Picking Up Their Garbage

January 31st, 2012 by Rich Christiansen

This past week I was invited to an early morning meeting. As I was making my way up the freeway, traffic came to an abrupt stop at a point where there shouldn’t have been any slowing at all.

Frustration set in as I spent the next 20 minutes crawling, stopping, creeping along, and barely moving. When we finally got to the point of the slowdown, I was a little surprised, but still slightly amused by the ordeal.

Right there in the middle of the road, I observed that a garbage truck had dumped its entire load and the fire department was squirting out a fire that had erupted inside the heap of trash .I know it’s not funny, but the scene did cause me to chuckle a bit.

I’ve seen the same thing multiple times in my career—even in companies that I have created. I have indeed caused fires by picking up other peoples garbage.

You see, if you create an organization and then run around rescuing, picking up everyone’s garbage, and picking up their problems–then in essence you quit being the leader and you begin being the garbage man. (This same thing can happen in your own family or in your personal life.)

This garbage service does no one any good. Indeed, it creates a co-dependency in the organization and it actually robs people of accountability. In the end, you have a very non-productive environment.

I have created businesses and made the mistake of attempting to be kind and supportive of people. Every time my misplaced generosity, actually ended up destroying productivity and fostering an environment where employees are too dependent on me. I make myself a rescue agent rather than a support agent. 

The fact is, everyone needs to take out his or her own garbage. Anytime you begin mixing really awkward chemicals, like that garbage truck, you end up having to call in the fire department to put out the flames. It causes a big yucky, nasty mess. Plus you end up having to clean it up again, after the fact, which ain’t fun. 

Require everyone in the organization to clean up and take care of his or her own garbage while simulations providing support. Overall–don’t become the garbage collector, remain the leader.

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