Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Being Excellent Until the Finish

Recently Tom Peters posted a quote by Ernest Hemingway's Garden of Eden on his Blog that relates to execution: "Finishing is what you have to do. If you don't finish, nothing is worth a damn." Below is my comment to the post largely quoted. You can read this post and brilliant others by clicking on the title above. And speaking of Tom Peters' brilliant posts, he understands well that writing a "clever rant" is no substitute for doing. His latest post, "The Stuff is the Fluff, the Flower is the Power," makes this point. Back to Hemmingway:

I loved the Hemmingway quote "finishing is what you have to do. If you don't finish, nothing is worth a damn." I recently gave a young man of 25 a chance to be an independent contractor for me. He is a fine craftsman and excellent worker, but he had begun to slack off over the last week, as he managed two sites. But the sites are set to be completed sequentially. I was conscious when he began not to overwhelm him, placing older men who had more managerial experience to look after him. But they have their own crews on their sites to look after.

In thinking of this post about the importance of execution, I was reminded of a conversation I had yesterday with the young contractor. "It's not how you begin but how you finish," I admonished. "Yes, ma'am. I think I know what you mean," he said, "but can you tell me why?" (He's from Tennessee and everything is "yes, ma'am" and "no, ma'am." He is a most likeable young man because of his simple way of honoring others in his speech, even his small ragtag crew.) "Because the memory of the end will be my last memory of you," I replied. "Yes, ma'am."

Last night he stayed with his crew until 2:00am and finished the job. When I went in this morning the work was done with excellence as I knew it could be. (He has serious skill, having learned to build homes from the ground up since he was 14.) As walked through the house, he was so proud of himself and I was so happy to have the work finished with such excellence. I gave him a serious bonus to encourage him and to express my gratitude. Though I had intended the bonus all along, I had not mentioned it. He was thrilled by the outcome and so was I.

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