In the mid 19th century, greedy British ship-owners overloaded their cargo holds and gleefully pocketed the insurance profits when the ships foundered and sank. Many sailors lost their lives on these ‘coffin ships’.
Samuel Plimsoll waged a battle against this practice. As a result, the Merchant Shipping Act of 1876 decreed that all cargo vessels must display the Plimsoll Line – an indicator of the limit to which they can be safely and legally loaded. Why? Because ships float at different levels depending on the warmth and consistency of the water. A ship loaded to capacity in a North Atlantic salt water port, would be in danger of riding too low and possibly sinking at a fresh water port in the tropics.
What’s this got to do with you and me? Well, modern day individuals and organizations have their limits, too. How cool would it be if each carried a Plimsoll line? You’d know when you were reaching your stability limit, and you’d also be able to see the current state of those around you.
Of course, we don’t come equipped with Plimsoll Lines. But this modern day set of indicators might offer a few clues to individual load and capacity:
- Physical strength and well-being – Are your body and mind in top condition or suffering from illness and fatigue?
- Buoyancy – Are emotional and practical supports in place, or has an important mentor or caregiver been lost?
- Security – Are expectations constantly shifting and sliding, or is there some stability to key elements of the load?
- Weights & measures – Do you know how long tasks will take and how critical are the outcomes? Is there a definite end to the leg of a journey?
- Renewal – Is the load incessant and heavy, or is there time spent in dry dock for repairs, rest and refurbishment?
Pay close attention to how low you and your colleagues are riding in the water on any given day.
Quote Of The Week: “We can easily manage if we will only take, each day, the burden appointed to it. But the load will be too heavy for us if we carry yesterday’s burden over again today, and then add the burden of the morrow before we are required to bear it.” – John Newton
Readers Write: Pause reader, Wayne G, writes: I am in the middle of trying to assess the Plimsoll line for each of my employees following a reshuffling of job responsibilities last November. Here are some of the things that I am looking at: the “look” in their eyes when we discuss work and work loads; their posture — are the shoulders round and stooped, or are they eager and energetic; how long are they staying — I have people asking to work overtime, not a good sign for me.
The work is not suffering yet. We are still on top of everything, but at what price? I want to bring relief to my employees before it starts to affect performance.