The Fire Sprinkler Story. A Leader is Made.

Life and business will throw curve balls at you sometimes, and some are tougher than others. But there are certain moments when shit REALLY hits the fan. These are the moments where leaders rise from the fold.

Let me tell you about my friend Dave. He started working for us a few years ago running our CNC Router station in the cabinetry manufacturing shop. I remember a conversation we had where I asked him if he’d be willing to learn the CNC to help improve production at our factory. 

His immediate response was, “Whatever you guys need, Danny. I came here to work.” 

While over there, he quickly grew to become one of the most reliable guys at our cabinet shop. Now, he works at our franchise location in St. Petersburg Florida as our lead carpet installer among many other important roles. 

This guy is a leader. 

There’s no better way to see what a person is really like than when the going gets tough. Well, recently, Dave really proved he had what it takes.

On Monday, one of our apprentices popped a fire sprinkler head. When I say he opened the floodgates of heaven, I’m not exaggerating at all. This is no child’s play, little super soaker spray. There’s a reason fire sprinkler lines are made of metal and not plastic. 

This fire sprinkler blasted water at a painful pressure, but Dave didn’t care. The instant he saw the problem, he became a man on a mission. He raced over to a storage room where he remembered we had stored a 2” flexible pipe for a water pump. Without a word, he carried that pipe a quarter of a mile back to where the fire sprinkler was devastating a 4th floor apartment. 

Like Louis “Louie” Zamperini from the movie Unbroken, he held the pipe over his head covering the fire sprinkler, and managed to divert the heaviest flow to a nearby bathtub.  

For over 15 minutes straight.

Not only did he soak himself completely, we could tell that he was getting tired under that constant overhead water pressure. 

But again, Dave didn’t care about the pain or the wet discomfort.

He cared about the purpose behind his action. 

He knew that his team needed his strength in that moment more than ever, and he rose to the challenge.

If not for Dave, vastly more apartments would have flooded, and we would have been drying twenty thousand square feet of apartments on Thanksgiving. 

He didn’t ask for help holding the pipe, instead he took the mantle of the hardest challenge and yelled to the other guys to help the blasting water drain in a tub while I and our other manager located the emergency shutoff valve. 

You see, when a person consistently confronts what scares them and chooses to walk the path of bold action, they can and will become the greatest possible version of themselves. Success will find its way to them. I have had Dave in my radar for a promotion to assistant manager for some time now. While he is still a diamond-in-the-rough in several other ways, I have seen the hints of greatness in him through acts of fortitude, leadership, and creativity under pressure like this. You bet this action solidified my belief and resolve in promoting him.

He told me after the fact, that he had to cancel an appointment with his wife to help restore these units so the whole team could have Thanksgiving with our families. Wow.

As leaders, we have a responsibility to search for and praise these actions where our people surpass themselves. Through this positive and honest encouragement, we can prime our team to strive for greatness every day. 

The more we, as leaders, catch these moments and feed this extraordinary side of our people, the more they will demonstrate it in all aspects of their lives. And you will find that your team will grow into an unstoppable force of dedicated and self-driven superstars. 

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