7 Habits of Highly Effective Builders

Inspired by Stephen Covey's famous book, I've often thought about how his 7 habits could be related to being a highly effective builder. As we know habits can be both good or bad and so I think the best way to avoid getting into "bad habits" (which can be disastrous in construction) is to focus on forming good ones. I wonder if these 7 good habits are all that a modern builder need follow...

Habit 1: "Be proactive"

A proactive builder takes the responsibility to be at the very centre of a building project without hesitation. To be effective in doing so they recognise that their influence upon everyone else on the project from clients to subbies, will set the sail for project success. Proactively looking for solutions, improvements and leading by example.
Proactively responding to the ever changing path a project can take. If a client changes their mind on something at the last minute (practically guaranteed on every project) then an effective builder doesn't waste any time grumbling about it. They have to get on with the job and see the opportunity to find the solution.

Habit 2: "Begin with the end in mind"

The end of most projects is signified by the builder handing over the keys to a clients finished house. Whether that's a new build, extension or renovation. Everything we do as builders from the very start will influence that moment and the quality of what is actually handed over.
Before the first brick is laid or even before the first spade in the ground, the builder needs the finished job in their mind. The vision needs to be more than just matching the drawings, the vision needs to show the quality of the build , the sense of pride when handing over the keys, imagining how the person you are building for will use and enjoy the home. Setting the goal to be more than just "building to plans" will allow the builder to make quick decisions along the way, find work arounds and maintain the sense of pride on site. Anyone can see the difference between work carried out with pride and someone who just "builds to the plans"

Habit 3: "Put first things first"

Getting the fundamentals right in construction is crucial. Everything has an optimal order and highly effective builders ensure the right order is identified and then worked to. Nothing wastes time on site and diminishes quality more so than back tracking. Chasing in forgotten pipes and cables into new plaster, plumbing a kitchen before the final design or decorating while there's still dust flying around. It's all the right work but in the wrong order.
A programme to follow, on it's own is not enough. The builder must ensure they maintain the habit of putting the first things first, not just on the schedule but by making sure this happens in reality. They do this by proactively keeping the end in mind!

Habit 4: "Think win–win"

Builders have to think win-win all the time. Working for a client should be a mutually beneficial transaction. The client can win in the form of their dream home and the builder can win in the form of fair compensation and the pride in delivering a building that has people saying wow! It mustn't be any other way otherwise both client and builder will lose.
Builders who think they can win by cutting corners will soon find recommendations and work dries up. Likewise a client who looks to undercut the builder or play unfairly will likely lose quality in the final product that could've been achieved. The foundation for the win-win approach comes from forming good client relations from the very beginning.

Habit 5: "Seek first to understand, then to be understood"

The builder should understand the clients vision clearly before setting the end goal and cracking on with the build. The builder should however make sure that they are likewise understood. The good builder should be confident in listening to what a client wants and then explaining in layman's terms why such a desire is not possible to build. It might be you need to say no because of planning restrictions, structural limitations or simply that the dream build would be seriously over budget. Whatever potential problems may arise they will be no problem to sort out if the builder has taken the time to fully understand both the clients vision and the potential limitations. In some circumstances the builder should also say when the client can afford to be more ambitious. Ways forward are found through understanding one another and compromise.

Habit 6: "Synergise"

Builders running effective projects may be at the centre of operations and influence but they need to be in the habit of finding synergies with all their direct labour, subbies, professional advisors and clients. They do this by being open to adapting workflows to fit in with others and ensuring that everyone feels like they are part of a team. Builders who think they know it all and have nothing to learn from those they work with are the most dangerous builders out there. Every day is a school day in construction and it's also possible to teach others new things too without being patronising. If the synergy is there then the project will run smoothly and everyone wins.

Habit 7: "Sharpen the saw"

I like that this habit already seemed to have a construction themed metaphor! The main thing I can relate to is the constant development and refinement of operations and workflows a builder should make. Construction changes all the time as do building regs and clients demands for the latest architectural feature, style or technology employed.
We as builders need to keep up with the times by good quality research, education and immersing ourselves in the parts of the industry that interest us. Finally, learning from our previous works, finding those improvements will make sure we the sharpest builders by far.