Category: thoughts

What make a great contractor, or the story of how I learn to spot an A player

The fastest and cheapest ain’t always the best

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So, back in December last year, I wanted to choose contractors to renovate my kitchen. I had a lot of bidders and ended up with the earliest – basically, to avoid decision fatigue. Let’s call him Joe.

Joe was responsive initially, offered me the most affordable price, and got back to me very fast.

I was hooked.

Little did I know that being consistent and predictable sets A+ contractors apart.

Two weeks into the project, he decided to disappear for two days. No text. No call. No nothing.

Communication blackout.

He promised to finish the project before Christmas – and as of now, near the end of January, we’re still living without a kitchen.

I regretted hiring him.

The most consistent and predictable player, win.

The Best Handyman Near Me

Enter the story about Jim.

Jim is another contractor I liked and helped me with various projects around the house: bookshelves, closets, you-named-it.

Was he the first? No.

Was he the cheapest? Not likely.

Was he the most consistent and predictable? Boy, oh boy, yes, absolutely yes.

Jim said he’ll be there at 9 am to start working. At 8.55 am, the bell rang, and he was there.

Jim would work continuously for 12 hours to complete the project on time. He told me it would take this much time up front, and he was right to a quarter of the hour. He communicated frequently with me about the progress and consulted me when anything was off.

He delivered the work beautifully.

I’d gladly hire Jim again for any future project. Not Joe.


That’s the consistency and predictability that set A player apart: being the fastest or cheapest might only get you going. You need to be consistent and predictable to win and deliver amazing results.

That’s it. Now is my time to return to my kitchen.


Leading Through Uncertainty Time

Leading Through Uncertainty Time

This came in my mailbox from Harvard Business Review. It resonated greatly with my current context: dealing with new scopes, zooming in on net new focuses, and tackling greater challenges.

Sharing it here as a way to remind my future self. You can read the whole article on HBR here.

Facing Uncertainty – It’s All About Mindset

Uncertainty is unavoidable. As a manager, you need to be prepared to lead your team through murky waters, but doing so requires getting in the right mindset yourself. Here are six tips to help you shift your perspective:

1. Embrace the discomfort of not knowing. Move from a know-it-all to a learn-it-all mindset. You don’t need to have all the answers.

2. Distinguish between “complicated” and “complex” issues. They require different solutions.

3. Let go of perfectionism. Instead, aim for progress, expect mistakes, and recognize that you have the ability to continually course correct as needed.

4. Resist the urge to oversimplify and come to quick conclusions. Take a disciplined approach to understand both the complexity of the situation and your own biases.

5. Don’t go it alone. Connect with your peers who have their own set of experiences and perspectives to draw from.

6. Zoom out. Taking a broad, systemic view of the issues at hand can reveal unexamined assumptions that would otherwise be invisible

Speed of trust

OK, let’s try this game in 1 minute:

“Can you think of three people whom you trust deeply?”

OK, good. In the next 2 minutes, can you tell me the common qualities and characteristics? Why are they trustworthy and reliable to you?

Done? Great, let’s see do we have anything in common – to me, here are some common traits of trustable people:

1. Talk straight, no hidden agenda.

They are honest, they tell the truth. They demonstrate integrity and tell the facts, mean what they say and say what they mean.

2. Be loyal

They stay with you in hardship as well as in prosperity. Nothing can change the value of their friendship. They have friends whom they know they can call at 2 AM.

3. Be positive – right the wrongs

They don’t hide mistakes. They acknowledge, accept their mistakes and offer correction asap. They do the same to others’ mistakes.

4. Respect others

They genuinely care for others. Material value means little to them – they respond to other people by characters and core values, not on appearances, wealthiness, or social status. They don’t judge quickly.

5. Deliver results

They can be high-achievers and mountain movers, or just someone who keeps their promises. You know when they say they’ll make it, they’ll make it despise circumstances.

6. Strive to be better

They never sleep on their laurels. They never stop to be a better version of themselves tomorrow, and they encourage others to be the same with their infectious energy.

7. Challenge status quo

They have little respect for status quo. Not so much for dogma and social norms either. They always have a healthy dosage of curiosity. They are the square peg in the round hole.

8. Crystal clear expectation

They state exactly what their expectations are. They discuss, renegotiate, and validate these expectations. They don’t assume.

9. Hold themselves and other accountable

They practice strong accountability and they expect the same from you. They will not forgive themselves easily for irresponsibity.

10. Listen first

A lot of us listen with the intention to respond. They listen with the intention to understand.

11. Open-mindedness

Enough said, with all of the strong characters – they are great listeners. They extend their trust network, they welcome you to the circle, they accept differences knowing these are essentials for the greater of good.

This is by no mean a complete list, what do you have in mind?

Building stronger connection

Fast Friends exercise

Today at Stanford GSB, I did an interesting exercise developed by Arthur Aaron at Harvard University almost 30 years ago.

In this exercise, you work with a chosen partner, each of you takes turns to ask and answer questions. Each person must answer each question before proceeding to the next. Try to get as many as you can within 15 minutes.

After the exercise, in just less than half an hour, suddenly complete strangers can build closeness toward the other, a connection that we didn’t have before.

10 questions to ask

  1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest
  2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
  3. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
  4. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future, or anything else, what would you want to know?
  5. What do you value most in friendship?
  6. What is your most treasured memory?
  7. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
  8. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
  9. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
  10. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

The exercise left me to wonder: how could it happen? How did complete strangers get together and build up a rapport so effectively? What do you think?