Many years ago, a friend of mine had a problem with cheese. She loved cheese, particularly blue cheese and would buy it to nibble as an occasional treat.
One day she said she was chairing a meeting and about a third of a way through was alarmed to find ‘the room had a disgusting stench’. She ignored it for as long as she could. Eventually she realised the 14 or so delegates had already noticed the unpleasant smell. She decided to take the bull by the horns and called facilities management to either investigate or move them to a new meeting room. No other rooms were available. She was irritated, but she resigned herself to continuing. Eventually 2 delegates left the meeting, for them the smell was just unbearable.
She tried facilities management again. This time, they checked the room and removed all the bins. The stench continued. She gamely continued. Then a colleague sitting close to her suggested, ‘maybe we should all check our bags’!. A ridiculous suggestion she thought. Another cleaner came in and looked round, found nothing and shrugged helplessly. ‘Totally inept’ she decided. She planned to write a letter of complaint to the venue as soon as she could.
Delegates decided to check their bags discreetly. ‘What on earth is going on?’, she thought. She decided to join in, by now quietly irate. It smells like a ‘dead rodent’ she concluded.
Several second later, she rumbled through her bag and found as expected nothing untoward. Most of the delegates had by now finished checking. But the stench remained. She tried her bag again, assuredly checking once more in this little inner pocket. She froze. ‘I wanted the ground to swallow me up’ she reported. As she opened the inner pocket, the stench intensified. Well, it would! Her nearest colleagues noticed and turned up their nose. A ‘betrayal’ she would later reframe as an innocent and natural reaction. ‘Pull it out!’ one urged. She did, very, very slowly. There it was! Mouldy blue cheese in a little bag. Her embarrassment complete, there was nowhere to hide.
Sometime later she could laugh at the situation, but it took a while.
For organisational development specialists, mentors, consultants, coaches, The pertinent question is always, ‘where is the cheese’? What do you unconsciously carry that has an impact on others?
To answer this question, you may need help to delve into areas that are hard to find easy to cover up. The problem is eventually there is nowhere to hide.