You may remember viewing some of the classic TV sitcoms from the 60s and 70s and watching a potential maid being interviewed claiming “I don't do windows.”
Although I haven’t heard that phrase on TV in a while, it’s one of the classics we’ve probably all uttered at one time or another. So where did that phrase come from? I think we all would agree that washing the windows of a house is a huge project in and of itself and as such, should not be expected as a simple incidental of housekeeping. Yes, windows get dirty and need cleaning, but they are not easy to clean, which is why they are not typically listed among standard housekeeping tasks.
You’re probably asking how this relates to business. Consider that maybe the same can be said for self-accountability and problem solving in the workplace. Think back to the most recent time when you were dissatisfied with an employee. What impact did your “window” have upon your ability to solve the problem and maintain the relationship?
Several years ago, during a particularly difficult period in my management/leadership career, I sought guidance from my boss at the time, who I respected tremendously for his leadership skills and business knowledge. While lamenting about all of my “people problems” and my dissatisfaction with many of the employees under my responsibility, he appropriately stopped me and began to relay the story of “The Old Man and the Old Woman.”
To paraphrase the story, each morning the old woman would rant and rave about how dirty the neighbor's house, laundry, and kids were. She would ask in no uncertain terms, “Why can’t they keep their house, laundry and kids as clean as I have always kept mine?” Each morning the old man would sit and listen, but never utter a single reply.
As the story goes, one morning was very different. As the old man came downstairs to breakfast, the old woman was extremely happy and joyous. “Finally,” she exclaimed, “the next door neighbors have cleaned their house, laundry and children like I used to!” The old man looked up and responded gently, “Old woman, last night after you went to bed I cleaned our windows.”
At that very moment I understood exactly what my boss was telling me. I needed to take ownership for solving the problems that I was encountering in dealing with my employees. I needed to understand where my own accountability lay and find new ways of looking at things and new solutions to the problems instead of “blaming” others. I realized it was not going to be easy, but burying my head in the sand or hoping things would get better on their own was not going to solve the problem. My perspective needed to change before I could expect my employees to change.
So I leave you all with the question: Is it time to clean your windows?
Scott Tackett joined VMA with a 32-year background in manufacturing, human resource management and organizational leadership. He is currently a business development advisor for Violand Management Associates (VMA) where he works closely with business owners and their key management staff as both a business consultant and an executive coach. To learn more about VMA’s services and programs visit Violand.com or call (330) 966-0700.