All building structures contain hidden foundations. Foundations are the base of anything that is built vertically. They bear the weight of keeping everything on top of it structurally sound while being out of site, out of mind.
This past week, we said goodbye to our Chief Building Official at the City of Acworth. Loyd Fasselt retired after twenty-six years of faithful service to our organization. He made a career out of reviewing designs for and inspecting foundations for structures throughout our community.
He operated in the shadows, out of the view of public recognition. Foundations are the same way, they are not visible once the structure is built, but play an integral role into the stabilization and future success of it. There will not be any statues built in his honor, streets named after him, or buildings bearing his name, but his stamp of quality will be seen on every single structure he reviewed plans for and inspected.
Sometimes through Leadership and Main I write about one of our community leaders in Acworth, which I have not done lately. We are a special place built on a foundation of incredible people who selflessly serve in the background like Loyd. This week, I wanted to honor him by sharing four things I learned from my team member and friend:
Invest In Others
Loyd is an extremely brilliant person, one of the smartest I know. His familiarity with thousands of pages of building codes is unmatched. He was a builder early in his career. Couple that with his vast experience in the building inspection world, it made him one of the most qualified and knowledgeable people in his field of work. He would tell you the most important part of any project is investing the necessary time to get the foundation right.
Early in my career I was tasked with managing construction projects with little experience. I was in my early twenties at the time and knew very little about the intricacies of construction. Anytime I went to him with questions, he never once made me feel like I was inadequate or incapable. This is a rare quality in someone of his experience and expertise. He could have easily dismissed me based on my inexperience, yet he chose to invest in me and treat me as an equal. I am forever grateful for that investment because my abilities to manage construction projects played a significant role in my transition into overall city leadership.
As a leader, it is easy for us to forget the need to teach. All of us have accumulated a level of wisdom through our experiences that can prove beneficial to those coming behind us. Insecure leaders let this knowledge stay with them, shielding it from others. Great leaders transfer that knowledge to invest in and better others. Investment in others is the identifying mark of a leader. He invested in me and strengthened my foundation.
Care About What You Do
Not everyone loves seeing an inspector showing up on site. At times, he got a bad rap because his job required tough decisions that went against inferior design and subpar work. An inspector’s role is to make sure that the end user, not the builder, has a quality product long term. Many times, there was confusion on whether he was enforcing a code or making a suggestion to the builder that would benefit the family that would live in the house, the future visitor to the restaurant, or the occupant of the office building moving forward. He not only cared about what he did, he cared about those he was doing it for, people he may never meet.
It can be really easy to short cut a footing for a foundation. If the surface below it is not properly compacted or unsuitable materials lay below it, the foundation will fail. It is really easy to take a short cut knowing that it may take more than twenty years for the issue to be exposed. It’s even easier when you as the inspector or the builder will not be there to take responsibility for it.
If we are not careful, the grind of leadership can tarnish our level of care. Things can become so overwhelming and burdensome that shortcuts are tempting. Looking the other way on the smallest thing can impact the organization for years to come. All of us can make decisions in our organizations that benefit us in the here and now, but that mindset can kick a dangerous can down the road for someone else. When we care about what we do, it creates sustainability, organizations that will rest on solid foundations well beyond us.
Help Those Who Cannot Help Themselves
Abraham Lincoln once said, “No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.” The reason this quote is so profound is a child can do very little to help themselves. They require someone looking out for them and their best interest. This can be translated more universally to Loyd’s responsibility in enforcing the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA). It can be one of the most difficult and expensive code sections to contend with as an architect and builder.
As a construction manager, it can be easy to become frustrated with compliance. He changed my perspective on this early in my career. I am thankful he did. He encouraged me to think about that person that would be impacted if the code wasn’t followed. A shortcut taken by someone today leads to a hardship for someone else later on. Someone that needed someone else to look out for their best interest, that didn’t.
None of us know what tomorrow holds. We are a mere disease or accident away from anyone of us or our loved ones needing to benefit from the ADA. A wheelchair ramp too steep, a door handle configured the wrong way, a door threshold too high, or a hand rail at the wrong height can significantly limit accessibility for someone with a disability.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The time is right to always do what is right.” Looking out for the welfare of any and all human beings is a noble cause. That is a basis for a foundation that will carry leaders far. Serve as a solid one for others to stand on, especially those who cannot help themselves.
He and I had many conversations about family, faith, and friends over the years. Loyd is one of those people that you never doubted his character. Character is ultimately who you are when no one is looking. Whether anyone was looking or not, he was always the same person. Grounded in a foundation of his faith.
How rock solid is our character foundation? Just like a building, our character is only as good as the foundation it sits on. If we build it on top of garbage, it will fail. Eventually everything will decompose, the foundation will settle, and eventually crack. There is the theory that garbage in produces garbage out. What builds our character? Is it books, our faith, the nightly news, social media, etc.?
I always admire those people that can serve with little fanfare and ride into the sunset. They can do that because of the foundation they stand on. A foundation built on top of solid character, lined with humility, and reinforced with a sincere care for others and what they do.
I have served my community for more than twenty-two years. That is more than half of my life. The further I go in this journey, I attend more and more retirements of people I have served with. Loyd’s retirement ceremony reminded me that our entire career will be summed up with a hour long ceremony followed up with some refreshments. How do we want to be remembered by those we served with? The ones we were responsible for leading, guiding, and inspiring? What will they say in that hour?
You will begin writing the itinerary and script today, give others good content to work with.