I’m on vacation for a couple weeks, but I can’t turn my mind off from the leadership and sales improvement world even for a few days. When I try, life inevitably serves me up a beautiful example to coach from.

We checked into a resort last weekend. This resort is on the beach, and aside from pools also has a lagoon, separated from the Pacific Ocean by a thin sand strip. Around the lagoon is a path that connects to the beach front path. On my first morning in the resort, I got up early and went for a swim in the lagoon. While drying off afterwards, I sadly noticed that most of the garbage cans along the lagoon path were overflowing with cups, containers and various other trash from the late night partiers of the previous evening. This is on resort grounds mind you, but clearly there was no 24 hr shift to keep up with the lagoon garbage cans. About 5 minutes after noticing this, my eye caught an elderly gentleman (65 ish) walking around with garbage bags and collecting all the loose trash around the cans.

I struck up a conversation with him and discovered that he was a guest at the resort. He comes to this resort every year for a few weeks, from his home in Missouri. The last 3 or 4 years, he’s seen the garbage cans overflow, and during his stay, he comes down every morning and bags all the loose trash for easy collection by the resort staff when they come on shift.

I like to swim in the lagoon early, and I hate seeing all this trash, so I just take care of it”, He shared with me. When I asked him about the fact that no one does this the other 50 weeks a year he is not a guest, he replied that it doesn’t matter.

The weeks I’m here, the garbage gets cleaned up, and the lagoon looks nice. I can’t influence what happens when I’m not here”

Boom. For all the talk you hear about seeing the big picture, here’s a man who focuses on the task in front of him, and measures his success based on the impact it has for the limited duration of that impact.

I often hear from customers that sales training doesn’t cause a permanent improvement. Turnover, time and other factors eventually dilute the effects and eventually, the same problems the training was supposed to fix, come right back.

Brushing my teeth doesn’t last. Showering doesn’t last. Mowing the lawn doesn’t last. Yet I’m going to keep doing all those things. Same goes for sales training, working out, and countless other things. Like the old man by the lagoon, we need to reject the excuse of the long term impact as justification for not having short term impact. Long term impact starts with short term impact and the connection is often difficult to see.

The next morning, I was down there by the lagoon helping the old man bag garbage. This morning, there were four us. Lead by example and start with small steps. You might not see the impact, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.