2 Minds of the Paint Professional – Effective Communication Improves Production

Since liquid coating application costs are weighted more towards labor than material, it makes sense that most human error mistakes run projects in the red quicker than the cost of a few gallons overage. Sometimes we forget that plain, understandable communication will save everyone concerned a lot of aggravation. So it is important to improve the interaction among co-workers. Indeed, directions, descriptions and scopes must be two–sided endeavors where clarity and common goals are expressed and readily accepted. Regrettably, more often than not, interaction among professionals may be lecture style, or declarative statements, such as orders.

Successful communication goes beyond written job scopes and operational systems, it centers on engaging the receiver(s), which is probably easier read here than practiced on site. After a mistake, how much does stating, “I told her…” save money for the company, provide a positive customer experience or correct the breakdown from happening again? Try avoiding costly re-work by adjusting the articulation of directions and scope definitions to accommodate and set-up co-workers for victory. This discussion is not about active listening techniques or marriage counseling, it concerns a very simple speculation that we generally fall into one of two minds.

There are hosts of tests and evaluations that provide insight into personality and individual traits. Here, we are going to focus the discussion around a decidedly unscientific, but practical realization that encourages improved communication for field operations and conceivably improve customer service. At times when people are talking with one another for some elusive reason neither person may really understand the other. One person is trying to declare their view or idea while the other is trying to listen and back and forth it goes. Throughout the verbal exchange each person may sometimes think the other is just not getting it or making absolutely no sense. It may be easier for one to regard the other as inferior or smart verses stupid, but a more reasonable characterization finds that we express and accept information differently. At varying levels we have all experienced the back and forth frustration.

The 2 mind divergence is foundational; it is the way we think that sets us in one mind more than the other.

Frequently, liquid coating application specialists that learn skills proficiently often progress to supervisory or management positions. The other common path to advance in the paint profession often propels the individuals exceeding production averages; the most productive climb the company ladder. The two types of advancing paint pros, the gifted technicians and the production experts likely have different thinking methods or thought processes. The goal here is to suggest some better means to recognize each others method of thinking. We are not going into theories of psychology or trying to discover fantastic shortcuts of what people think. This dialogue is about practical every-day situations; we are simply suggesting that it may be instructive to identify or re-examine the way you think and maybe realize the way others do.

Because what we think is not always expressed verbally and as much as that may be some ancient, instinctual survival left-over, it is more likely today about civility and moderation, although sometimes it may be a hint of job security. And even when we are expressing our thoughts, it may not be easily accepted or understood by a co-worker who processes differently. To further the verbal traffic jam, we may not always communicate that we do not understand or even realize that we misunderstand (the miscue is unconscious). Let’s go to a hypothetical job, meet two craftsmen and sample the 2 minds of the paint application industry; Betsy and Jane. Betsy is the type of artisan that is perfectly punctual, impeccable with her tool box and would rather be behind the brush/tools than speak to customers or decorators/architects. Jane on the other hand, may or may not be on time; her tool box is a cluster and easily chats with anyone who walks on the job. Betsy and Jane are valued team members.

All things being equal, a key indicator to which mind individuals may have is their natural inclination towards detail or result orientation.

At times, Betsy and Jane may not get along or see eye to eye. These conflicts may rest in a lack of understanding rather than the series of personality clashes. Are not most arguments later described as misunderstandings? We will give each of the two minds a name; “engineer” and “sales”. Betsy, the engineer mind, is about the details and may be more of an analytic thinker and might tend to think in linear terms and singular images. Jane, the sales mind, is about the result and might be a more flexible thinker and may process thoughts randomly and image multiple objectives more rapidly. The Betsy engineer mind may just as easily work as an accountant, quality control inspector, surgeon, patent lawyer and auditor or in any career where linear, systematic thinking pays dividends. The Jane sales mind may have succeeded as a marketer, talk therapist, trial lawyer, coach, and manager or in any occupation that rewards innovative thinking.

In corporate America, have you heard the stories about the sales and marketers not agreeing with engineering and finance? Of course there are success examples to the contrary, but more typically we see a division between linear and innovative thinkers. As we look around, we see that each mind type can be high acheivers in the liquid coating application business and occasionally, we see a few balanced thought processors that are amazingly singular combinations of engineer and sales minds. Do you see any of similarities in the way you think as compared to the Betsy or Jane minds?

Let’s go to the far side of each mind to better show the differences in thought process. The extreme engineer side often prefers moving from task to task rather than dealing person to person or visualizing the completion ahead the sequential procedure. A sample engineer may state, “Tell me what to do; I’m not dealing with this person or that person…” While those who constantly change protocols seeking faster results, or approach the end seemingly hurried or somewhat disorganized may be inclined towards the extreme sales side. The sample sales statement may be something like, “Today we we’ll finish the trim and tomorrow the job”. Have you heard the expression, she is a great doctor, but has no bedside manner? Engineer minds are found in every line of work. Or have you had the experience of providing detailed information to a manager who was as sincere and engaging as a best friend only to have the order bungled? Sales minds are everywhere too. The two minds exist with infinitely varying degrees of Betsy and Jane mixtures. Can you see yourself, co-workers and/or customers as engineer, or sales mind or some combination of both?

When the sales mind says ‘today we’ll finish the trim’, which to the engineer is zooming to the end result, the sales mind perceives the statement as being perfectly clear. While the engineer mind is more interested in following the process that will allow the trim to be finished (preparation, priming, sanding, caulking, etc.) eventually achieving the result and struggles to understand why the sales mind may forget essential steps. Effective interaction among the two may be as simple as the sales mind shifting to acknowledge the tasks before zooming to the end result, while the engineer mind might try to consolidate the tasks emphasizing the result. Successful two mind communication ups the level of engagement by including active questions (not yes/no). Answers must bring each mind to clearly see the detail or the result being expressed. What if the sales mind said, “Hey engineer, what do you think it will take to finish the trim today”?

In the end, we must avoid the quiet, comfortable posture where the engineer forever thinks Jane is like an ADHD squirrel unconsciously skipping a task while focused only on the result and the sales mind imagining Betsy as a donkey pre-occupied with prodding the same task path where the details (trees) obscure the forest. Although most of us fall into the paradigm of one or the other mind, many are just a little towards one side without the nut gathering or heehawing. Once Betsy and Jane realize the way each processes thought, the prospect of easier and more effective communication may lead to enhanced production and less workplace aggravation. The most perceptive may even adjust their interaction to enhance customers’ experience.

What is your way of thinking; engineer or sales?