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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