Toilet Stinks

It was a corporate office, there were many levels. The office was well lit, little dusty, but a hushed tone prevailed throughout the cubicles. The cubicles were so many, the hush often lost in the floor space. The sapiens are the only species, which has a designated area for attending to nature’s call. The nature call location has been often called as toilets, rest rooms, wash room, and often in the sub-continent a display of a letter finger denotes a place for attending to nature’s call. We will use the word toilet for this deliberation between us for the next few minutes.

The toilet was located in the Eastern corner, and this toilet was never a rest room. People held their breath, finished the nature’s call, rushed to rinse their hands and dashed out to get a breath of fresh air. So, the stench in the toilet erased the name ‘restroom’. There was no way anyone could rest with the foul smell.
There is so much to imbibe from the toilet, lets try to understand the leadership styles from the toilet.

Ashok went to the toilet and dashed out in a jiffy. He rushed to the intercom and howled at the office admin. Every time this happened the admin help came, cleaned the toilets sprayed freshener’s which would dry up in no time and the old song plays again, the stench wins. Ashok is a type of leader who does like what everybody does. A leader in him just howled in the phone, some quick-fix solution was done but the problem continued. These types of leaders cannot transform organisations. They are fire fighters. They can just manage a hand to mouth existence. Leaders who just solve the effect and not the cause, cannot transform organisations. Quick fix solutions have quick death. Low hanging fruits are not long-time wins. Yes, first aid is important, but what is vital is to get a cure. Only doing these small actions does not help in business situations. These are leaders who would just release an advertisement and tells this month the sales will improve. Yes, sales may improve, but it is for one month only.

The next to enter the toilet was Heena. She also moved out of the toilet with a disgust and went to grab the intercom. Yet she hesitated and stopped for moment and realised that she had done this the last time also. She sat for a moment and felt the best way to change the situation is to dirty the hands. A short speech could muster 8 people, and the admin were summoned to stand as audience. The 8 people stopped work, armed with the paraphernalia attacked the toilets. The audience swelled and the entire floor stood gazing the action. These are the type of leaders who take the problem by the horn. They do not depend on the world. Such leaders lead by example, they do not depend on anyone. Such leaders know everything in the organisation and hence can avoid dependence. If the CEO of a large retail chain, does not know the role of a store manager, he is always dependent. The CEO should have the knowledge and aptitude to just double up a sales guy by folding his sleeves. A leader needs to have strategy in his mind, but he should be able to fix a problem at the store level too. Then PowerPoint presentations cannot cloud real problems, the CEO can smell them out. A leader like Heena can lead by example, they can walk the talk.

We will observe now what Lekha does. She goes to the toilet and comes out calmly. There is no sense of disturbance in her. Lekha calls the HR team and wants to tackle the genesis. She felt the toilets get dirty, because someone makes it dirty. We are attacking the effect by cleaning it every time, we would need to bring in systems to educate people of toilet etiquette. A well thought out posters adorned the walls. Small mailers were sent to employees. The floors, which had the best restrooms, were patted on the back. The admin team was strengthened to clean the toilet. Lekha understood the ‘Janitor has the worst job, let’s not make it more worse for them’. People empathised with them. These are leaders who can attack the cause and not the effect. Homo sapiens became human and used the toilets with responsibility. Then Lekha introduced some nice flowerpots in the toilet, some good posters, brighter light, and toilets soon became rest rooms. Such leaders understand long-term vision. They empathise with the janitors, people can do their work tidier. Leaders will have to possess transformational capabilities.

Then came Mark. Mark would set a mark. Mark continued the work of Lekha, motivated like Heena, did quick fix solutions like Ashok. He did not discontinue any of the traits what others had established. Mark reviewed the toilets and worked on the technology. He realised the dry toilets are better than the wet one. He got in a technology for waterless toilets. He got in the dry sanitation. When people wanted to use water based toilets they went to a designated floor, and the rest of the complex got waterless, stench less technology. He got in so much more automation, that the janitors could do some better work. He worked on water conservation, and let in sun light into the toilets. That saved power. He created more room in the existing room. He realised the health of the organisation is the health of the people, the health of the people is what the eat. What a person excretes is what he eats. If good eating habits can be inculcated, it can be a healthy organisation. He saw the view in a 360 degree. His view included revolution because he changed the technology. His view included sustainability as he continued the good work done by his predecessors. His view included empathy when he felt for the janitors. His view included health. This was a wholesome view. This lasts and he caught up with times. Leaders should not just bring change, leaders should look at sustainability and change.

There is a leader in everyone, but what is important is if the leadership skills can catch up to times. It may be a toilet or a business strategy. It could be a small policy of conveyance in the organisation, or a pricing strategy. It could be a product discard or product launch, there needs to be a combo offer to inspiration, motivation, walk the talk, empathy, 360 Degree view. A leader would need to posses many ways to get the toilet cleaned. Just don’t get bogged down with the word toilet, remove that word and use it to any part of the organisation, the article conveys the same message. It is only a metaphor and not gravity of the article.

Lets be leaders.