Kelly, project manager for a mechanical contractor, told Session 2 of Turbo’s Leadership Lab:
“In my second year of apprenticeship while working for Wright Shuchart and Harbor in Longview, WA, I was given a wonderful opportunity to broaden my skillset, which has helped advance my career. The general foreman on the project used me from time to time on the ‘dumb end’ of the measuring tape or elevation rod when he was setting shims on the anchor bolt chairs we set to support the 3½” diameter, 5’ tall anchor bolts used in the high density pulp tanks that were part of the Kymer Two Digester project.
“One week at apprenticeship school, we were trained on levels and transit. The following week, as we were getting ready to set up for some shots, he became distracted in conversation with a foreman. I decided to set up the instrument for him. When he checked it, it was perfect, so he decided to teach me how to do the survey and layout. Within a couple of months, I was the chief surveyor for a $48 million dollar project! Weeks later, we were laying out anchor bolts for pulp tanks on the other side of the project. It was stressful. As we set the bolts, they were pouring; imagine being on the inside of a double rebar matt as the concrete is coming towards you!
“I had my state of the art Wild Theodolite instrument, complete with optical plumb, set up in a ribboned-off area to protect my survey hub. It was an expensive unit, costing upwards of $10,000 dollars.
“I needed to go to the prints to confirm a calculation. When I came back, I couldn’t see through the lens. The lens was completely shattered and laying on the ground. The adjustment plate was bent at an odd angle and it was apparent that the instrument had gone down hard. I went directly to the office to let them know what had happened.
“The PM, an old Russian fella named Val, was just walking onto the job site. I said, ‘I was setting the bolts at the HI Tank, went to my print, and when I came back, the
Theodolite was toast, knocked over and set back in place.’ All he heard was that the Theodolite had gone over. ‘GOSH DARNIT!!!’ (cleaned up), ‘GOSH DARN IT!!! NEXT TIME ONE OF THOSE GOES DOWN, I WANT YOU UNDER IT AND I WANT BLOOD, GOSH DARNIT!!!! I felt crushed! As he was walking away, he stopped, took a moment to reflect, gave me a wink and a smile, telling me it would be alright.
“At the end of the pour, the concrete pump operator came over to tell me what happened. He told me the Laborer Foreman backed up a concrete truck next to my instrument, let go of the chute, and the chute swung into my instrument, knocking it down. When I asked him about this, he said he didn’t know what I was talking about and the laborers under his lead didn’t want to jeopardize their jobs.
“The lesson I learned from this experience is that I don’t want to be ‘that person;’ I want to have integrity and honor as I go through life; to look forward, not backward; to own up to my actions and do what I can to make them right. When my team members make mistakes, I tell them, ‘It is not our mistakes that define us, it is how we respond to them. Respond to them with honor and integrity and do all you can to make them right.’
“The action I call you to take is to live your life ‘on the square’ with honor and integrity – when you blow it, show it. Don’t allow someone else to take the responsibility for your actions; own up to them and do the best you can to make them right. The benefit you will gain is an anchored sense of integrity and the deep respect of others.”
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