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2.10.06 Issue #205  
Leadership Lessons from a Home Remodel

Dr. Nancy Haller
Executive Coach
McKenzie Management

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If you’ve been a reader of my column, you know that I find leadership lessons embedded in everything around us. From football coaching to reality to TV, I see examples of what leaders should and should not do. For the past few months I’ve had my own personal leadership training…in my home remodel of all places. Although I wasn’t running a Fortune 500 company, getting this project done on time and within budget was very challenging. I also had to manage a myriad of other life obligations simultaneously. The process was stressful and draining, but difficult experiences teach us the greatest lessons. While the outcome was favorable – my new bedroom and bathroom turned out great – I made the process more trying than it might have been had I adhered more closely to basic leadership principles. Here are my ah-ha’s.

  1. Having a vision is only a step toward your destination.

After thumbing through hundreds of magazines, visiting an assortment of showrooms, and talking with friends who had been through a remodel, I knew what I wanted. Or so I thought. After all I had a folder stuffed with pictures I collected during the previous six months. My general contractor nodded in approval when he saw them. Having an action-oriented style I jumped into demolition and construction quickly, believing we were on the proverbial ‘same page’. In hindsight it’s amazing that the end results turned out so well. 

Lesson: Take the time to develop a structured, detailed plan. A ‘map’ of what you want in your practice leads to the best outcome. 

  1. Choose the best people.

Fortunately my biggest investment of time and energy was in the selection process and it paid off. In fact, by hiring a great general contractor I was able to overcome aspects of the project that I did not handle as well.

Lesson: Be smart in your selection of staff. Employees can make or break your practice. If you do nothing else, hire the best people you can.

  1. Communication is a two-way street.

Though I pride myself on being a good communicator, what I said was not always what my contractor heard. And vice versa. At times we looked at each other as if we were speaking different languages. In truth we were. He’s experienced in construction and I am not. He’s a big picture thinker and I’m detailed. He operates well in the 11th hour. I hate last minute decision making.

Lesson: Know your staff, how they think and talk. Strive to close the gaps between different communication styles.

  1. Effective leadership means staying the course.

I’ll confess. Before and even during this remodel I had second thoughts. I wondered why I was doing it. I felt aggravated by the noise, the dust, the disruptions. The mantra one day at a time combined with my vision helped me to tolerate the process.

Lesson: Keep your eye on the destination. Leadership is hard work. Commit to your goals and strive for them no matter what. Remember to take care of yourself along the way.

  1. Evaluate your progress.

The project is done. There are a few loose ends to tie up but life is slowly returning to normal in my home. It’s fun to see the fruits of my labors, to realize that my trials and tribulations were worth it after all. It’s time to celebrate. And it’s time to evaluate. I credit myself for the positive contributions I made to the outcome. Those are my leadership strengths. Of equal importance is to note what I could have done differently. Not in a critical way but from a learning mindset perspective. By reflecting on these lessons learned I will be more effective in the future.

Lesson: Periodic self-assessment is crucial for leadership success. When and how are you most effective? What will you do in the future to use those qualities more often?

Research shows that the best leaders enhance their skills with on-going learning. By developing new abilities you improve not just your practice but also your personal life. When you navigate through challenging situations and accomplish your goals you gain confidence. In turn you’re more resilient, and more successful.

I’m off to remodel the kitchen next.

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club?
Contact her at

To review her presentations, go here.

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