything takes longer than expected.

Solution – There are formulas and systems for determining an accurate amount of time needed to do the work. It will take some experimenting to get a realistic projection for the time to do a project. (Even if it is as extreme as the example above.) Be open and honest with yourself and your customer. It would be better to tell them the longer time in the beginning. This goes for the designing and pricing stages as well. Remember that most generally customers aren’t as familiar with the construction process as contractors, and this makes the realistic time gap even wider.



• Saying yes to too many things

There are so many things that I want to do. So many great wonderful important things. With all these things drawing us to them with overpowering magnetic force we get stuck and can’t move fast enough or far enough to get away from the pull. Mistake #2 of Michael Hyatt’s blog post “The 10 Biggest Mistakes People Make in Setting Goals” is creating too many goals. He quotes the old Chinese proverb, “Man who chases two rabbits catches neither”. I think chasing too many rabbits is what causes us to us to get lost on rabbit trails.


Solution – This solution is simple…say NO. This will be the hardest one to do. Those of us that want to help others struggle with this a lot. In 2014 we did the “Best Yes” study by Lysa Terkhurst at church. She said “Whenever you say yes to something, there is less of you for something else. Make sure your yes is worth the less.” We have to find our specific purpose. Then we have to focus on that. We have to be honest with ourselves so that we can create realistic expectations for customers.



• Details are worth the wait

Another thing that takes time is craftsmanship. I’ve heard people use the saying, “we’re not building a piano” when trying to move a project forward faster. This may have been true, but I believe we should give the same level of intentional care to building someone’s dream as to building a piano. People have different levels of expected quality. Being a recovering perfectionist, I ‘m going to naturally move toward that. Others may not be expecting that level of quality.


Solution – Each customer’s expectations need to be determined early in the process so that the length of time can be determined and communicated. This is one of the hardest to determine. Often, they don’t even know what makes one thing quality and another not. It takes time to build a piano or a dream and we need to help them determine what quality of dream they want to build.



It’s hard to tell people things they don’t want to hear. That a project is going to take longer than they expected is one of those things. Communicate with them. Be honest about the time needed. Say NO if it doesn’t fit your purpose. Quality takes time.


If we aren’t honest with ourselves and others then we are creating unrealistic expectations for everyone involved.

Feel free to share examples of unrealistic expectations in the comments below.

How to Create Realistic Expectations for Customers

Expectations Are My Responsibility, “The Buck Stops Here”

In March of this year I wrote about the home my architect niece is planning to build, using two grain bins. This project has been in the planning stage for several months and the dreaming/idea stage even longer. She and I discussed how we could both blog about this simultaneously from differing perspectives. This project is going be fun on a bunch of different levels.

Hannah posted her first blog at earlier this week. In that post she wrote about her reasons for delay in getting started writing.

As I read her post it got me to thinking about the reasons that things often don’t meet our expectations. I’m aware of several projects currently that customers are feeling this way. Some I’m involved in and some not. This sense of disappointment is way too normal, when it should be rare.

We need realistic expectations.


Why does this happen?There are several reasons for this issue and some simple solutions, that if done, would make expectations more realistic for everyone involved.

• Lack of or poor communication

I think this is the number one reason for unrealistic expectations. With most projects having so many moving pieces and different people involved it is next to impossible to set and maintain an accurate schedule. When things are proceeding slower than you would like if you were just updated it would help tremendously. This goes both directions – from the service providers and suppliers to the contractor and from the contractor to the customer. It is like waiting for your teenager to get home and they’re late. Your mind begins to go to all kinds of scenarios that rarely are even close to reality. Even though we know this, it doesn’t make us feel any better. Communication makes a huge difference.

Solution –
Be as realistic as possible at the start. Often, the customer expectations are unrealistic in the beginning. Many times, this is their first experience with this kind of project. It is the contractor’s responsibility to be as realistic as possible, even if we know the customer doesn’t want to hear it. When things aren’t meeting the expectations; make the call, go by the job, let all parties know what’s going on. I know that delivering unwanted news isn’t what you want to do. The longer you wait, the worse it will be.


There’s a lot of room for improving communication.

Here are some additional posts about this comunication – 

Can Communicating Too Much, Be Too Much?
The Importance of Good Communication
What We’ve Got Here, Is A Failure to Communicate


My expectations for this week’s post weren’t realistic. This is a case in point. I thought I could write this in a couple of hours this morning…didn’t happen. With the size of this issue and to cover it properly I kept writing and writing and writing. Finally, I decided it needs to be split into more than one post.

Next week I will post “How To Create Realistic Expectations for Customers – Part 2”

It will cover –

  • Everything taking longer than you think
  • Saying yes to too many things
  • Details are worth the wait


Who knows, by next week I might come up with more. If you think of any additional reasons, feel free to share them in the comments.


How to Convert Your Construction Project from Unrealistic to Wow

The Importance of Having Realistic Expectations Before the Project Ever Starts


One of the most consistent issues that I hear from people who have been involved in construction projects, is disappointment. These displeasures show up in a variety of ways and most often it comes down to unrealistic expectations and less than desired results. This discontentment can come from either customers or contractors and usually the responsibility lies with both.

The solution to this problem also belongs to both.

As a customer you aren’t continuously involved in construction projects. You don’t have the experience and knowledge that construction professionals do. This is not to say that every person or company that claims to be a professional is. It’s important for you to know what you need in a contractor and take the time to find the right one for you and your project.

The excitement that comes with the beginning of a project starts to wain after a while. You just want to have your project, whether it is a big renovation or a small repair, done. You want to get your life back to normal as quickly as possible. Regular life is disrupting enough without a construction project, but to have trades people coming in and out of your home or business periodically and/or unexpectedly wasn’t a part of that initial excitement.

The best way for you to prepare for a construction project is to learn all you can about what is involved, before you start. Even small projects have several pieces that need to be fit together to achieve the desired outcome. This takes knowledge and experience to get these pieces to fit together at the right time and in the right way.

Watching home remodeling programs on television isn’t the best place to learn realistic expectations. Often these programs are more of a problem than a solution. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of valuable information that can be gleaned from these shows. The thing you need to realize is that the purpose of these programs is largely to generate viewers not create realistic expectations for your construction project.

This is why it is important to get the right contractor. If a contractor does their job well, all the various pieces will fit together in the way that you wanted. This doesn’t mean that it will be what you initially expected, but rather an informed realistic expectation. What is important for you as the customer to do is to know how to determine if a contractor is the best one for you.

There are several things to consider when looking for a contractor.

  • First and foremost is compatibility. Are they going to be someone that you can work with day in and day out for the duration of the project? This is critical to the outcome.
  • Second is honesty and integrity. Often you can tell this with a few conversations and can confirm it with references.
  • Third is the experience and skill level. How long have they been doing construction and what types of projects have they done previously?

Projects rarely go the way the customer or the contractor think they should or would like, but this doesn’t mean that they need to be disappointing for either. The key is to plan and learn all that you can before you get too far into the process. If you will do this, you will decrease your chances of unrealistic and increase your chances of a wow project in the end.