What is Hard Work

field leadership sweat equity Mar 23, 2024

Dont you love it when your assumptions slap you in the face? 

Well maybe I dont love it but after the sting wears off Im always grateful for the new awakenings. My latest one was around how people define HARD WORK. If you have spent any time in or around construction trades, think about how you define hard work.

At the Micro SQI Webinar I asked the attendees how they defined hard work. Some of the responses referenced things like lifting heavy stuff, but one person described "hard work" as meaningful and noble. Which I too have an appreciation for this type of hard work except when Im talking about hard work, this aint what Im talking about.

Before I get into that I want to be clear about why reframing our thinking is important. 

Ever heard the saying "the most dangerous hazard is the one we do not see"? Well there is a risk that is right in front of our face but we are blind to it. These hidden risks are chipping away at the health & wellness of the construction trades workforce and not just sometimes, its happening all the time. We walk past them when we walk the project and on the rare occasion that we pause to engage with the installers our focus on production and compliance keeps us from spotting these problems.

So my goal is to recruit you to join the effort in raising the standard of care for the subcontractors out there making it happen. And I need your lenses to be calibrated such that you cant unsee the problem.

Now I want you to think about how you used to run, jump, and roll around with out giving it a second thought. You probably arent as mobile as you used to be or your body snap crackles and pops when you get out of bed in the morning. This is a pretty normal thing.

Now I want you to imagine spending your work day hunched over leaning into a dark cabinet wrestling some heavy cable into position. Or attaching 3" tube steel thats 5 foot long and weighs around 45 pounds. This work requires you to kneel down on the concrete floor multiple times a day, twist and contort your body into a dark cabinet. Your instructions were "go land those cables" or "go assemble that steel" you have a production target and in the rare event someone with a shiny hard hat talks to you all they ask is "you gonna finish today" or "why arent you wearing your hard hat"

They are blind to the fact that you grab your hard hat and put it back on when you stand up to stretch your back since it fell off when you hunched into that damn cabinet. They dont offer any guidance or assistance on how to meet the production target.

So you suck it up and do your damndest to complete as much as you can. At the end of the day you pack up your gear, jump in the truck and head home. Your body cools and by the time you walk into the living room your hands and knees are swollen, them back spasms are in full affect and all you can do is pass out in the Lay-z boy. Then you get up and do it again, and again and again.

The entire day the only interest any showed in you was around what you could produce or what you were doing wrong. How motivated would you feel? Why would you even keep going?

We can do Better

You can transform this experience and here is how. Next time you are out on site I want you to take a few minutes to scout out some "hard work" but think of it as the crap that is stealing life from the men and women doing the work. Crap like poorly lit work areas, assemblies that are being done on the floor on their knees, situations where you know the proper tool would make it so much easier on the installer. Dont forget to introduce yourself to the person you are studying, then ask them what is difficult about their work. Ask them what they would add or change if they could.

And if you want to reach #OGleader status do something about it. Take action to remove the stuff that is stealing Life from our valued workforce. Then walk a colleague through the process. Lets demonstrate appreciation for the craft professionals by attacking the stuff that wears the joints, muscles, and bones of the folks some us like to call "trade partners".


If youre fired up and want to keep that fire fueled check out the Conversation with Chief Mountain Mover Kevin Carey

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