When I was living in Australia and New Zealand, I worked in the construction industry.
The jobs I did were not pretty. Rebuilding stores from scratch, laying wastewater pipes, asphalting roads, these jobs were mentally and physically tiring.
A construction site is a strange place. There is a lot of testosterone flying around. If you can’t handle the banter, you’re not going to last very long.
You need to have a laugh with your colleagues to distract from the hard labour.
It keeps you going, keeps you sane through the wind, rain and sunshine.
The boss on a construction site is known as the Foreman. If your Foreman is a top bloke, the job becomes easier.
If not, it can be a hellish experience.
When I was laying pipe in Christchurch, New Zealand, my colleagues and I nicknamed our Foreman, “The Kettle.”
This was not a complimentary nickname.
Like a kettle, his frustration would slowly rise at all the insignificant events that occurred throughout the day, until he reached boiling point, and exploded with rage.
Once the frustration was out and he had cooled down, The Kettle would slowly fill back up again. Sometimes, he would explode the same day, sometimes the next, or sometimes a few days after.
But, we always knew that at some point down the line, he would blow his top again.
It was inevitable.
This was not good for team morale. We were wary of doing, and saying, anything that would negatively affect his mood.
We were working in a climate of fear.
Our most productive days were when he was not there. It felt like a weight had been lifted from your shoulders.
We could get on with our jobs in a much more relaxed atmosphere. Happy workers are better workers, it’s no secret.
The Kettle failed to understand this.
He thought we were slacking when we were having a joke while working.
He thought he needed to be on top of everything to keep the job on track.
A leader treats his workers with compassion and respect. He does not belittle them and rule in a fear of climate.
A leader is firm but fair, critical but not confrontational.
Above all, a leader leads by example.
The Kettle was none of the above.