By Mario Guertin – President, PDCA Craftsmanship Forum
President, Painting in Partnership, Inc.
Since last September, I have written or co-written 10 articles for the Craftsman Corner, PDCA’s premier source of information, knowledge and inspiration for the Craftsmen and Craftsmen-in-the-making in our industry. They are stored in the ‘Articles’section of the Craftsmanship Forum’s website. Topics have included Standard Operating Procedures for Painting Contractors, Craftsmanship Development, Principles for Building a Team of Craftsmen, Project Management, among others. Previously, I have written several other articles like: ‘Mining the Gold in PDCA’, ‘Dare to Show your Colors’, ‘The Art of 360 Degree Leadership’ which are also available on the Forum’s website.
A record like this might raise a number of questions in the reader’s mind. They could include:
- What is the point?
- How does he justify the time?
- What is in it for him?
- Doesn’t he have enough to do in his business?
- Is this some kind of ego trip?
These are all legitimate questions. In this article, I hope to address these questions and make real to you the golden opportunity available to you in writing for YOUR industry. When I say YOU, I do not mean just you, the business owner, I mean YOUR EMPLOYEES as well. This is where the Gold truly lies!
Writing is Painting with Words!
Writing is a creative act. It creates distinctions; it makes real what is only an idea. Writing is similar to the work of painters in many ways. Words are like walls. They beg to have something done to them! Without a vision for what they can become, walls remain just walls. When a Painting Craftsman steps in, walls become an opportunity to bring life and new meaning to them. They become an environment, inspire, nurture and express. A Painting Craftsman brings greater beauty to the environment he/she touches, always. Instead of paint, writers use words. It starts with just an idea in your head (like the vision you have for that room). Words and how they get put together is what a writer does to make that idea real to the reader. Writers paint with words! A writer succeeds when an idea is made so real, through words, that a life is touched and made better, just like a Painting Craftsman touches life through paint! Did you ever look at writing that way?
Owning One’s Knowledge: The Ultimate Challenge; The Ultimate Opportunity
What is it that lies in the way of people claiming their birth right to write and contribute in this way? Bottom line, most people act as if they do not have anything of real value to contribute to others and their industry: they are unconscious about the value of what they KNOW! Another way of putting it is that people who excel at something do not generally recognize and OWN the value in their way of doing or seeing things. People have a tendency to just do what they do! Writing has a way of confronting one’s unconsciousness and causes the person doing the writing to organize their thoughts and take stock in the value of what they have to offer. As I indicated in the ‘Dare to Show your Colors’ article, entering a competition for an Award confronts one’s unconsciousness in a similar way. For instance, it confronts thoughts like these:
‘I will embarrass myself’.
‘I have nothing to say’.
‘No one will want to listen’.
‘I will fail’.
‘There are a lot of people better than me’.
‘Who do you think you are?’
Have you ever heard these thoughts in your head? These thoughts can effectively stifle your self-expression in many ways. Writing, like entering competitions, has a way to confront these negative thoughts head on and FREE YOU from them! Does that sound like gold? Hang on, there is more.
An Unrecognized Opportunity: where the Gold can be Found!
I mentioned earlier that people who are really good at something have a tendency to just do what they do, without recognizing the true value of what they do and who they are. It often takes the eyes of another observer to notice and CALL OUT those outstanding qualities. Wouldn’t you like to be the hero? Who in your company has those types of outstanding qualities?
This article features the experiences of two employees of Painting in Partnership: Steve Scanlan and Jim Opelka. As an illustration for the point I just made above, Steve and I were talking recently about his experience with co-writing the series on Craftsmanship Development published in the Craftsman Corner of PDCA’s e-newsletters. During the conversation, he said: ‘Jim would be great at writing an article’. I said: ‘On what topic?” He said that, from the first time he met Jim, he was most impressed with his ‘Respect for the Client and his/her Premises’. He said that because of his 35 years in the business, he would be a great one to talk about ‘what happens when you do not respect the client’s premises’ as well: an article was born! We approached Jim with the idea. He said yes. The result can be read in the March edition of the PDCA e-newsletter. Without this outside intervention, Jim would likely never have written the article. Later on in this article, you will read what it meant for Jim to write the article.
Dispelling a Myth: you do NOT Need to be a Writer to Write!
One thought that might have come to mind already is: ‘I am no writer’! Right? You might want to examine that thought. In reality, you do not have to know how to write. You just need to know someone who does! If your topic is related to craftsmanship, the Craftsmanship Forum can help you with the writing; send us an e-mail. If you are the boss and you know how to write, but your employee does not, you have to be prepared to jump in and help (as an investment in the development of your employee). The testimonials of Steve and Jim will address different aspects of these statements.
I would like to say a few words about Steve before we go on. Steve Scanlan, a Decorative Finisher for Painting in Partnership, Inc. is a writer. He has had a passion to express his views of life through writing. In one of PIP’s Employee Development Meetings, Steve told me that he ‘loved to write, even more than painting’. I asked: ‘what do you like to write about?’ The answer was: ‘life, philosophy’! ‘Like what Steve: ‘like the Philosophy of Painting’! I said: ‘that would make a great series for PDCA’s e-newsletter’. In January of 2006, the third and last article in a series entitled ‘Fixing Painting’s Image Problem – How a Painter Becomes a Craftsman’ was published in the PDCA e-newsletter, co-written by Steve and me!
I co-wrote this series with Steve. Steve’s writings, up to that point, had been more for his own enjoyment and had not been directed at a particular audience. It had been more philosophical and theoretical. This is where I teamed up with Steve. I know the audience of painters and painting contractors and I am adept at writing for a given audience; I am also a writer! For the first 2 articles, I did a lot of rewriting and rearranging. Guess what? By the third article, I did very little of both!
My purpose in telling you this story with Steve is to show you the empowering nature of writing. The power is immense, as the testimonials will reveal!
Dispelling another Myth: Writing Benefits YOU and your COMPANY
Before I turn to Steve’s and Jim’s testimonials, I need to address a common myth about writing for your industry. The myth is: writing for your industry hurts you and your business because it takes time away from your business and your personal life. It is true that writing takes time. Time is the INVESTMENT. What is the RETURN on that investment? What is the value of KNOWING and OWNING your true gifts and your true value as a person and as a business? What is the worth of SELF-ESTEEM and SELF-CONFIDENCE? What is self-confidence worth when you get in front of a prospective client with a bid twice the size of your nearest competitor or try to hire a new hot prospect for your team? What is your LEADERSHIP worth? Writing builds people’s self-esteem and self-confidence, which are the cornerstones of High Performance in any organizations. I believe that this is SOLID GOLD! Oh, by the way, writing is also an opportunity for leaving YOUR FINGERPRINT on the industry you love! Here is Steve’s and Jim’s testimonial.
“When Mario asked me if I’d be interested in perhaps writing something about the craftsmanship aspects of painting I casually mentioned that I would put together some thoughts since I have strong opinions about the craft of painting and believe there is a vast difference between trained professionals with years of experience and people who just pick up a brush and think that painting is easy and anyone can do it. So that was my starting point: a passion for showing that true painting is a craft that requires a focused mind, skill and discipline. To put it bluntly, the article writing process was extremely difficult and very frustrating, since it consumed many hours of my free time and I didn’t like being in the position of acting like an authority on the subject. It wasn’t enough to have strong feelings about the matter, and communicating the ideas proved to be a struggle for me, and I wanted to throw in the towel many times since I also believed most of my ideas would either fall on deaf ears or be ridiculed for sounding like they came from a real Prima Donna.
I credit Mario for not letting me quit (a couple times) and showing me how to edit and present my ideas in a more straight forward style. It was a challenge, but like every challenge, in the end, you feel stronger and better about yourself. Overall I was glad to be given the opportunity to put in my two cents on the issue of craftsmanship in painting. Never once did I believe I was writing some declarative final statement on the subject and hope that what I contributed will be part of a long and fruitful conversation about discerning the difference between just painting and painting like a craftsman. More than anything, engaging myself in a discussion over real concerns of the painting industry reminded me how much there is to know about painting and that I still have a lot to learn. In attempting to write about something I thought I knew about, I realized how little I actually knew. The writing experience was humbling for me and helped me realize that there are many talented painters out there in the world who can teach me new things. Becoming a true craftsman requires a lot of work and I found that, by trying to understand what it means to be a craftsman and putting it in writing, it will serve me as I continue on this path. As I work on a daily basis, since my forty hour weeks are comprised of forty hours of actual painting, I am more aware of some of my weaknesses and willing to take the steps to improve.”
‘Having just finished my article, I am more in touch with what it took for me to get there. Since writing is something I rarely do, the process of writing was stressful and difficult. The time investment was also a consideration for me. However, even though the ink is barely dry, I can see that writing the article has made me more aware of what is inside of me and how much more there is!’
Writing Opportunities in PDCA
PDCA’s electronic newsletters are an easy, simple way to exercise your writing muscle. Articles can range in length from a few paragraphs to feature articles. In the Craftsman’s Corner, the Craftsmanship Forum’s segment of the e-newsletters, you can submit Tips and Tricks of the Trade. One paragraph does the trick (no pun intended)! Through that simple act, you have the opportunity of contributing nationally to your trade and ‘leaving your fingerprint on the industry’.
Another outstanding way of contributing to your industry is through writing COPs, otherwise known as Craftsman Operating Procedures. COPs are the ‘how to’ for every aspect of painting. What a cool idea!