What A Sink Taught Me About Leadership

I used to work in marketing and events for a company that owned multiple co-working & event spaces. I was on the corporate side of things so I didn't get to see much of what happened operationally. 

However - one day things were a bit chaotic. Without getting into all the details, there were a ton of meetings for a ton of people and the space was completely packed. 

Around lunch time (the busiest part of the day), the General Manager of that particular location and I happened to run into one another at the sinks in the restroom. I was washing my hands while he popped in from outside just to check out the restrooms and make sure everything was neat and clean (because he was great at what he does and not above cleaning the restrooms). He immediately went to wiping down the counter around the sink. 

This struck me because this was a sink...a very normal sink. And it was just a little water that had slightly puddled up on the counter around the sink.

That's pretty normal, right?

Water sometimes get built up around the faucets and under the soap or paper towel dispenser of most sinks. So why on earth was this manager, who had plenty of things to do for a bunch of people who were hoping to impress clients and close deals and improve business, take a few minutes out of one of the busiest parts of his day to wipe down a counter that had a little bit of water on it? This seemed pretty insignificant to me.

So I asked him. And his answer stayed with me...Here's a summary of what he had to say:

"The pesky faucets for our sink make water stand on the counter. So when our customers, who are here to conduct their business professionally and efficiently, go to wash their hands at the sink, the water can get on their pants or drips onto their shoes. That creates a moment of tension or distraction for them because what if they're about to walk into an important meeting or trying to impress a client? I want to pay attention to something that is actually a negative thing and turn it into a positive thing. I want the process of wiping down a wet countertop around a sink serve as a reminder to always pay attention to the small stuff."

That's leadership, ladies and gentlemen. 

This manager, a busy man with meetings and responsibilities and tasks on a to-do list, has turned a negative thing, pesky even, into a necessary reminder to continuously pay attention to the little opportunities to serve people well. 

Aside from the fact that swapping the faucets for ones that are more efficient might save him a little extra time every day, this principle is one each of us could put into practice; not just in our work, but in how we carry ourselves in and around other people. 

How do we allow the negative or difficult or pesky things around us serve as reminders of the principles or values we believe in?

In other words - what details should we keep an eye out for that just may serve as opportunities to put other people first? 

Let's make sure to pay attention to the sinks in our work, our relationships, our families, and our lives. Let's keep an eye out for the little details and opportunities to serve people well. 

What is the 'sink' in your life right now that could serve as a reminder to do something for someone else? Share your thoughts! I'd love to learn from you.