Aug 11 2022

What Men’s Rooms Can Teach Us About Leadership and Management

I hope this post doesn’t gross anyone out or offend anyone. I admit it’s a little weird, and that it’s more accessible to men. Hopefully everyone can get my point, even if men get it a bit more. I’m channeling Brad as I write this. So bear with me.

Here is a picture of a men’s room with floor mats under the urinals.

The difference between using a men’s room that has floor mats and using a men’s room that does not have floor mats is profound in multiple ways. I’ll leave out the specifics, but you can imagine the comparative experiences if you haven’t had one or both.

A really good floor mat, from a quick scan of Amazon and Uline just now, costs $11 if you buy in bulk and is built to last 4-6 weeks. That gives us an annual per urinal expense of about $100 – trivial in the scheme of maintaining an office, restaurant, or place of business.

But here’s the thing. These floor mats are few and far between. I don’t have scientific research on the matter, but I’d guess that between 1 in 5 and 1 in 10 places of business have them. Maybe even fewer.

So, urinal floor mats are (a) cheap, (b) easy to acquire, and (c) make a profound difference in the environment. And yet, they are only have 10-20% market penetration at most.

That market penetration is not far off from the prevalence of very good leadership and management in business. I hear stories all the time from executives about absolutely terrible leadership practices. I also hear plenty of stories that aren’t awful, but are evidence of non-leadership or non-management. The experience of working for a good manager, or in an organization with strong leadership, is profoundly different than working with the absence of those things.

To complete the analogy, good management and leadership are also (a) cheap, (b) easy to acquire, and (c) make a profound difference in the work environment. Sure, you can’t buy good leadership online, but it’s not all that difficult to be a caring, supportive, transparent manager. Heck, there’s even a book called The One Minute Manager.

So why the low market penetration of both? It makes no logical sense. It’s not as if most people haven’t had the experience of using a urinal with a floor mat…or of having a really good leader or manager. It’s not as if leaders and decision makers don’t appreciate those things themselves.

The answer boils down to three simple points that anyone who is a manager or leader can do, any day:

  • You have to pay attention
  • You have to care
  • You have to act

Great leaders and managers exhibit all three of these traits. They pay attention to things around them, noting that Everything is Data. They care about people, about experiences, about impressions, about reputations. And when they notice that something is off – however small it is – they care enough to remember and then take the time to act. To make a small change. Send an email. Have a quick conversation. Make a suggestion. Give someone quick praise or constructive feedback.

And to come back to where this post started – it’s also not that hard to have a nice men’s room at your office or business or restaurant. You just have to pay attention to the fact that it’s a much better experience to buy floor mats. You have to care about the experience in the men’s room (for yourself, for employees, for customers, for vendors, for visitors). And then you have to act and either buy the stupid mats or ask an office manager to do the same!