by John Long

As a novice writer, I do try to make sure the stuff I write is relevant and hopefully helpful to at least someone out there.  All of us are extremely busy and don’t have time to waste reading unentertaining, uninformative stuff.  But this posting – well, it just doesn’t have much in the way of educational value and may be a little inappropriate, but my staff found the story entertaining so I figured I’d share!

Earlier last week, one of our sales reps (Jason) and I went to a customer’s charity golf tournament held about an hour from our office.  We were early, so we went to Cabela’s, which is an outdoors superstore.  I like the place because of the huge aquariums that have monster bass, pike, catfish, panfish, crappies – basically, native fish to Minnesota.  At this point, I had to use the restroom.  Instead of trying to wait through the golf tournament for the safety confines of home, I decided I should bite the bullet.   After careful deliberation in choosing my destination, I was greeted with a protruding foot.  I’m talking the kind that there is no WAY my next door neighbor can even SEE the tip of his shoe.

Now – I don’t know what y’all would do in those types of situations.  It is one of the unwritten man-codes that there just isn’t any talking amongst neighbors in the bathroom.  Also – I’m not sure what I’d really say anyway?  “Excuse me, but your laces look a little loose.  Would you like me to tie those for you?”   So – I just kept quiet. 

I don’t know if y’all remember the incident we had here in the MSP airport with a certain politician, but that certainly popped into my brain.  So, while I was staring the invading foot down – waiting for the tapping – I couldn’t help but think – of all places, why an outdoors store?  What is the etiquette if the shoe does start tapping? 

1)      Ignore it, pretend you aren’t hearing the tapping?  This seems rude.  In my single days, if I tried my best lines and the lady didn’t respond at all – seemed a little rude, no?

2)      Quick stomp?  This is the equivalent of a slap.   But here is the thing – what if it the tap wasn’t on purpose and then I just stomped on the guys foot for no reason?  Then, he comes out of the stall, all 6’4”, UFC fighter wanting to kick my butt in its precarious position!  Well – in all fairness – I could be outfitted with a helmet and a baseball bat and still be in trouble. 

3)      Verbal response?  Would I go against the unwritten man-code that clearly states no talking from the restroom stall?  

Anyway – I kept my eyes on the shoe – still wondering logistically how the guy could get a foot that far over while still sitting.  There was no tapping and I got out of there in record speed. 

To make the business parallel, because I feel I should offer something worthwhile… 3 things you might be able to take from this story and apply to your business:

1)      Who surrounds you?  Fundamentally – we are all people and it is important to be yourself.  However, some of your actions might cause unintended reactions among people you are dealing with, your employees or your customers.  You should surround yourself with people that feel comfortable enough with you to just tell you that your foot is too far over, you have food in your teeth or a policy/mannerism you have makes them feel uncomfortable.

2)      No answer is sometimes best.  Have you noticed that the better you get at anything, the more people/society tries to bring you down?  I struggle with this a lot.  As we have grown quickly and are producing great technology solutions for staffing firms, we have been subjected to more outside, unproductive criticism and targeted attacks.  Same is true with any individual leader.  There is always a subset of people that won’t like you.  No matter what you say, what you do, it won’t matter.  So, the trick is to just move on.  Do your business and live your life.

3)      Focus on the big picture.  I love the little things of life – but, I can sometimes get lost in the details instead of focusing on the big picture.  For the example above, the big picture was I had a need and should just get it done.  By not focusing on the minor detail of a foot, I could have saved myself torment by knowing things weren’t perfect, but I was going to get my job done.  Same in business – there are so many details that we need to get done in a day, it is important to keep the big picture front and center.

And lastly, of course – if you are using a public bathroom and can’t see your foot – please retrieve it.

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