Larry W. Dennis, Sr.
Dave, a project superintendent for a large general contractor in eastern Washington, told Session 8B of the Leadership Development LAB:
"A couple of weeks ago, while working on a cold storage building in Boardman, Oregon. one of my carpenter job stewards approached me regarding an unhappy journeymen carpenter. The journeyman was complaining about the recent hiring of two more carpenter apprentices. His “concern” was that our ratios of journeymen to apprentices were not in compliance with the current labor agreement. In the past I would have reacted, often defensively, say something like, ‘Who was the @#&* *&$@# who said that? I will make the rules crystal clear to that @#&* *&$@#.’ I would have been in his face before the steward stopped talking. Instead, this time I took the opportunity to use my newly acquired skills and calmly informed the steward, not the journeyman carpenter whoever he was, that there were no specific contractual carpenter to apprentice ratio requirements on this job. The newly informed steward thanked me for clarifying the contract and took the contract information I gave him to relay it to the journeyman carpenter with a copy of the by-laws that I gave him.
I went on with the job I was doing.
I have plenty to do and don’t need to get caught up in the drama of proving I am right or making sure everyone knows I am the boss.
The lesson I learned from this experience is that the use of a “mediator” is a good way to avoid unnecessary, non-productive confrontation and allows me to focus on more important issues, the ‘vital few’ that contribute to a productive project. The action I call you to take is to avoid the drama. When appropriate, use a mediator to diffuse less important issues. It is not always necessary to confront every situation alone. Use all of your resources. The benefit you will gain is focus, energy, and a positive impact. You will have more time to devote to the important issues, the ‘vital few’ that require your personal attention.
I think we can be sure that Dave went home at the end of the day less stressed. Any of us who are interested in performing at higher levels must be willing to give up the need to be right, the need to prove ourselves, and any addiction to drama that we may have. The need to be right, the need to prove ourselves, and the need for drama will keep us in a flurry of activities which could easily distract us from the priorities that require calm, concerted, consistent attention."