Dealing with Pre-programmed Work Scripts
Have you ever considered leadership through the filter of a self-flushing toilet? This isn’t a 6th grade playground conversation. Consider: self-flushing toilets have a little glass eye that watches as you sit. I experienced one of these at LAX airport. I approach the little beast, I extract one of the nifty paper seat covers from the dispenser, I lean over to put it on and the toilet eye must have seen me, because as soon as I placed the paper cover on the seat, the toilet flushed and the sewage god sucked it down its throat. “Okay. I’ll try again!” So I grab another one. It tears. I grab a third. IT TEARS. I successfully extract number four in one piece! I lean over to put it on the seat, and the blasted toilet eats another! “Good grief,” I think. I try again. Yep, you guessed it: number five tears. Number six does not. So, now I go special OPS! I’m literally standing on the side of the toilet completely stealth, hiding from A TOILET so it doesn’t know I’m there! I place down the seat cover and before it knows I’m there, I sit!
No doubt, you’ve probably experienced the same laughable set of events. I share all this, not to be childish, but to make a point. Our circumstances trigger automatic responses in others. My being in front of the toilet signaled a process. The toilet says, “I will wait until I think Buck is no longer here and when he’s gone, I’ll flush.” That pre-programmed script, which executed in error, caused me to repeat my task until I was able to accommodate it. We see the toilet as incapable of knowing our desires…it’s just doing its job…setting a trigger when it sees something and flushing when it doesn’t. I would be emotionally immature to get mad at the toilet. I'm not surprised when the toilet operates in error, because it is doing what its script demands: watch for someone, wait till gone, flush. Pre-programmed scripts are a part of every leader and every follower. Yet, when individuals follow their scripts, we often slam, deride and criticize them: we get angry, describe them shallowly and become critical of them. When people unwittingly follow their pre-programmed scripts, can we strive to give them the same grace we do a self-flushing toilet? Perhaps with some patience, we can adjust our approach and find a way to work together in unity.
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