One day I was fully absorbed in the problems of my company, and I decided I needed a walk. I walked and walked as I sorted out the issues, and there were many. I walked until I realized that I’d grown hungry, so I stopped at a supermarket to see if I could get a sandwich. At the pizza counter, I ordered, and then I noticed a man sitting alone at one of the tables. He wore dirty sweatpants and a dirtier sweatshirt. His face was covered with stubble, and his graying hair looked as though it hadn’t been washed in quite a while.
I paid for my piece of pizza and took a table on the far side of the lunchroom area. Even from there I could detect a faint smell of gasoline coming from the man. Had he just come from a nearby dumpster, I asked myself. But as I ate, preoccupied in my thoughts, I couldn’t help but hear a loud voice in my head: Go and talk to that man. He is important.
Initially I dismissed it, but I have come to learn that when I hear a persistent inner voice calling to get my attention, I should listen. I picked up my pizza, got up, walked over to the man and asked if I could join him. “Sure, have a seat,” he said, a bit alarmed that a man in a suit would want to join him when there were six empty tables nearby. (Much later, he told me that he thought I was from the IRS and coming to get him!)
“I’m not sure why I need to meet you,” I began, “but I think it’s important I introduce myself to you.” For the next thirty minutes I sat spellbound as Ronnie told me that he specialized in recycling waste and trash. He knew the price of waste plastic, glass, cardboard, and metals. When I told him I was president of the local Goodwill and had tons of this material I was paying top dollar to dispose in the local land fill, his face crinkled up and he sort of scowled. “You need a guy like me to help you. Everything has value,” he said. “Everything…and I can save you a lot of money.”
Ronnie has become my equivalent of an environmental engineer and has worked for me since. He started recycling programs and has found outlets for trash and waste I never knew existed. When I offered him a salary, he wrinkled up his face, and said, “I’ll just take a cut of all this lovely waste you’ve been burying.” Ronnie still dresses in dirty old sweatpants and sweaters three layers thick. One of my staff gave him the affectionate name of Oil Can Ronnie. He always looks like he wades through thousands of pounds of my recycling material to check it all out personally, but he doesn’t care, and neither do I. Ronnie is saving me thousands of dollars and making money for me and for him by his simple expression, “Everything has value.”
The power of “gut” and intuition for leaders can’t be stressed enough as a tool of leadership. Learn to trust your intuitive voice within, for you never know what person, place, or thing you will meet next that can open doors and change your life or business.
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