There were many unqualified men in the steel mill where I worked, who got positions because they were sons, or friends or something to someone. These men often lacked the maturity needed for their jobs, and usually considered their abilities to be greater than they were.

Our plant had four tandem mills, which reduced the thickness and smoothed the surface of the steel. Each mill had two stands with two large rolls approximately 30 inches in diameter, pressing against two smaller rolls of about fifteen to eighteen inches in diameter, through which the steel passed. The rolls were about ten feet long and from their exposed ends, they looked like two snowmen, with one stacked upside down on top of the other. The smaller rolls actually resembled rolling pins, with the necks on either end being six to eight inches in diameter. When these rolls got worn, or when the mill wrecked, they were reground and reused.

A coil of steel came off of a reel at the entry end of the mill, went through the rolls and recoiled on the exit end. When the mill wrecked, the steel honey combed where it entered the small rolls, and become pressure welded to the rolls. When this happened, an overhead crane would be used to get the rolls out and to clear the mess of mangled steel.

On a day when a mill wrecked, the foreman, motioned for the crane to come over. The crane operator, Harley, had over twenty years of experience on that crane, and knew what he was doing. He moved the crane which was about forty or so feet above the floor, into position, and lowered the hook. The crew placed a steel cable on the hook and looped it over the exposed end of a roll on the entry stand. The foreman motioned for the crane operator to raise the hook, and Harley shook his head “no.” The foreman repeated this action several times and each time Harley shook his head “no.”

At this point the foreman went to the call box and called Harley every filthy thing he could think of, and without giving him a chance to explain, ordered him to take up the hook. Harley told him and the crew to get clear, pulled up the hook, snapped the neck off of a ten thousand dollar roll, effectively ruining it, and then just sat there.

The head roller on the mill went to the red faced foreman and said to him, “If you talk real nice to that man up there, he can get you out of this mess.” After a few minutes, the foreman went to the call box, apologized for his pig headedness and sheepishly asked Harley for his help. Harley soon got things cleaned up, but the foreman’s pride had cost the company a $10,000.00 roll.

There are many lessons to be learned here, perhaps the most obvious being that we never have all of the answers. But to me the most important thing that I see is the fact that on any team, everyone is important and necessary, and just because one might be the boss, he or she is not necessarily the smartest or the most important person on the crew. Most military veterans will tell you that it is not the officers who get the job done. It’s the NCO’s, the sergeants.

When that mill was running, the roller was most important. When it was being loaded, the loader was most important. When it was being unloaded, the assistant and the crane operator were most important, and when the mill wrecked, it took everyone to get it going again. At any given moment a different person might be most important, but at all times, they all needed to work together to accomplish their purpose.

Regardless of our position, when we think we have all of the answers, we probably are the one person on the team who should be removed. When we refuse to hear the voice of experience and wisdom from others, we put their jobs and their work at risk. The Bible tells us to let the attitude of Christ be in us, who even though He was God’s Son, humbled himself…. A truly humble person, is not prideful but grateful to God for his talents and never thinks he or she is better than others.

Chaplain Fred Jeans,
Kenilworth Care And Rehab


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