It was early in the morning and I was in super-efficient mode. I’d arrived at the supermarket just as it opened with my rather long shopping list (written in the order in which the aisles are laid out in the shop – told you I was feeling super-efficient). The shop was reasonably quiet and well-stocked and as I headed to the tills to pay, I was already daydreaming of the post-unpacking espresso and some sourdough toast I’d promised myself as a reward.
Then my heart sank – only one till had an assistant present and she had a queue of four people, all of whom appeared to be worried the Mayan end of the world predictions were going to mean a run on groceries in the last days. Someone said that the definition of courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway so with that thought in mind, I headed to the self-service tills.
‘I can do this,’ I told myself, ‘I’m an intelligent, capable woman. This mechanised shop assistant is no match for me.’ I began to scan. I filled the first bag, no problem. I turned to put it into the trolley and then heard the dreaded words ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’. I turned back – there was nothing in the bagging area. I looked quizzically at the shop assistant assigned to mop the fevered brows of self-service customers, she looked quizzically at me, pressed a few buttons and told me to continue. So I picked up the shopping bag again and turned once more to the trolley. ‘Unexpected item in the bagging area’, the machine calmly announced. I turned back to find the assistant already there, cancelling the error message so I could carry on. For a third time, I attempted to place my shopping bag into the trolley and for a third time, that disembodied voice chirped gleefully, ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’.
‘I’m so sorry, Madam, I can’t understand what the problem is’, apologised the assistant. ‘That makes two of us’, I sighed. ‘I know what the problem is,’ said the chap at the next till, ‘it’s your bag.’ ‘My shopping bag?’, I asked incredulously, unable to understand how my eco-warrior jute bags could possibly cause a computer malfunction. ‘No, your handbag’. My handbag was slung across my body from my left shoulder to my right hip. ‘I’ve noticed that every time you turn around,’ he said, ‘your handbag rests on the sensor.’ We tried it again, and sure enough he was right. I adjusted my bag, the assistant cleared the error and the rest of the process went swimmingly.
‘Your tale of early morning shopping antics is fascinating, Michelle, but what’s your point?’ My point is that sometimes we’re too close to things to see the problem. Standing next to that self-service till, neither I nor the assistant noticed what I was doing – our attention was elsewhere. It took another observer to get to the root of the issue.
Today’s pebble for you to consider: whose observations will help you deal with an issue you’re facing at the moment?
What do you think?
If you feel that coaching would help you to notice those ‘unexpected items’ in your professional or personal life, why not email me to see how we could work together?
Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.