It was a Saturday morning in 1975.
I heard my neighbor Derrick whistle--that was my cue. Time to get outside and play. Cartoons were winding down and both of us wanted to escape the house before our parents put us to work.
Our houses backed up to each other and were separated by an alley that the neighborhood kids used as their main thoroughfare. Cars rarely drove on it making the alley the perfect gathering spot. Just thinking about it now makes me smile. Can't tell you how many times we hung up the phone (you know, the one in the kitchen with the long cord?) and said, "Meet you at the alley."
This was the same alley my brother Kirk used as his straight away to build up speed before he jumped his Schwinn bike over . . . other neighborhood kids! He loved Evel Knievel.
Because I was the youngest, and because I was his brother, he always stuck me at the end of the row of bodies. We all just laid there, obediently, like roadkill.
I never looked at the cinder block and plywood ramps he used. It made me too nervous. I feel very confident that they would NOT have passed O.S.H.A. inspection.
I was daydreaming about those ramps when Derrick interrupted my thoughts.
"Whoa, is that a skateboard?" I asked.
"Yep," he smiled. "Wanna try it?"
Thirty seconds later both of my knees left several layers of epithelial cells on our alley. My Saturday fun came to an abrupt and untimely end.
As soon as I stood up, my thoughts immediately flashed to what would happen next. If you grew up in the 70's, you know the drill.
By the time I got to the backdoor, my mom had already put down her cup of Sanka on the counter and headed down the hall to the bathroom. She called me to join her over her shoulder.
When I arrived in our bathroom, mom laid out 2 Q-tips on the rim of the tub. I assumed my regular position across from her on the toilet.
She carefully debrided my scrapes and then brought out the merthiolate. She doused the tip of a Q-tip and rubbed on my wound. If you are over 45, you probably just winced...or broke out in a sweat.
The searing pain felt is best described as someone drying your oozing knee with an acetylene blow torch.
I rocked back and forth hoping some air would make it down to my knee and soothe the pain. My mom had the audacity to say, "Would you sit still?"
The thoughts going through my mind at that point were not holy. I'll share only a few here since my children read this blog.
(1) What kind of mother are you?
(2) There's some hydrochloric acid in the car battery if you would rather use that...
(3) I thought you loved me!??
(5) Just amputate it already!!!
The reason Merthiolate was so painful is that it was made of mercury and sodium--mercury and sodium! People get arrested now days for leaving dogs in hot cars. How did moms escape jail time back then?
But I digress...
Around this same time in the mid 1970's, a skateboarder by the name of Mike Rector patented a new invention called the Rector Pad.
Do you know why he invented it? I do.
Because he was sick and tired of Q-tips and Merthiolate.
So, Mike Rector decided to be proactive. Rather than wait for a scrape to happen, and then reacting, Mike prevented them from happening with protective padding.
Leaders, there is one way you can be proactive that pays huge dividends. Instead of reacting each day to fires that employees dump in your lap, get ahead of your people issues with a few proactive steps.
Here are five ways you can be proactive along with the benefit of each.
(1) Increase the frequency of your feedback. There is a direct correlation to increasing feedback and expectations at work.
(2) Provide positive feedback more than you provide negative feedback. Gives the perception that you care for them as a person which is a huge motivator.
(3) Listen more than you talk. People closest to the customer are a good source of information.
(4) Seek opinions to learn, not to simply confirm your ideas. Humility is attractive to employees. (Humility is different than being a push-over by the way.)
(5) Ask employees if they have what they need to do their jobs. Employees want to master their work and get frustrated when they don't have the materials or equipment to get the job done. Knock down their trees for them.
Most leaders dread people issues, and rightfully so. It doesn't have to be as painful as administering Merthiolate on an open wound though. Be proactive and give yourself some padding using the 5 steps instead. You'll be glad you did and you won't have to feel guilty about having hateful thoughts about your mother.