This may surprise you, but bubble-wrap can be a very effective leadership tool. Stay with me …
When it comes to shipping, bubble-wrap is often used to protect fragile goods in transit. But in my role as a leader, I’ve found another creative way to use bubble-wrap to shield fragile things.
Many logistics professionals feel thrown from one crisis to the next. They come in every day and put out an endless series of fires that all seem urgent at the time. They then go home, toss and turn all night, and come in the next day ready to repeat the pattern. Humans aren’t meant to live like this, and the result is high levels of stress, day in and day out.
The job then for us as leaders is to diffuse our team’s stress. We need to either find or create space for them to show up motivated and ready to contribute. To help them show up as the best versions of themselves.
Popping bubble-wrap is an amazing short-term stress reliever. And, I have in fact passed out sheets of it to my team before, to help them relax during a crisis. It’s nice to lighten the mood sometimes, to stop the bleeding, and to let people enjoy breaking something. During peak season, I would even recommend taking your team out to a Rage Room and letting them go to town. Trashing old equipment on the way to the recycle bin is a wonderful bonding opportunity.
But it’s a band-aid, not a long-term strategy.
Long-term, it’s our duty as leaders to zoom out when our teams can’t. We need to find the root cause of the stress, and then do our best to control what we can control. We have to be the ones to step up, and put the tools and processes in place to bring down the cortisol levels. I’m not saying this is easy. Leaders are not immune from the effects of stress in the workplace. But with great power comes great responsibility. And with the power to change things comes the responsibility to do so in a positive way.
In a famous exchange, Don Draper from Mad Men said to one of his employees, “That’s what the money is for!” He wanted her to stop complaining, to be grateful for the paycheck, and to get back to work. And if that’s the type of leader you want to be, that’s fine. But you’re going to fail. In the end, you’re going to fail your team, your company, your customers … and yourself. As leaders, we have the responsibility to manage our team’s emotional load. And we must do so with the same interest and intensity we track all our other metrics. Otherwise, all our other KPI’s will become moot. Burnout will become the biggest risk to our supply chain.
Passing out bubble-wrap to your team and letting them pop away may not be the long-term solution. But it shows you care, and caring is the first step to solving any problem.