How BluSky Trains Today's Restorers for Tomorrow's Challenges with Chuck Lane

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In this episode we were joined by Chuck Lane, Vice President of Learning and Development at BluSky Restoration Contractors, and delve into the transformative power of investing in people, ensuring they not only survive but thrive in the restoration landscape. Tackling pressing issues like generational challenges in technology adoption, the immense value of mentorship, and the role of career development, this episode is a treasure trove of insights for anyone keen to empower their teams.

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Episode Transcription

Chuck Lane
We tend to forget that we didn't always know everything. As we move people up through the ranks and we get into career development, leadership development, one thing that I always tell people in kind of coaching and mentoring others is, are you sharing that knowledge that you've gained?

Paul Silliman

Welcome to another episode of the Restoration Playbook podcast. I'm your host Paul Silliman, and today we're diving into the topic of professional growth and development in the restoration industry. And there is no better guest to guide us through this conversation than Chuck Lane: the Vice President of Learning & Development at Blue Sky Restoration Contractors. As restoration professionals, we know our industry is one of constant change, requiring us to adapt, learn and grow constantly. From handling the most challenging restoration scenarios to managing the emotional toll our work can sometimes take, our guests'insights will offer a fresh perspective and guidance on thriving in this ever evolving field. But before we dive into our conversation with Chuck, let's talk about KnowHow. KnowHow is a mobile-first application designed to support, streamline and strengthen your company's workforce.

It eliminates the need for time consuming searches through operation manuals and other documents by delivering immediate, clear and concise answers to your team's on the job questions. From rapidly onboarding new hires in chaotic situations to breaking down language barriers, KnowHow has your team's back. But it doesn't just make their job easier, it makes your job easier too. Our platform is packed with hundreds of prebuilt templates for common restoration jobs, making it faster than ever to become a process driven company. And you don't have to take my word for it. Schedule a demo at and discover how KnowHow help restores get the job done right every time that's And we'll also have a link in the show notes for your convenience. Now let's jump into our enlightening conversation with Chuck Lane, the Vice President of Learning & Development at Blue Sky Restoration Contractors.

So Chuck, can you introduce yourself to our listeners and share a little bit about your journey, how you came to Blue Sky and kind of the role you're currently in now?

Chuck Lane
Yeah, absolutely. I've been with Blue Sky since 2020. I was in the industry for a year prior to that with another smaller company that integrated with Blue Sky. Prior to that, all my background is actually in healthcare, emergency management, disaster response, did some work with FEMA, still work with them a little bit as a contract instructor and kind of play in that pool when I have a chance, which is increasingly lower and lower with everything we got going on.

But, yeah, started with Blue Sky as Director of Training and Education was kind of initially externally focused working with clients, and then over the past couple years have taken on the task of building up our internal workforce and got a great team working with me and really starting to build things out as we continue to grow and really excited about some of the things we're doing and what we've got going on for the.

Paul Silliman
You know, anyone listening to this podcast, especially if you follow C&R magazine, Blue Sky tends to be in the highlights. That name comes across a lot with kind of the growth you guys are doing. Could you give us kind of a little bit of background on Blue Sky? Kind of an overview of the company and its missions?

Chuck Lane
Yeah, so the company has been around since 2004. Obviously we've grown extensively since then. Originally started out in the Denver area and now we've grown. We're about 65 locations across the country at any given time, working in probably about 40 states just kind of all across the nation. One of the big things that we have seen over the past few years is really big expansion into different service markets. We do everything from restoration on commercial side, residential side, all the way up to environmental. Commercial roofing really have started pushed into the healthcare markets the past few years. So we've really expanded heavily in the past probably about three or four years where we've really just seen a lot of exponential growth and a lot of opportunities to work in new markets.

And the big thing I think for our mission, what we're really focused on is we talk about a lot like the tagline is kind of like we fix broken buildings. Right. But one thing, and I always have this with me and my company will be happy to see it, right? But we have our Credo card and big part of our Credo is we pledge to create an exceptional Blue Sky customer experience. Right. And that's what we've really been focused on is not only what we focus on internally with our employees and providing a good employee experience, but how are we treating our customers, how are we showing up for them when they really need it, right, when they need it most?

So that customer experience has been kind of really the sticking point since day one and we really continue to try to drive that every single day across the company.

Paul Silliman
No, that's great to see and I got to throw, KnowHow has some as well. So you showed yours. I got to make sure my team saw mine as well. But one thing you really mentioned is kind of expanding outside of those general service areas. When you think restoration, you think, okay, flood, fire, mold. You mentioned going into healthcare and different things like that. Curious to see from your perspective the way things are shifting as far as education training, especially when you get outside of your setting up a DHU, what kind of requirements and kind of education goes into moving into those different kind of service offerings.

Chuck Lane
So with anything that you move into that's a new arena, I think the worst thing you can do is assume that it's the same. Right. You don't treat every residential job the same, you don't treat every commercial job the same. And what I think a lot of people kind of make the mistake of doing and it's not just in the restoration industry, I think it's in a lot of service focused industries is go, oh well, we want to go after healthcare. So we'll move into that market and we'll just continue to do things the same way because it worked over here and will work the same. Just using healthcare as an example, coming from 13 years, been around that industry for 16 years, grew up around it, right family was in the healthcare industry.

So you see all those little nuances of the dangers that are posed by not setting up containment properly, right? Not using something as simple as not using walk off mats properly and you take debris through the hospital and don't know where you're going. It's really easy to cause a lot of damage. And so the skills gap there, I think the education and training piece of this is you've got to look at say each vertical separately, right? So if you're going to go move into commercial roofing, well, what does that look like? Who are your subject matter experts? What do you need to know? But then also a lot of times you don't know what you don't know, right? Is the old saying.

So I would say reaching out and working with people to understand the different nuances of the different verticals but seeking out quality education and training. I always like to talk about RIA, right? Is a great group to not only meet people and talk to different people, get different perspectives. But in an industry where sometimes there's a lot of competition, right, there can be a hesitancy to reach out and ask for help or reach out and ask for guidance. But one thing that a really good friend of mine, his name is Dave Robbins, he works with us. He was the person who gave me my start in the industry at SRP Contractors in 2019. He likes to say a rising tide raises all ships. Right?

And some of the things that I think we've got to look at as an industry is how are we consistently saying this is how we're going to do it, this is the right way to do it. And then what education opportunities are we building out? We do a lot of that internally to make sure that we're doing things the right way, making sure we're following all the processes and procedures that are out there. But also sometimes when you're building that education internally, don't just look at the baseline, say what are we going to do to establish a best practice? What is really going to make this the right way to do it to ensure people are staying safe. We're keeping our people safe, right? We're using equipment properly.

I think there's a lot of layers to the education and training that we're still uncovering as an industry. If I'm going to look at it from my perspective that we're figuring things out of what's the right way and where do I go to learn?

Paul Silliman
You know, you hit on some very key points there, especially know RIA, like, IICRC, having all these bodies know are trying to standardize here is the proper way to do things. And that's something that we struggle with. I spend time on the adjusting side. And there's a distinct difference between a certified restoration specialist and a general contractor and really kind of separating that role, but also giving your workers that information, the training to become that certified specialist, that when you call Blue Sky, when you call someone who has these certifications, you know certain things are going to be done and done correctly. And that kind of leads into another point there. You mentioned it's always evolving and learning.

Are there any technology or innovations you guys are seeing to help kind of embrace kind of that training and help those workers kind of achieve those certifications and kind of designations in those roles?

Chuck Lane
Yeah, so there's multipart answer to that. But I think with the way the industry is going, with the changes, technology is something that I'm old enough to remember a time before cell phones, right? And that wasn't necessarily a part of your job. Now we're so plugged into. Do you have this app downloaded on the iPad? Did you complete this fillable PDF? Did you send that through this system? Did you write the report in Word or did you use it? There's all these different things out there. And so I think technology as a whole is expanding, seems like even more rapidly than it was before. And then you get into different things with equipment, right? So equipment is constantly shifting.

And you talk to certain people, they'll say, I remember when it was just three or four pieces of equipment and that was all we had. And now there's however many different types of dehuse and air movers. And this company is telling you their moisture meter is the best. And this one's saying, no, ours is the best because it does this. And there's all these different software programs out there. And so as you start looking at all these different things, just navigating it, period, can be overwhelming. But I think we have to look at two different things. One, what are we using and why are we using it? Right? So if you're implementing a system, what's the benefit of this?

If you're using this piece of equipment or you're swapping to a piece of equipment, the goal generally should always be makes your life a little easier, right? So if we're going to embrace technology, let's find a way to do it a little bit better, a little bit easier, a little bit quicker. On the other side of this, I think we have to look at what are our customers using, I think especially when it comes to technology and communications, if you're chasing large commercial clients and things like that, even the way you send an invoice matters, right, the way you communicate within different things. And I think there's a lot of challenges where we have I think last time I looked, it's like five generations, four or five generations in the workforce right now, potentially at any given time.

And so when you think about the skills gap there for technology as it continues to advance, I think we have to start looking at how do we bring everybody up again to that same level and how do you embrace it without it becoming everything you do. I think there's always a danger with technology of becoming over reliant on it. And I'll give you a little bit of my background is coming in from emergency management. We always plan for the worst case scenario, right? So what happens when everything goes down? And I used to tell people all the time, my best friend was a yellow legal pad and a pen, right, because paper doesn't shut down. If my pencil breaks down, I generally can always sharpen it or I can go grab another pen, but I can't always use the equipment if it breaks down.

I can't always use software in every single way I need it. So there's a little bit of adaptability to it without letting it take over our lives. But especially from the training standpoint, to sum that up, we got to figure out what we're going to use, why we're using it, and then make sure everybody is at least to a level of comfortability. And I think that's the big thing now with the generational challenges is we throw out a software and we say, hey, everybody's going to use this. And 50% of the company catches on right away because they love technology and they're used to it. And then we leave these other groups behind because they didn't grow up in that world. And I think that's a big challenge that will probably continue to be one for, I think, the next few years.

Paul Silliman
I have to admit I'm aging myself here. Even with all the technology, I still scope rooms with a legal pad and a pen and paper. It's just a comfort way of doing it. I know they're going to be there when I need it. So that's something that's definitely high on a lot of people's priorities and that kind of leads into something you said there, kind of into a perfect next question here is kind of with that new technology, especially with the different age groups we have in restoration right now, there's a very high demand for career development. How do we get these younger workers into those management roles, leadership roles? Where are some kind of key areas where professionals can kind of focus their effort to advance?

Because let's be honest, restoration is not going anywhere especially with the up and down of the economy, things of that nature. Toilets are going to overflow, roofs are going to leak. It's something that's going to be here. But we're almost starting to see that gap between that age of restorers who are now retiring at the end of their career and those guys who are just now getting in and kind of that gap in between, kind of what are your thoughts on that?

Chuck Lane
Yeah, so I listened to something. If you know Mike Rowe from, you know, he does voiceover for Deadliest Catch, all this. And Mike Rowe has been a big advocate for the trades for some time now. And he said something a while back about we kind of told a whole generation of kids that you don't even get to look at certain jobs, whether it was auto shop, metal shop, wood shop, all these different things. We kind of told people for a while that these jobs aren't worth looking at, they're not worth getting into. And now we're seeing this huge gap in the trades, right? And we know, realistically, these are the jobs that make the world go round. These are truly important jobs that people should be embracing and learning about and at least looking at as viable options, but as a career, right?

And that's the thing about, I think, where we're at kind of a rough point in our history right now, with everything kind of pre COVID, post COVID, and a lot of people have talked about this shift in what people want from their lives. And I think most people now really want to say, I want to be a part of something. I want to be about something a little bit bigger than myself. I need a purpose, right? And there'll always be the people that are here for Friday, as they say. But I think the majority of people really want to look at, how do I build myself up? And one of the things we like to tell people at Blue Sky specifically, is we want this to be about a lifelong career.

We want to give people the opportunity to embrace, we want them to work here. We want to be a choice. Right? It's not just a job. We want you to be part of this. And what we've kind of looked at over the past year is full fledged career development. How do you take somebody from day one teach them the things that they have to know, right, to be effective in their role, but then start giving them opportunities to grow? And how do we do that? How do we do it effectively? And the hard part of it is it's a little bit different for everybody, right? And it gets into our leaders having the right conversations with their people to find out where they want to go and what they want to do, and then what are we giving them as opportunities?

So we used to kind of look at things. I think your career path was, well, I hope I get a promotion in X number of years, and I'll just move up the chain. And a lot of people now are comfortable getting to a certain level, and they're like, hey, I'm good here. This is my goal. Or they may want to cross into something different, right. Restoration tech may start and be good in that role for a few years, but then they say, hey, I want to move over into sales, maybe I want to move over into reconstruction, right? Or even, I have some examples of folks on my team that came out of the restoration side, worked as a project manager for a few years, and now they're training the company, right. Because they were passionate about education.

So all these different career choices that some people didn't even know were possible, and that varies, right. Size of the company and what do you have available. But I think looking at what are people going to do with their skills and finding out what those skills are and then how we enhance them. We've done a lot of essential skill building is what we tend to call it, where it's like, here's the baseline things you need to know in your role. Now here's some things you can do to get better, and that can be e learning courses through a learning management system can be opportunities to take additional certifications through IICRC RIA ton of different industry partners out there that can be utilized.

Chuck Lane
But I think the key point of it is having the you know, if you're sitting there as an employee going, I want to get here someday, are you having that conversation effectively with your leader? And then as a leader, are you having that conversation with your employees to go, hey, what can we do to help you get to that next level? Right? And not just having a high performer sit and feel stuck.

Paul Silliman
That's something we found in our book we did last year, Why Workers Quit. Depending on the certain job role technicians, a lot of times getting in the door, it could be salary, it could be the pay to get in. But once they got in the door, salary fell to number five. They were looking for, do I feel like I belong somewhere? Do I have a chance to grow? And I think that's something that I'm seeing. A big shift in this industry is it's not just a grunt, you're not just a labor force coming in. How do we find those people that can grow in our organization? Because as you mentioned, especially you get with someone like Blue Sky and a bigger organization, there are different paths.

You're not going to be the guy at four in the morning ripping out layman at floor for the rest of your career. You have the opportunity to get there. And that's where I think the career development aspect of this industry kind of is starting to change, but has kind of been on the back burner for a long time. I started with, hey, just jump in for three weeks. If you make it in three weeks, then maybe we'll talk. Well, in today's day and age, workers aren't looking for that. I can go work be a YouTuber, I can go work from home. I can do other things to where investing in people is kind of that key aspect in creating that thriving workforce, especially with restoration companies and organizations investing in that employee growth well being. It's not an easy industry.

There's going to be days, anyone can agree it's not easy to do. Are there any successful strategies or mentoring programs you've seen that have kind of helped nurture that talent in the industry?

Chuck Lane
So I have, and I can kind of talk about what we've done a little bit here and give some examples just from what I've seen. So when you look at rapid growth and exponential growth, especially across multiple offices, multiple locations, or anything else, one of the big things that I focus a lot on is mentoring and knowledge sharing, right? And to your point, none of us started out as experts, right? We all had to build it out. But a lot of us can relate to that. You start and like, here you go figure it out, right? And it's still prevalent, it still happens, but it's one of those things that we really want to push away from.

And I think as an industry, and we've really pushed away from this at Blue Sky as an organization of look, when you come in, you need some time to get up to speed, right? You need to figure things out, but you need to have somebody that's there to kind of walk you through this. And we do it in different layers. There's some self paced elearning, but then there's a mentoring program for pretty much all our core roles that last about 60 to 90 days where we have a guided checklist. There's things to review and go through, but we're pairing you up with somebody who's already in that role, who's functioning well in that role.

And we're saying, here, take this new person and help them not only understand our culture and our way of doing things, but giving them a direct point of contact to reach out to for questions. Right? Because one of the struggles, I think just on the mentoring side is if you're a new employee, most people just ego gets in the way and not necessarily in a bad way, but it's difficult to go to the boss and say, I don't know how to do this, or I'm struggling with this. Can you help me? Most of the time, I think just as human beings, we find it a lot easier to go to a peer, right?

And so it's a lot easier for me to go, hey, Paul, I know you walked me through this a couple of weeks ago, but I'm doing this for the first time out in the field. Can I give you a call real quick? And you walked me through that. And so the mentoring piece should be about building the relationships, right? And it's not just this on the job training of here, go train this person, in addition to all your other duties, right. It's about establishing a connection. So we've tried to really reinforce that. Another thing that I've seen a lot of benefit in with the mentoring strategy is when you give other people an opportunity to teach, they also often learn. Right.

So you'll see an opportunity for somebody to walk somebody through something that they think they're familiar with, and then very quickly, once questions start coming in, you realize, I didn't know this as well as I thought I did, so let's dive into it together. And it's also a good way how you can uncover problems. Right. So once you start digging into stuff a little bit, you find something that maybe works better, and being open to that. So I think the mentoring piece is really important in giving people those connections. The other thing I would say is going back to that, we tend to forget that we didn't always know everything as we move people up through the ranks and we get into career development, leadership development.

One thing that I always tell people in kind of coaching and mentoring others is, are you sharing that knowledge that you've gained? Because there is an inherent I think I don't know, it's a personality type one level, but a lot of us, we hold on to things, right? So it's, well, this is my experience, and I had to figure it out. So you're just going to figure it out, but why not take the knowledge that you've gained and now share that with others? Because I think as every step we move up, we should be also extending that hand for the people behind us to level them up as well. Right.

Because if you think about frustrations you probably had early in your career, and I think about really big frustrations I had early in my career and also people that helped me, I go, I want to save somebody else that time and pain if I can. So I think that's a big part of the strategy. Mentoring works in a lot of different ways, right. It can be formal or informal, but I think pairing people up who get it, understand it, and are willing to invest that time because it's not easy. Right. It's a big ask for time. And I think if you are willing to do that for another person, it not only elevates them, but I think it elevates you as well.

Paul Silliman
Yeah. And it's a struggle in this industry because let's be honest, we're not that far out in the restoration industry where if you found mold, you sprayed bleach and you flowed the carpets. That wasn't that long ago. And being able to not only you hit it dead on the head. If I can teach something, then I probably have a good understanding of the process or when I'm going to teach someone realizing maybe I didn't do that right, or is this the best way of doing it? But being open to that. And when I first went from a Mitigation Tech to an estimator Jason Arnold, if you're listening to this, I will forever be in debt because you answered the 100,000 questions I had every day of no one wants to ask questions sometimes. I've already asked 35 questions today.

But that 36 question is the one that might cost us ten grand on a job. How do you make sure you give that? And that kind of leads into a good point here, is having those people who are open to teach and mentor and things of that nature. Those are the kind of personalities you're kind of looking at for that career growth or in the industry because we're getting to a phase where we need to find that next generation of leaders. Especially in a growing industry where technology is changing, equipment is changing, the service offerings are changing, kind of what are those characteristics organizations should look for when grooming those individuals for those leadership roles?

Chuck Lane
So I think the short answer is people focused, people who are not good with people rarely make good leaders. And that's been my experience and that's sort of just my opinion. But I think leadership is really dying to a sense of self. It is putting the team before everything else. It is doing more right, being the example. And leadership is a heavy burden, especially as you move into it from sometimes a peer standpoint, right? So if you go from yesterday these were my coworkers, now I'm leading them, I think that is one of the biggest struggles. And there's all these statistics out there, right, about how there's an investment in the top so many people, but then there's almost no learning and development opportunities, no leadership development opportunities for the frontline. And that's one of the things just from our perspective.

I have a colleague, her name is Simone Kelly. She's running our leadership development program. So we have kind of two tandem programs going on within Blue Sky, where there's a leadership development focus and then there's this learning and development focus to build this, know, day one coming in all the way through your career, up through leadership strategy. And the goal of that is to not miss anybody, right? So when you have new leaders coming in, that can be one of the most stressful times, or I would say in cases of rapid growth, right? Yesterday I was leading this size team. Now I'm over this region and there's all these different. Perspectives and everything else that I have to account for. I am a huge Jocko Willink and Simon Sinek kind of devotee. I have all of Jocko's books.

I follow the podcast, Everything Else, and Jocko kind of came along right around the same time as Simon Sinek, and there was this heavy focus on extreme ownership, right? And that as the leader, it all boils down to you and having empathy for your people. And I have a colleague that often likes to say the repeated phrase, right? Managers manage things, leaders lead people. And I think the biggest focus that you're seeing right now is kind of a mindset shift, is that people don't want to work for other people who they feel don't care about them. And it really is that simple, right. Is that the desire to grow and develop, but also feel secure at work, right? And I know, especially in the trades and everything else, there's still a pervasive mindset of go out there and get it done.

And look, people who have worked with me in emergency management and probably even some of my team members now will tell you there's a time where we have to put the gas down and get it done, and we can kind of talk about it later. But there's the time to move and groove, and then there's the time to kind of follow up. But what I've found in my career and have seen from really good leaders that have worked with me is as we grow leaders, we've got to let them know, I think that it's okay to be a little bit vulnerable.

It's okay to be a little bit honest, because if you get that buy in and respect from your team that they go, my leader has my back, and they have my best interests at heart, then you don't generally have to push them as hard when you may need to. Right. When the big cat event comes along and you're asking everybody, work extra hours, work in these terrible conditions and do this and do that, when you've already built that solid team beforehand, they're generally going to jump in there. And do. And if you I think that's why Jocko has been successful, because if you look at the military, that's not a good environment. Most restoration work, it's not a good environment, right. Getting called out at three in the morning to go deal with category three water on a holiday weekend, not fun, right?

And these are not good conditions. And so I think as we look at building leaders within the industry, I think we should have that same focus, right? How are we building leaders and preparing those leaders to take care of their teams, which by proxy, take care of our customers, which then promotes business excellence, operational excellence, business growth. So you take care of your team, they take care of the customers, that takes care of the business.

Paul Silliman
And not only does it take care of the business? I've worked for those companies before where you're a number on the page, just go work harder, to where you start questioning, am I in the right place? Do I need to start looking at job boards? But also when you're working for those people where you know that your best interest is something they care about, you start having that ownership. You start kind of carrying that flag. When you're out on those cat scenarios to where I actually care about the name that's on my shirt, I want to make sure this job is done right, because I know my ownership, my leaders, they're looking out for me. I want to look out for them. I want to make sure my best foot's forward.

And that's something we talk to a lot of different restoration companies, and even hiring now is still a big deal. But they're saying, oh, no one wants to work anymore. Well, it's not maybe that they don't want to work anymore. Are you empowering them to want to go work? Do you feel like your workers think, my owner is going to really put out what I think is my best interest? Are they looking out for me emotionally? And that's something that we see a lot of professionals in this industry. Not only when they come to being a leaders, are they giving that training and education? Are they giving them everything they need to be good at their job? But also, are they really going out and worrying about their emotional well being? Are they worrying about how's your family life?

Because the last thing you need is to show up to a job, which you mentioned, it going out at 02:00 a.m. To a CAT 3 loss. But also you're struggling at home. You're getting your significant others asking, why are you working so many hours? They're not helping you here. You're not progressing. And that's something when we're talking about kind of creating those leaders, it's not only just, here's the ops, here's what we need to do, here's our gross profit, but is there any examples you can give on just helping train those leaders on that mental emotional well being as well?

Chuck Lane
Yeah, so there's a couple of different components to that, but I think one I kind of mentioned it, right, is empathy. Right? And if you look at that as do you have empathy for other people? And I think as an industry, we think about that a lot for our customers, right. Because we know they're going through difficult times pretty much anytime we show up, right. That this is an impact to somebody's home business livelihood. Right. There's a huge aspect there as leaders, I think, for teaching empathy, there's an argument about, right, like, can you really teach it? Does somebody have it or not have it? I think it's not so much that you teach empathy as a skill. You create awareness around it. Right. It's just like working out a muscle, right.

Nobody goes to the gym and immediately bench presses 225 their first time out. Maybe a few of us, not me. But when you go out and you flex those muscles and you build it, sometimes it's just an awareness of creating a habit or creating I'm not always motivated to do it. It's a Jocko thing. I'm not always motivated to do it, but I'm disciplined to do it. So I'm going to intentionally take time for self care, right. Whatever that looks like. I'm a big advocate of when you talk to people. I think as leaders, what we need to really be focusing on, especially with newer leaders, is how do you intentionally check in? Because we've all probably been in the meeting where we're talking to the boss and they're doing this, or maybe they're even doing this. Yeah, go ahead.

And there's this distraction there that immediately tells me, you're not really listening to me, you don't really care. I'm not important. And I don't think you have to necessarily get super in touch with your feelings and all this, but if you sit down and we're teaching leaders, listen to your people. We used to have a saying at an organization I worked with previously. One of our things was listen to understand needs. Most of us, we listen to our turn to talk. Right. And so I think one of the biggest things we need to teach leaders is how to intentionally check in and what are you listening for? What are your people telling you sometimes without saying anything? Right.

And that's where I think we can do a lot better job, not only as an industry, but I think just people in general nowadays, and you're seeing this shift, is we have to become people focused. We have to get to a point where we start to realize, when are we pushing too hard? When are we pushing too much? When are we burning our people out? And what resources are we then giving them to recover? And that looks a lot of different ways. Is that PTO? Is it events? Is it recognition type things? There's all these different potential answers for it. But I think for the leader piece of it, teaching them how to be intentionally focused, listen and actually care about your people.

Because I would argue if you're in a leadership position and you don't care about your people, why are you leading other people? Right? That's just my take on it now.

Paul Silliman
Chuck, you just hit some absolute things out of the park and kind of wrapping up here for maybe anyone listening who's in a smaller restoration company and is really kind of evaluating that team culture. Who do I have in my staff I can groom to leader into leadership? Any couple of nuggets or anything that you maybe want to kind of leave as, like, a parting note for those companies.

Chuck Lane
Yeah, I think, look at your people who are high performers is always a good place to start, right. See who's driving change, who's driving success, who's bringing things to the table for ideas. Those are always great starting points, but don't use that solely as a reason to promote. A lot of times, I think that's where you run into issues is we promote people who are high performers, but they're not necessarily the best people leaders. Right? Some people are great at managing tasks and doing things. People leadership really takes a whole different set of skills. So my three things that I would tell anybody to look for when you're thinking about building leaders and focusing on promotions is number one, have a standardized program for that, right? Like, how are you identifying leaders, how are you identifying succession planning?

Who are you looking at to move up? The second thing is invest in skill building, right? So you should be looking three to five years down the road of this person needs some time to grow, to learn, maybe mature a little bit. But I think they've got a good opportunity to become a leader in the future and continuously give them little challenges as they grow. So focus on those essential skills, building them up. Give them opportunities to take classes, but also give them opportunities to take on some additional responsibility, right. Make observations, hey, you're running the team today, right? And see how it goes. The third thing I think is once you get somebody in a leadership position, don't forget about them. Don't promote somebody and then go, all right, you're a leader, cool. Good luck.

Make sure that you're continuously investing in them, right? Even if somebody becomes, say, a restoration supervisor, right. They're running a small team, but they're happy in that role. They're doing well. Continue to invest in them. Because I think that's where we make a lot of mistakes with leaders as well, is we get people in positions and as we move up, we kind of say, okay, cool, that's running well, so I'm just going to leave it alone, right. And I think that's the worst mistake we can do is just assume that because it's running well today, it's going to run well a year from now. So every step of the way, have those intentional check ins, right? So especially if you're a leader of leaders, make sure your leaders are okay, right. Make sure their teams are doing well.

A last thing I will say with that is every level, whether you're frontline employee, frontline leader, middle management, senior, whatever, self care goes kind of both ways, so take care of yourself because you can't show up for work effectively if everything else is off. Right. You can't show up as a leader if you're distracted or you're burnout, right. You're always going to show up either at some version of your best or some version of your worst if you're not taking care of yourself. So what I always tell people is set some deliberate barriers. Take your PTO, take your time off, take some vacation, get away when you can, even if it's just a couple of days at the house with the phone turned off. Right.

Is enough for some people, but take some time and then with the barriers as much as you can, right? It doesn't always work this way, but I love this saying, is that remember no is a full sentence. So I think that's the biggest thing we've got to focus on is remembering. At the end of the day, we're all people. We're all trying to figure it out. We're all trying to get through and help people that remind you of where you were a few years ago, lift them up. And then don't forget to take care of yourself, especially if you're new into leadership. Ask for help and realize it's okay. And if anybody's listening to this that is a business owner or senior leader, remember to model that for the rest of your employees to let them know, hey, it's okay to ask for help.

Last thing I'll say on this, I had a colleague for years that said this, and I still say it to the teams I work with today. His favorite word was fail. But it wasn't because it was a word. It was because it was an acronym. And he always said that fail stood for “first attempt in learning.” And that's been something I've modeled for the past few years, and it's always really worked out pretty well for me to remember that.

Paul Silliman
Well said, Chuck. Thank you so much for coming on. These are just some absolute golden nuggets in there, and I really appreciate your time jumping on with us.

Chuck Lane
Yeah, thank you for having me. Appreciate talking to you.

Paul Silliman
And that wraps up another episode of The Restoration Playbook podcast. A big thank you goes out to Chuck Lane from Blue Sky Restoration Contractors for sharing his wisdom and insights on developing and nurturing talent in the restoration industry. If you found this episode useful, please do us a favor, share this with a colleague and don't forget to leave us a good rating wherever you tune into your podcasts. For those that want to learn more about KnowHow, head over to and schedule a demo with me. Experience firsthand how KnowHow can amplify your workforce's efficiency and quality no matter where the job takes them. Once again. That's Thanks for joining us, and we look forward to sharing more restoration industry insights with you on the next episode of The Restoration Playbook. See you soon.