A Leadership Lesson from Toilet Paper

Toilet PaperWe’ve all been there.  Whether it’s because someone is a guest in your house or it’s your significant other, someone has replaced the toilet paper in your bathroom, and they put it on in the wrong direction.

Are you an over or an under?  I mean do you place the toilet paper going over the roll or under the roll?  Clearly if you’re an under, you are just plain wrong!  Over is the obvious best choice because you can spin the roll to find the end.  If you’re an under you have to really search for it.

So how do you learn to lead more effectively from a roll of toilet paper?  We all have unspoken expectations.  In this case, it’s how the toilet paper should go, but in life, it can be just about anything.  I have learned that most people don’t fail to meet your expectations because they can’t, not because they don’t want to, or not because they don’t care, but because they don’t know what your expectations are.

Meetings, projects, relationships all revolve around our expectations of each other.  When people fail to  meet yours, your first questions should be:  Did I clearly communicate what my expectations were?

I’ll give you an example.  My husband decided to clean our grill, and while he put it back together, he didn’t put the grease pan back in.  While I was grilling up hamburgers, my little dog (my white dog) sat under the grease pan and was just licking up all of the grease.  It was a sight to behold.  I yelled into the house, “I can’t believe you didn’t replace the grease pan!”  He yelled back, “I can’t believe you started to grill without checking first!”

What had just happened?  While this is a trivial example, the same kind of thing happens in every household, in every office, and in every relationship.  We get frustrated with people for not doing what we had expected them to do, when in reality, they can’t read our mind and may not have even known what our expectation really was.

Take time to think about your expectations, at work and at home, and then communicate them.  It could be as simple as clearly explaining that you expect someone to meet a deadline or not engage you in office gossip.  Bottom line, if you want people to meet your expectations, they have to know what those expectations are.

Oh, and if you’re an under, you should totally re-think your toilet paper strategy!

 

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