Dillan DiGiovanni

Leadership means cleaning up.

Dillan DiGiovanniComment

Do you take out your own garbage? My neighbor doesn't.

Every week, he brings the bags down from his apartment and plops them on the street which means the landlord gets fined or, even better, puts them in MY garbage barrel. I get to haul his trash out each week and then roll the barrel back around the house.

Image source.

Image source.

A part of me wants to say something to him. Another part of me feels bad for him. I feel sad that his integrity and personal responsibility is so lacking that he can't manage to take out his own trash, regardless of how it impacts other people. He also had his power turned off three times in less than a year and had a boot put on his car wheel for unpaid parking tickets.

Man, do I remember when my life was like this. I had a hard time seeing my part and cleaning up the messes I made. It's still a muscle I'm building but life feels much better now. Dodging things only makes them pile up, you know? And that pile can stink after a while.

Cleaning up after ourselves is part of what it means to be an adult. But people can age chronologically and never actually mature. You might know a few people in your life like this. It might be you. It's definitely me from time to time. We can go through the motions of "playing house" but may still struggle with being responsible for cleaning up the messes we make in our lives, both the literal and metaphorical ones. 

This doesn't mean we have to be perfect. It means we have to show up for when we make mistakes or errors or maybe look more closely at the areas of our lives we've been avoiding. 

Last week, a client of mine messed up. She was late to our session and she was already over the limit for late appearances with her supervisor (I'm coaching a team of people). She was in a bit of a tailspin when we met and she was honest enough to tell me that her being late again might mean some dire consequences. I could have let it go, but would I have been really serving her in her position as a leader? Nope. Facing the music of our humanness only builds our character, even if there's a difficult or unsavory consequence.

Instead, I coached her to show up for herself and clean up her mess. She battled it a little but I reassured her of my support and helped her release any attachment to the outcome. She was checking in about being late because her supervisor requested that. I reminded her of this and she felt better.

And what happened? Her supervisor thanked her and let it go. There was no negative consequence. What mattered to the supervisor was this person's integrity and courage to be responsible for her actions. The supervisor needs honest people in leadership positions--not perfect people. Since that exchange, my client pulled out of the tailspin she'd been in for a few weeks and she's feeling GREAT. 

When we avoid being responsible and cleaning up, we perpetuate whatever caused the "mess", be it lateness or some other issue. When we stop and look at what isn't working, for ourselves or other people, we communicate what matters to us, namely our personal integrity. Being responsible requires courage and self-confidence. It means forgiving ourselves for being human and helps us mess up less in the future. 

You're human. I am too. We will mess us. What matters is how we clean it up.