The Leadership Pipe Dream

My wife loves to juice.  She is always mixing various fruits and veggies and blending them together into some sort of juice concoction.  Some of these drinks are delicious, while others, in my humble opinion, taste like they came from my lawnmower, but hey…it’s all in the name of health.

This past Saturday, my wife was making one of her favorite juice blends.  She had placed some of the leftover bits down the garbage disposal.  I always thought that most fruits and vegetables were high in fiber, but I apparently that’s not true when it comes to plumbing.

“Honey, both sides of the sink have flooded with water…”

plungerI rolled up my sleeves and did what I had always done in these situations: I stopped what I was doing, grabbed the plunger, and then went to work.  I kept one side of the sink plugged while attempting to plunge the other side.  After 10 minutes, I knew the plunger wasn’t going to work.  It was time for my backup plan.  I ran to the store and picked up some Drano.  It never let me down in the past, so I figured after 30 minutes, I could relax.  After 2 hours and emptying the bottle, I knew I was going to have to resort to something stronger.

The next day, I picked up a different drain opener which contains sodium hydroxide so you get an exothermic reaction and your plumbing gets quite hot.  I figured I would simply burn the clog out.  After dumping that down the drain and waiting for an hour, I still wasn’t any further along, and my kitchen had filled with fumes from the drain opener.  After killing some brain cells, my next step was to snake it out. I went back to the hardware store and bought a 25-foot drain snake.

After slipping that down the drain pipe 3 times without it catching to clog, I had to take another trip to the hardware store to rent one of those heavy-duty 75-foot drain snakes.  Keep in mind that by this point, I had sunk roughly $100 into this clog.  I brought the rented snake back home and spent 20 minutes reading the directions.  I got my gloves on and went to work, but after another 20 minutes, I couldn’t get the snake past the p-trap (that elbow/u-shaped pipe under most sinks).  To top it off, I snapped a piece off of one of the tip of the snake.

My face turned bright red and I had steam coming out of my ears.  I was angry, but I was also defeated.  I had to put my ego aside and call a plumber.  After “draining” another $200 from my bank account, I was finally clog-free.  Had I called the plumber after plunging or even after the Drano, I could have saved myself a good chunk of money and half of my free time over the weekend.

Why is this important?

My plumbing fiasco had me think of certain people I’ve worked with in the past who were in situations that had similar outcomes.  These situations weren’t plumbing-related, but happened in the workplace.

leading yourselfHave you worked with someone who absolutely had to do things on their own, even if you knew they weren’t yet fully capable to handle the situation by themselves?  So have I, and have even been in this boat, myself.  The end-result usually involves costing additional time, money, or even reputations.

Picture that instead of a home plumbing problem, my issue was related to a project at my job.

If I had done what I did at home, my supervisor/manager would be having a long talk with me.  I could avoid unnecessary costs by asking myself two questions:

  1. What is my competence on this particular goal? – In other words, do I have the skills to get the job done?  I’ve done plumbing work before, but it’s been very minimal.  I’ve never had to snake a kitchen sink drain, especially one that had a clog that was 30 feet down the pipe.  You could say that my skill level was low.
  1. What is my commitment on this particular goal? – How motivated am I to get the job done?  In the beginning, I was very motivated to unclog the pipe.  At the end of it, I had thrown my hands up in the air and wanted someone else to deal with it.

These questions tie in directly with the Needs Model of Situational Self Leadership.  Knowing the answers to these questions can help me diagnose myself and “lead up” and get what I need to get the job done.  It can save me and my company time and resources.

Have you ever had a situation similar to mine where you regretted how much time and/or money you invested when you had an alternative option?

Leave your comments!

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  • Comments (7)
  1. Love the plunger pic! Its so true. One of the most important things for a leader to know is what he or she doesn’t “know.” The timing of calling in those more proficient or efficient than you is critical to success. We can often do more harm than was initially discovered by trying to “fix it” ourselves. Putting pride aside can often prevent further collateral damage. Sometimes its just consulting with more experienced person that can give you the direction or instruction you need other times you need that individual to come in and fix it. Enjoyed the article!

    • Excellent comment, Enna! Pride presents the biggest challenge. No one wants to say that they’re not the expert and need help, but it actually takes more courage to say it.

    • Cristina Alfato
    • September 13th, 2013

    What kept you from calling the plumber right away? To me, finding a solution is not so much about functional competency, but leadership and orchestration. Loved the analogy, I’ve seen this happen before and agree that it is “draining”-pardon the pun…

    • Thank you for the comment, Cristina! To answer your question, I figured I could do it myself and keep the costs down! Little did I know that it would backfire on me and cost me more money in the long run.

  2. Plumbing is not an easy job, you must have the skill to do so because plumbing is a great profession that needs a lot of hard work and determination.

  3. I’m impressed, I must say. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s both equally educative and entertaining, and without a doubt, you’ve hit the nail on the head.
    The problem is something too few folks are speaking intelligently about.
    I am very happy I found this in my hunt for something regarding this.

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