First things first

Paul, Pipefitter for an industrial general contractor headquartered in Vancouver, WA told Session 2B of the Leadership Development Lab™ (LDL):

“Early in my pipe fitting career, I was a first term apprentice with no prior piping experience, as the saying goes ‘wet behind the ears.’ You could say all I knew about pipe was that it’s round and has a hole in the middle. My journeyman and I were working on the ‘Fab floor’ of the Micro Chip Building in Gresham, OR making our final tie in connections. The fab floor is where the tools are that make the microchips and the floor below is where all the support equipment stands.

“After the final connections were made, my Journeyman asked me to go downstairs and turnoff all the main valves prior to us commissioning the new system. On my way downstairs, my foreman stopped me, and asked me to do another quick task. Me, being new to all this, thought I’d better do what my foreman asked me to do. After I quickly got that done, I raced over to go close the valves I was told to close earlier.

“Approaching the valve station, I saw our Project Engineer standing in front of the system checking to make sure everything was piped correctly and flowing properly as the commissioning had just begun. To his surprise, the water valve was still on! Before I could turn it off, the water started gushing out and completely drenched the engineer from the waist down.

“The lesson I learned from this experience is to always be aware of everything that is going on in my workplace, to carefully prioritize and stay focused on the top priorities. What needs to be done now.

“The action I call you to take is to courageously step up and say, ‘I’m sorry, but I can’t help you with this right now, I am very busy with another urgent priority.

“The benefits you will gain from this honest communication is improved production, fewer mistakes and dreaded rework.”

The challenge of sorting out the urgent/not significant from the significant/not urgent is a challenge we all face every day. (See Chapter 6 of Making Moments Matter: Pinpoint Priorities) It is easy to respond to the squeaky wheel – “the seeming urgent,” while the truly important urgent is ignored. When you allow this to happen, you waste time, and fail to deliver. The team and everyone on it suffer.

Never confuse your performance with your priority.

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