That's Your Job

One of my past careers had me in the role of a salesperson for a waste/recycling company. It was my second career job, about 4 years out of college.  As a salesperson, my responsibility was to call on commercial businesses and gain the contract for their municipal waste and recycling removal contracts.  It was a messy business. Figuratively and literally. I did it for 2 years.

Near the end of my tenure there, I had a defining moment with our Operations Manager – I’ll call him Dave since that’s his name.  Dave was not my direct boss, but certainly, he held a much higher position of authority.  We got along fine, yet our views were often different. As a field guy, my customers complained to me a lot about inconsistent pickup, recycling container, driver issues, etc.  This didn’t always sit well with Dave.  I think he was fair, but also very loyal to his crew. 

At one particular occasion, I was complaining to him about something related to having to go the customer site and verify why we had rejected the recycling container – as contaminated.  This was not the first time I would be digging in a recycling bin to render it worthy of pick up.  I had had enough and let him know about it by whining and complaining to him.  I didn’t grasp it at the time, but his response was epic in my leadership journey.  He said to me, “Mike, that’s your job!”

Maybe it was, maybe not. But, ultimately, it was my responsibility to keep the customer happy, and I could complain that the driver who rejected the bin was unfair, too picky, whatever. Didn’t matter, and the driver, nor anyone in operations, was going to go out and clear the bin. It was my customer, and it was my responsibility, right or wrong. Fair or not. Someone had to be responsible, so it might as well be me.

I don’t know if he was imparting this great life lesson of responsibility to me or just being an #$%.  I did go clear the bin and, though I brooded over his words for a long time, I eventually gained the real message:  Take ownership.