Schooled by a Turkey: A Quick Lesson on Avoiding Conflict
It started out as a goad.
When seemingly out of nowhere a wild turkey strutted toward us, I couldn’t resist tempting Tim to try out his ‘turkey whisperer’ skills on this urban fowl. And Tim, always game (no pun intended) for fun, took the bait and started a conversation with the bird as we moved down the sidewalk.
What was odd about this scene is that the location was not out in the forest or any other rural setting. We were in downtown Davis, CA on this crisp October Saturday morning.
I can’t remember exactly what it was that Tim said, but it was something like, “Hey Mr. Turkey, what up.” More preoccupied with making decisions about where to shop first, we failed to notice that Tim was now being stalked by a very annoyed Tom.
Before long, the bird was talking back to Tim. While at first it sort of sounded like normal turkey chatter, it was a matter of minutes before he was full on angry, louder, and spewing turkey gobbledygook (I just had to use this, and it is a real word.)
A man walked by and scolded the bird, calling him Winston, telling him to mind his manners. We should have noticed the wary look on his face, but were more concerned with the growing tension between Tim and the turkey. Winston seemed to be controlling the situation, and not having any turkey trivia to rely on, I was worried that this encounter was going to end ugly.
What we didn’t know until later, the Davis residents have had problems with aggressive, pushy turkeys and have been given instructions on how to deal with fowl (sorry, had to say this too) behavior that could turn out bad for an unaware pedestrian.
The drama ended once we found the door of the local Ace Hardware store. The clerks noted that Winston seemed particularly annoyed when he actually tried to follow us into the store. Tim seemed relieved to have the pressure off, and I can tell you that I was very happy to see Winston on the other side of the store glass, headed back down the street.
Moving produce can create situations similar to this turkey story.
And while those of us working in this industry can talk about the best way to move produce, most often we are referring to equipment, drivers, loading/unloading facilities, proper temperatures, etc., we rarely focus on the people involved in the ‘doing’ part of moving produce.
Loading and delivering a produce shipment with one pick up, in one city, delivering in one place, can get crazy. Imagine a load that has several picks and drops, different types of product and temperatures, several DC’s and cities.
How many people are actually ‘touching’ that one load?
All along the way, from pre-dispatch to post delivery, people are involved in getting the load from one place to another. Of course, along with that same progression through the supply chain, people’s words and actions are affecting the system, either for better or worse.
Sounds like marriage, right? In a way, it is. And just like Tim’s encounter with Winston, even the smallest over shoulder comment or glance can ignite a conflict that flames into an event capable of bringing the entire shipping process to a screeching halt.
We all get so busy and focused on getting a truck assigned, dispatched, and delivered, that recognizing ‘people impact’ on the overall process is often ignored.
It does not matter where your place is in the supply chain. How you manage your place is crucial. Think about your interactions, whether they are intentional or not.
Produce buyer ordering from the shipper? Carrier dispatcher assigning a driver? Check in clerk at the shipping facility? Driver accountable for loading and delivering the load? Receiving crews at the destination?
Professional, courteous, helpful and patient. That’s the people goal.
And remember, sometimes it takes very little time to start something big. It’s sort of like the old adage about picking your battles.
I am the middle man. I see things upstream and downstream, right and left, produce or trucking side. People move produce.
Being aware of how you interact with others is part of the business.
All good lessons should end with some homework. In my experience, as a teacher, a truck broker, a mom, and as a person who needs lots of practice to learn most anything, the first part of learning something requires awareness. This is especially true when a behavioral change might be in order.
Think about the general areas in your job where you are most likely to have interactions with people. In those areas, try to count your interactions with different individuals, and make sure you include ‘looks’ (something my kids say I use when they are in trouble,) your words, your posture, your expressions, any means or methods you may use, or could be interpreted as using, intentionally or not.
Each one of these interactions has the potential to annoy the person at the receiving end of your behavior. And yes, of course, the upside to all this is that your language, spoken or not, could have a very positive effect. It starts with awareness.
And hopefully the people you interact with have much longer fuses than Winston!