Right before I had to work on Sunday I stopped in Starbucks for my grande Americano. My order is always, "Can I have a Grande Americano with room for cream?" Now, if I were to say to you "with room for cream" how much room would you leave? You would probably ask yourself, "Does he look like a guy who likes a little cream in his coffee or a lot of cream in his coffee?" Well Starbucks Joe, who made my Americano, must of thought that I was trying to grow some hair on my chest, because he gave me only a few centimeters of space to add cream. I moved from the pick up counter over to the prep station that coffee places love to have, it's always elaborate, as if I am going to change my drink into a milkshake there.
With this problem of abundance I had four choices:
1. Pour some of the coffee in the trash for more room.
2. Pick the cup up and take a sip of dark bitterness and burn my mouth.
3. Hand it back to Starbucks Joe and admit to him that I am not a coffee connoisseur who drinks his coffee black (We all know these people. They like to talk about how much Starbucks sucks compared to their local place that serves special beans that grow wild, picked delicately by a rare albino chimpanzees in some tiny nation that's not at Epcot).
4. Just try to make my coffee as normal and push the threshold of a paper cup.
I know you're not going to believe this, but I chose "option 4." I took the cream and started to pour. And I kept pouring. I literally pushed the limit to where the water molecules were clinging to each other, yet it was obviously over the rim (like my basketball game). So of course what did I do? I tried to pick it up and sip some off the top. I accomplished two things: just squeezing the cup I fired scalding coffee over my hand. But it was too late! I had to man up and not put that cup down, so I forced it to my lips and inhaled only to get that teary eyed, brain going numb, and wanting to scream the "F" word as loudly as possible from burning my tongue! This is as far as I got after that sip.
All of us are wanting to be involved in something significant even though we already have pretty full lives. But these things are like the creamer in our every day normal life; they make everything better and less bitter. As leaders we have to recognize we are working with folks who have barely any room for cream. The mistake we make is "squeezing" the most out of people but we are not prepared when all we end up with is a permanent scar on our hand from our experience with them. When bringing in new people we need to ask some serious questions about what kind of room is there for this to work in their lives? I'm not saying that we should eliminate people but we really need watch our expectations of people who are living life on the brim. When you don't, it just makes you want to cuss.