Have You Checked the Bathrooms?

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I have a confession today. I am OBSESSED with the cleanliness of bathrooms. Everywhere.

It probably started when I was a little girl, and my mother told me always to wear a clean pair of underpants. Truthfully that advice was about getting into an accident, and apparently, the state of one’s underpants told a lot of you.

And then came the day 

When I was about 40. I worked with a guy who’s Dad ran a very successful restaurant business until he died. And apparently, one of Dad’s many nuggets of wisdom was, ‘you can tell a lot about a restaurant based on how well the bathrooms are kept.’ I was enthralled with that bit of advice because, well, in my house, bathrooms are always neat, clean and tidy. After all, well, you never know who will show up.

One day, I reviewed the maintenance expenses for the plant I ran. And I noticed that the costs for the outside plumber were increasing. So I asked the maintenance manager why. Because our pipes keep getting backed up. Why? I don’t know; it happens all the time now. Why? I guess people are just slobs here. Why? Well, there are a ton of immigrants now, and their standards of cleanliness are different than ours. Why? Because they are ignorant and don’t have manners.

I was stunned by our conversation.

And I did not believe the so-called reasons I heard. So, I went out to the bathrooms myself. After hours, of course, when no one was around. And what I saw and found horrified me. No one would want to be caught dead in those dirty, smelly, wretched rooms.

After a bit more digging, I learned that the bathrooms were cleaned just twice a week. Now the men’s bathroom was for 80 to 90 guys, and the ladies’ was for 40-50 gals. Both rooms had shower stalls – but the water pipes were hanging off the wall and could not do what they were intended, so the stalls were jammed with personal effects and stuff.

In an effort to make a profit, the cleaners had been given instructions to wipe down the bathrooms on Saturday nights and Tuesday nights. For 130 people. A twice-a-week wipe down! The money saved in not cleaning the bathrooms daily was being flushed in the weekly three-hour plumber visits.

So, I set out to save some money.

First, I called for a deep cleaning of the bathrooms. Then all the pipes were fixed, followed by a fresh, bright paint job. Then all the lighting was restored. New shower curtains. Fixing the shelving. Adding lockers which had doors that kept things hidden and safe. And I demanded the bathrooms be cleaned daily, sanitized, and deodorized. Oh, and I forbade the existence of pornography in the bathroom. Plus I stopped the ridiculous habit of charging women for their tampons.

Here is what happened. In the short term, the costs went up in the first 30 days. However, within six months, the overall bathroom maintenance cost was down 10%. BUT, I want to tell you about something I never expected.

Around month two, the employees stood taller and began smiling a whole lot more. Then, around month three, those same employees started taking one another to task for leaving the bathrooms in bad shape for the next person.

Around month four, those same employees started finding other areas in the plant that needed desperate attention. Now, here’s the thing. What they thought needed fixing was NEVER expensive. It was always minor stuff that just needed to find its way to the list of things to get right.

By month six, the employees felt, knew and had proof they were respected, appreciated, and their suggestions implemented. I wish you could have been there to feel the extra energy boost they all gave their job responsibilities. Six months to create a different environment is a nanosecond in any company’s existence.

The other day, 

I was on the website of a company called Citron Hygiene. It is an environmentally sustainable cleaning company, and I was delighted to read two of its blog posts. One post was about how Hepatitis is spread so quickly in dirty washrooms. And we all know Hepatitis is not anything any one of us wants. The other post was about an initiative across North America called “free the tampon.” We don’t charge for Kleenexes; it is beyond me why companies even consider charging for tampons. So beware. There is a movement afoot. If you have stayed with me through what appears to be a silly rant about bathrooms,

Let me share the real point here

Leadership Excellence is rarely about the big things. Instead, leadership Excellence is almost always about the little things. The things that can irritate, annoy and demoralize us.

When you show your people you care about the little things, they reward you with a big effort. That effort will always blow your mind and push your dreams closer to reality.

So, you want to make an impact? Keep most of your attention on the little things. I promise you. It will always work in your favour.

You know, just like I do, anything is possible. There are just two things you need: Focus and Commitment. I believe in you. I KNOW you can make the impact you want.


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