“The Toothpaste” #Blog365 Day 172

It’s amazing how a single object or single idea can be so polarizing. It’s even more amazing when that object or idea seems so “normal” that it is tough for a leader to understand why it has turned into such a big deal for some.

Case in point: This morning, both of our daughters were fighting over who got to use the toothpaste first.

Yes. The toothpaste.

Apparently, my youngest daughter decided that she no longer liked the toothpaste she had been using (they had told us in the past they liked different flavors, so we had purchased two different toothpastes), and instead, wanted to use our older daughter’s toothpaste. Our older daughter (who had just woken up) unleashed the kraken on her sister, getting so angry and frustrated about the potential toothpaste misuse that my wife and I had to put an end to the situation.

Yes. The toothpaste.

This toothpaste malfunction made me think about the issues involved when leaders don’t truly understand the implications behind what seems like a common-place scenario. Neither my wife nor I was capable at the time of understanding why the toothpaste was such a firebrand; I now understand that my oldest daughter just waking up, paired with her feeling of “mine” related to the toothpaste, likely got her activated (and of course, my youngest was simply stoking the flames).

The lesson? As leaders, we need to always assume that anger and frustration stem from a valid source, and while we might not currently understand it, with time, and reflection, we likely will. What that means is we can’t allow ourselves to make rush decisions over what seem like “small potatoes.” Instead, we need to be comfortable taking a step back and revisiting after we’ve had the time to better understand what first set people off.