Lessons From My Sewer Line

Lessons from my sewer line by Adam Turteltaub

turteltaub-adam-200x200-150x150By Adam Turteltaub

The New Year’s baby decided to remind me about the worst part of having an infant.  On New Years morning our sewer line backed up.

It’s an unpleasant discovery any day of the year, but for us it was particularly bad.  We always have friends over on New Years to watch football, catch up and eat my chili, which is far better than my blog posts.

When we made our unpleasant, early morning discovery, I called our regular sewer guy, and he was over in an hour.  He was also back again that evening when it clogged again.  It seems the root that caused the trouble in the first place decided to leave us an extra gift.  For the record, Mark only charged me for one visit.  As he joked, “I usually guarantee my work for at least 24 hours.”

This double visit gave me plenty of time to talk with him about how he was spending his New Years. I learned I was not his only customer that day.  He also had worked most of New Years Eve, well into the wee hours of the morning, clearing a sewer line at a club in Hollywood.  It was a lucrative 24 hours for him, but it wasn’t fun.

He wasn’t complaining, though.  As he told me, “This is the job I chose.”  He knew it was not a 9-5, Monday-Friday gig, and he knew that his job came with a moral obligation:  you can’t just let sewage pile up in people’s homes or in hip Hollywood clubs that neither I nor he would ever get into other than as a repair man.

If you ask Mark what do you do for people, he knows.  It’s not pretty.  It’s not a prestige job he has.  But he knows the value he provides.  And if customers don’t always say goodbye with a smile on their face, they do appreciate the fact that he solved a very big problem.

As I thought about my messy New Years, I wondered if there would be less ethics and compliance failures if it was easier for workers to see the problem they were solving for others and the obligations that they came with.  It’s easy to lose track of that during your day to day work.

Too often the focus is on hitting a number, without explaining what that number means to others.  It’s about making 10,000 widgets a day, and not making 10,000 widgets a day so that our customers can keep their businesses going.

Maybe by altering perspectives we can bring better context into the ethics and compliance effort, and help avoid sewage lines of wrongdoing from clogging up business.

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