Put the trash in the leader’s van

On the way back from a recent staff retreat, I was driver of van #2. The bosses were in van 1 with half our group, and I was following with the rest.

But on the way to the retreat, my van had the luggage and their van had the food. But on the way back, somehow the luggage got loaded in their van.

This was important. Because on the way back, luggage stays luggage. But food is gone. It becomes trash.

That was fine, because we were going to stop and unload it before we made the three-hour drive back home. Except that once we got on the road, van 1 decided the priority was getting home, not unloading the trash whose fumes were quickly filling our cabin.

It was no fault of their own, but because they couldn’t smell the problem, it didn’t exist.

It’s the same in life. If you want change, the person who can make the decision needs to feel the pain.

It can be through communication, but most of the time, they need to be close enough to feel it. This can be tricky for those of us in middle-level roles. We get paid to make things happen – to fix problems. This isn’t an excuse to bring every issue to your supervisor. Or to be that complainey do-nothing. Really. Fix things and make things happen.

But once you’re that kind of worker, when it’s important, it’s reoccurring, and there’s a solution, you need to let a problem sit and be felt a little longer than you may be comfortable – long enough to have a new conversation about it. Let the feeling get to the leader so you can look at the systemic fix instead of throwing on another bandage.

The trash thing worked out. We cracked some windows and made it back home without many problems. But you can bet the next time we’re loading vans, I’m going to be the first one out there to help put that luggage in the right van…

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