My coauthor, Michael Cooley and I were on our way to a speaking engagement about a five-hour drive from home, where we would be making videos for group study of the Principles of Creative Followership.

Along the way, we decided to stop and eat at one of our favorite hamburger restaurants.  I remember how much I liked the burgers, fries and milkshakes the first time I tasted them on a trip to Florida in the 1950’s.  Sixty years later the food still tastes the same.  I like it!

My last experience left me asking the question: “Who is going to fix it?”

After eating, when I went to the men’s restroom, I was disappointed to see that the commode would not flush.  The handle was obviously disconnected inside the water tank.

I intended to tell the manager but gave up that plan because I was in a hurry, the restaurant was very busy, and I could not spot anyone who seemed to be the person in charge.  I knew that every one of the male employees would go in that restroom and that someone would check to see the status of the supplies, and at some time, the restrooms would be cleaned for the day at least once.

Someone will see that it is fixed.

The next day on our way home, we stopped again at the same restaurant.  Did I mention that I like the food?

The restaurant was even busier than it had been the day before.

Before leaving, I went into the men’s restroom.

I could not believe what I found!  That commode flusher had not been fixed!

How many people knew it needed fixing?  At least every male employee of that restaurant on duty the last 24 hours must have known it needed fixing.  Why didn’t they do something about it?  The managers that had been there during the last 24 hours should have known.  Did no one tell the female managers?  How about the male managers?  Someone should have made sure that the manager on duty knew!

Who is going to fix it?  I fixed it!

Since the flush handle was obviously disconnected from the flapper, the connection must be broken.  I lifted the porcelain lid from the water tank at the back of the commode and immediately saw that the flapper connecting chain was not hooked to the handle lever.  I hooked the chain back in place, flushed the commode and replaced the lid.  It took me less than one minute!

Then, I went to find the manager.  After asking three different employees to get the manager and waiting several minutes, the manager on duty finally arrived.  I gave a brief summary of why I knew that the problem had existed for more than 24 hours, and I had finally fixed the simple problem myself (something that any 12 year old could have done).

The reply I received was, “I didn’t know about it.”  I said, “You should have known; the situation has existed for over 24 hours!”

Do you know why the manager didn’t know?  I know why.

No one took any initiative to solve the simple problem for over 24 hours!  No one took responsibility!  There are no Mustangs working there!

Far too many workplaces discourage initiative.  Following rules is emphasized.

The people I call Mustangs won’t work there.  Mustangs get reprimanded for taking initiative and doing things without prior approval or that are in variance to the standard rules.  Only the Mules, employees that need continuous prodding, pushing and kicking will stay.

Would you want to work there?  I wouldn’t work there!

Mustangs can be difficult to handle; they take responsibility and make things happen; they often ignore the rules; sometimes they must be restrained, but they get things done.

A Mustang does not ask, “Who is going to fix it?”  A Mustang assigns someone to do it, calls a service person, tells the boss what needs to be done or does it himself and reports later that it has been done.

With whom would you rather work?

I love to work with Mustangs!

It Is Better to Restrain Mustangs than Kick Mules

Just in case you are a boss thinking of training employees to take the initiative or to be Mustangs, forget it.  You can’t teach initiative; you recruit it.

If you want to keep Mustangs, remember a little restraint is okay, but we Mustangs will not stay in a fence.

Jimmy Collins

P.S. Like this story? Want to learn more? Order my new book Jimmy’s Stories from Amazon.