Kyle T. Webster

The reward for meeting goals is often monetary. But it doesn’t have to be, and as Doug Selby, owner of Meadowlark Builders, in Ann Arbor, Mich., discovered, goals don’t have to come from the top down and they sometimes come with their own reward.

Selby’s design team leader brought this to his attention. “She said that while [Meadowlark Builders’ staff] want to get compensated well, it is ‘almost demoralizing when you hold out money as the only goal .... People love their jobs, and [they] really seem interested in doing their jobs well and trying to make them more efficient.’”


Selby found that employees were setting their own goals and determining ways to measure their success. For example, when the city wouldn’t pick up jobsite trash, one carpenter took it upon himself to negotiate with a local recycling company. “I didn’t even know he was working on it,” Selby says. With a simple solution, involving portable containers, Meadowlark Builders was able to both decrease the amount of waste it sends to the landfill and to lower costs.


Meadowlark Builders employees are comfortable asking questions and finding answers because Selby has created an atmosphere in which everyone is invested in the process and can attempt various solutions.

At monthly staff meetings, employees bring up issues and Selby asks for four possible solutions to each. “We don’t move on until we get the ideas,” he says. “There is debate and discussion, and by the time we’re done one or two ideas rise to the top and get fleshed out.” Then he puts someone in charge and tells them to take the ideas and see what works best.

“I don’t have time to make decisions for them, and I don’t want to,” Selby says. These are the people dealing with things day in and day out. Getting them invested makes it easier to solve issues.”

—Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.