Mike, project manager for an excavation contractor, told Session 5B of the Leadership Development Lab (LDL):
“Twenty-one years ago, I was going to school at Clackamas Community College and working in a machine shop in Clackamas. I was going back to school to become a tool and die maker. The machine shop I worked in was more like a sweat shop than a machine shop: 80 degrees outside, 110 degrees inside. In spite of the heat and stress of the environment, I was working hard cutting, drilling, and painting parts. The shop foreman walked up to me with a snicker in his tone of voice.
“He said, ‘I hear you are going to school.’ “I said, ‘Yes, I am. I’m going to be a tool and die maker.’
“The foreman began to laugh out loud, then told me I would never make it. He said, ‘You don’t have the skill to ever be a tool and die maker.’ Not only did this comment hurt me, it embarrassed me and made me MAD. After that day, I redoubled my efforts to get out of that sweat shop.
“The lesson I learned from this experience is that I don’t want to be a poor boss who discourages employees. I want to be an encouraging boss who brings health and wholeness to the team.
“The action I call you to take is to take every opportunity to build people up instead of tearing them down. The benefit you will gain is your employees will grow in your company and in their personal lives, bringing life to your company. Your place will be a cool place to work.”
Mike’s former boss lost an ambitious, energetic employee as a result of his crushing criticism. He lost Mike’s and any other onlookers’ respect and their engagement in the company. He lost their pride in a job well done. This poem is a good reminder of what our words can do.
A gang of men in a busy town.
With ho-heave-ho and a lusty yell,
They swung a beam and the side wall fell.
I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled
As the men you’d hire if you had to build?”
He gave a laugh and said, “No, indeed,
Just common labor is all I need.
I can easily wreck in a day or two,
What builders have taken a year to do.”
And I thought to myself as I went my way,
Which of these roles have I tried to play?
Am I builder who works with care,
Measuring life by the rule and square?
Am I shaping my deeds to a well-made
Patiently doing the best I can?
Or am I wrecker, who walks the town
Content with the labor of tearing down?