Lois, a contract administrator for a large general contractor in southern Oregon, told Session 2B of the Leadership Development Lab:
"I had just gotten out of college and taken my first construction job with a small bridge building firm. I was hired on as their office manager. We were so small that I had the opportunity to wear many, many hats. One of my many hats was helping out in the estimating 'department'.
Usually when we were bidding, I would go with my boss to check out the project. We would look for access, equipment resources, overhead power lines, and talk about what it might take to build the project based on scope, access, equipment available, labor, etc.
The first time he sent me out to look at a project alone, I went down my checklist to make sure I had noted all the things we needed to know to complete an accurate estimate. There was still one unaccounted-for item on my list; locating a water truck. Armed with a Polaroid camera and notepad, off I went, with one last request – look for and find someone in the area who had and would rent to us a water truck. We were bidding on a forest service project and a water truck for emergency fire suppression on the site was a contract requirement.
I got to the site, made notes, took pictures, and even measured the distance from the job to the highway. I wasn't gong to miss anything! On the way back from the job site to the
main highway, I spotted a house with some construction equipment near their shop, and I was excited to spot a water truck, along with other pieces of heavy equipment. Eureka! Not wanting to look like I didn't know what I was doing, I was determined to make a good impression and see if this water truck would possibly be for rent if we were fortunate enough to be the low bidder and win the job.
I carefully sized up the situation, looked at the equipment for the firm or owners' name, and then confidently knocked on the front door of the farmhouse. When the gentleman opened the door, I said, 'Hello, Mr. Ingersoll?' 'No, I'm not Mr. Ingersoll,' he assured me. 'I am sorry. Oh, then you must be Mr. Rand?' He laughed and assured me that he wasn't Mr. Rand either. Boy, did I have egg on my face!"
What a great story of determination, selfdirection, initiative, and a willingness to take a risk. These are the qualities of an empowering leader, even if Lois felt a little embarrassed. We must create an environment where people are encouraged to take risks, even make mistakes, if they are going to grow and make full contribution to the success of the team.