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Watch Your Towel!

Charlotte Butler

I was born in PE – the Windy City or, as I remember it, the Friendly City.

We never had much money but never wanted for anything. As in most coastal cities, you always had the beach and the sea for wonderful family outings.

After moving to Johannesburg at the age of 12 our early morning Sunday trips to the sea became a distant memory. That is until I walked into a room of people who had been scheduled to attend training on a Saturday. They were miffed about having to interrupt their weekend to attend a course on Customer Service.

I immediately felt the tension as I walked into the room – I was public enemy number one!

As an actress, facilitator, Business Role Player I knew there was no way I could show any signs of fear or doubt, only unshakeable confidence. Truth be told I did wonder what life changing knowledge I could impart to a bunch of seemingly mature, fully functioning, working adults. It was all basic stuff, nothing earth shattering, no Oprah aah haa moments here. They were surely not going to learn anything new today. I quickly eyed out my quickest escape route in case of a riot.

Learnings from Childhood

It was then that I was reminded of what had happened to me at the Beach. When we arrived at the beach I would dump my towel, run out of my slip slops and tumble into the warm, inviting Indian Ocean. After a while of splashing about I would walk out of the sea to go and fetch my towel and devour one of my Moms delicious sandwiches, only to discover that they had left me! That was until my Mom called to me from a little way off. After wiping my tears, my parents encouraged me to first check where I had dropped my towel before just dashing off to swim. So the next time I entered the sea, I obediently walked in a straight line from my towel before swimming off. But again, when I walked out of the sea, in a straight line, my family was gone! Just then my Dad would appear and gently guide me back to our spot. 

And this is what I learnt. Sure, you must know were your towel is but you have to keep your eye on your towel the whole time you are in the sea and keep adjusting your position to line up with your towel again. The tide, waves and dumps will always shift you away from your point of departure, no matter how committed and determined you are to remain close to your towel, your family, your ideals, your principles.

We constantly need to readjust

So this was the story I told the reluctant delegates – what I have to say is nothing new but how many of you can honestly say you haven’t moved away from your towel. We get tossed about by life and often just can’t find our way back to basic good manners, listening, empathy, understanding and all the solid things we were taught when we were growing up. 

Not one of us is above a check in from time to time. So whatever your towel represents for you, and no matter how you get tossed around by the tide, keep checking in that you are still aligned to your goal. And it is always better coming from a facilitator on a Saturday than from HR at a disciplinary hearing because of a customer complaint. As leaders, managers, directors we all need to shift back to the basics of communication skills whether its with the customer, our staff or our long suffering families.

Watch your towel!