The Toilet Seat, Crossed Wires and A Secret To Leadership
Something happened in my toilet once that shocked me deeply, and taught me a valuable lesson about life, relationships, and leadership. How could I have been so blind? Beware though- this is an ‘adults only’ Possums episode, with unsavory photographs. Read on at your own risk. My promise- the reward is profound.
“Put the toilet seat down!!!!” she screamed at me for the 20th time that week, and third time that day. I was livid. “You must be in La La land you crazy person- I HAVE and DO put it down and you have quite simply gone mad.” “ME? ME??? You’re the lazy, inconsiderate, uncouth animal who does not have even the most basic manners or respect to do the right thing. It’s disgraceful, I have had ENOUGHHHHHHH!!!!”
And so had I. “Ok- look here and watch this,” I snarled, standing over the seat. “Let me demonstrate, once and for all.” I did, and then suddenly realized the massive mistake I had been making. It’s a lesson in life and leadership worth knowing- and here it is.
“Toilet seat is up. Agree?” I asked. She agreed.
“And now,” I exclaimed in triumph, “Toilet seat is down!!! Agree?” (see below).
“NO!!!!!,” she replied. “THIS is toilet seat down.” (see below).
The Message For Life And For Leadership
I was totally stunned. All those years I thought I had been doing the right thing, and all that time I was way off the mark. But I never knew. I never realized. Such a simple misunderstanding. So much angst and lonely nights on the couch.
Remember- always- seek to understand before trying to be understood.
That’s the key. Whether in life or in business, as a leader or as a subordinate, really try to understand the other person’s point of view and perspective as thoroughly as you can before judging, or trying to drive through a solution.
When you have dispute, conflict, or a relationship that is misfiring, stop a moment and reflect: ”If I was that person, how would I be feeling about this? Why would I feel that way? What would my perspective be? And what are my needs?” If you have the courage, ask them. Probe. Work hard to get that clarity. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
You’re then in a much better position to couch your approach in a way that minimizes conflict, can meet the other person’s needs and ultimately give you what you need. Sometimes you then need to ‘Bait the hook to suit the fish’, but at least you know what the fish likes to eat.
The misunderstanding over the toilet seat lasted 15 years. Finally, I probed and saw things from her point of view. If only I had paused a moment to clarify exactly what success looked like.
I want to clarify one very important point. My Possums posts are filled with ideas and would-be wisdom about life and leadership. But I do not pretend for a moment that I actually behave that way all the time. Point is- we are not all perfect and even when we know the right way, often do the opposite. Critique your days. Give yourself robust feedback. Take the feedback that comes your way. Keep working on yourself so you have more good days than bad. That’s the key I guess.