IdeaCache

Managers: Think Solution

Site managers will prove more valuable to their employers if they are problem solvers instead of problem reporters. We expect that when a manager calls to tell us of a problem, that manager will also volunteer at least one possible solution. Here's a case in point of two different types of managers and how they handled the same slightly bizarre situation:

The storage facility is located adjacent to a public coliseum. A 1500 foot fence separates the coliseum parking lot from a long aisle of buildings and doors. This coliseum (which has since been torn down) hosted among others things: ice hockey games, "professional" wrestling tournaments, trade shows and an occasional rock concert. The teenagers' attending these concerts would arrive early, have a tail gate party, drink massive quantities of beer, and make a sport of heaving the empty bottles over the fence. The object of the game was to aim for the slender columns between the doors at the storage facility, thereby breaking the bottle. The coliseum ownership promptly sent a clean up crew the morning after each concert. These kids were really just having fun and letting off steam, vandalism wasn't a problem. However, after they had consumed such large quantities of beer, they felt the need, naturally, to relieve themselves, which they did all along the fence row, through the fence onto our lawn and aisle. They thought they were doing this in complete privacy, having no idea that there were resident managers on the premises.

The first couple serving as resident managers at this project were not solution oriented. After the first rock concert, the wife called me in an extremely agitated state. She was "scandalized" by this "dreadful" behavior, and her husband was self righteous about the ordeal his wife had been through. (This might sound like the response of a retired couple, but actually they were both 22). Their complaints continued throughout the entire summer. We suggested a number of solutions, but this couple insisted on maintaining what we call a "welfare mentality" which is summed up in the statement: "I've got a problem; what are you going to do about it."

We tried to solve the problem by installing portable toilets, but to no avail. We considered installing water sprinklers that would make it uncomfortable to relieve oneself in that location, but the sprinklers were both unnecessary and cost prohibitive; and we didn't want to anger teenagers who were already drunk. We hired an off-duty policeman to patrol the fence (the Coliseum even footed the bill), but it was too large of an area to patrol effectively. We also considered placing trash receptacles in our aisles and fitting them with backboards painted with a bull's eye. If we couldn't stop part of the problem we thought perhaps we could improve their aim. And I finally suggested to the wife that it wasn't necessary for her to keep watch over this array of male genitalia. But she continued gazing in shocked fascination at what must have been a forum for comparison.

This couple quit a few months later when they got a divorce. We hired a new couple, both of whom were in their 60's. During their interview, I mentioned the rock concerts to this couple and the wife said, "Rock concerts are no problem. My son was in a band that played backup for a lot of big bands, and I'm used to rock concerts."

About two months after I hired this couple, the next rock concert occurred. I knew it was coming because I had gotten a schedule from the coliseum manager. All evening I expected a phone call from this new manager, but none came. By ten o'clock the next morning my curiosity was killing me so I called her and asked, "Paula, how you doing? How are things?"

"Just fine."

"Did you have a rock concert last night?"

"Yes, it was The Dead. Deadheads everywhere."

"Really?!"

"Years ago I made breakfast for those boys when my son's band played backup for one of their tours. Nice boys."

"Did you have any broken glass?"

"Oh yeah, but the Coliseum cleaned that up. That was no problem."

I paused, but I couldn't resist asking the question.

"Did you by any chance have any of those youngsters lined up along the fence urinating on the lawn?"

She said, "Oh yes but I put a stop to that right away."

"How did you do that, Paula?"

She said, "Oh I just picked up my camera and my flash and walked outside. They didn't see me coming. I said, 'Hold it! Oh, I see you already are!'" She didn't have any film in her camera, but she went up and down that aisle firing her flash at those unsuspecting victims.

Paula and her husband were excellent managers for several years before their retirement. They have been happily married for over 50 years. Whenever they ran into difficulties, they always found a solution.

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Capacity Development Corporation
751 Marion Avenue, Highland Park, Illinois 60035
Phone: 847/433-7510  Email: info@ideacache.com

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