Last Saturday, we had a big workday at Southview, the church where I serve.  We invited members to come out and help us clean up the grounds, limb trees, and make the grounds look as good as possible for the Easter season.  We had a pretty good turnout, and we all left tired but pleased with the aesthetic improvement.

IMG_2841In preparation for the workday, our church administrator Lynn called around and arranged for a roll off dumpster to be delivered on Friday so we could fill it on Saturday.  The arrangement was that they would then pick it up on Saturday afternoon, thus not having it taking up a lot of parking spots and being an eyesore right at our entrance.

You know where I’m going already, don’t you?

So at 10:30 on Saturday morning, the driver arrives to pick it up.  He happens to encounter me (lucky guy), and says he can’t get to the dumpster because of the cars and people loading the dumpster.  Surprise.  I explained that our rep has assured us that it would be picked up on Saturday afternoon (that is, after noon).  I told him that we would be done by 12 or 12:30 (we finished at 12:05 in fact).  He radioed dispatch, and came back and said that he couldn’t come back at 12 – that the drivers didn’t work all day and that it would have to wait until Monday.  At this point, I got focused and determined (also known as “banjo eyed”).  I explained why that was unacceptable – that our contract, in writing, clearly stated that it would be picked up on Saturday afternoon, and they were breaching the contract by not doing so.  Integrity matters. His response: “I’m just the driver.”

Here’s a simple, simple lesson for those who deal with people.  If you EVER use the phrase “I’m just the ______,” you have now lost all credibility – for you and for the business or organization you represent.

When you are dealing with customers, guests, or members, YOU are the representative of the organization.  You’re never “just” anything – you are representing that organization, it’s values, and what it stands for.  By using a phrase like that, you’re trying to dodge responsibility, and in so doing, you’re also dodging credibility, integrity, and leadership.

No leader should ever use that phrase.  And no staff member or volunteer should ever use that phrase.  It’s demeaning to the one who says it and to the person they’re saying it to.  It reflects your perception that you are less than what you are – a valued part of the team.

Instead of that, how about trying to own what’s wrong and helping the customer, guest, or member find a solution?  How about helping them instead of frustrating them?  It takes time – it takes effort – but at the end, you’re MUCH more likely to delight the person you’re dealing with instead of discouraging them from ever doing business with you again.

Leaders, if we ever hear someone on our team or in our organization use that phrase, we need to jump on it and use that as a teachable moment.  It’s never ok to use.

Have you ever encountered that phrase being used to deflect responsibility?  Have you ever used it?  What can we lead people to express instead?


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