What My Father-In-Law Taught Me About Success Through Our House Renovations

“Does this look alright, Ben?”

“Wanna double check this for me, Ben?”

“UUUggghhghgh…..totally forgot to [enter any easy task repeatedly explained to me].”

These are the things you will hear from me when my father-in-law and I are working on our new house on weekends. Needless to say, remodeling is hard.

No, my father-in-law and I aren’t moving in together. He is helping my wife and I with the new house. If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be able to do it. Well, we would, but it would take forever and it wouldn’t be pretty. In fact, I would probably end up calling one of those HGTV shows to save us from the mess I would end up creating. Why? Well, I really don’t know anything about house repair or remodeling.

Give me a broken laptop, I can probably fix that. Show me your website, I can probably give you some tips on how to improve it. Fix a house? Nooope.

Don’t get me wrong, I care about fixing our house. I value it, the process, and learning as much as I can; but the problem here is that I don’t know of the methods necessary to be successful at fixing a house.

I don’t have a VALUES problem, I have a methods problem.

Thankfully, my father-in-law is SUPER patient at showing me the ropes when he can. However, that is naturally going to take time.

What is great about this arrangement is that he is showing me the “Wagner Way.” What is the Wagner Way? It is the term I jokingly, but somewhat seriously, coined that describes his methodology. Basically, it the opposite of the “Hack Job” way; no shortcuts. We work smarter, not harder….efficiency is equal to quality and effectiveness (and inappropriate humor to name a few principals).

But here’s the thing: before my father-in-law had the proper methods, he first had the proper VALUES.

It was with these values, instilled in him by his father, and working with his hands with his brothers since they were very young, that he was able to develop a proper framework for his methods.

Let me give you a quick example: if the value was “hurry up and get the job done,” then that would naturally inform his methods (enter, the hack job).

But because of years and years on focusing on doing the job right and with the right tools, he has learned how to do a great job, pretty damn fast.

So what is the takeaway? Well, besides the fact I’m eternally grateful for my father-in-law, I want to say no amount of new tools, trendy apps, or fancy strategy, can make up for a value system that limits you.

If I need a wrench to do the job, I don’t care how bad I want to use my hammer, it won’t work. And if I don’t care about the job, or respect the goal enough to make it a point to switch up my tools, then I won’t get the job done. Period.

Many of us are working at organizations with leaders who are trying to force us to work with hammers when what is needed is a wrench… or something else.

So when your managers and leaders say any of the following:

  • “We have a funding problem”
  • “We have a volunteer problem”
  • “We have a website problem”

You might want to let them know (kindly, of course) that perhaps, those aren’t problems at all. Perhaps, these things are just results; the natural by-product of a series of inputs, or methodologies that will never truly get the job done. Perhaps, they just have a VALUES problem.

Instead, they should value some of the following:

  • continual learning (conferences, books, webinars etc.)
  • innovation
  • safe spaces for idea and idea development
  • industry best practices
  • delegation/action plans,
  • staff empowerment, etc.

When we have these values at play informing our methods, it can be truly amazing what we can build (or remodel) together.

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