From Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work

How to Get Their Attention

Nothing ever succeeds which exuberant spirits have not helped to produce.


Several years ago, I was dean of the Lansing School of Nursing, Education and Health Sciences at Bellarmine College in Louisville, Kentucky. The school was located on the top of a hill. All the other administrative and academic buildings were on another hill.

One day in late January, we had a severe ice storm followed by snow. The grounds maintenance crew did a masterful job cleaning the main part of the campus, but they “forgot” our hill and the Lansing School. When I arrived at the office, I found myself confronted with 200 irate students, 12 hysterical faculty and 4 staff members. Neither the hill nor the parking lot had been cleared.

I had two immediate challenges facing me: get the hill cleaned and lower the stress level of all involved. I had faced this situation two months before; when I had called the physical plant office, I had been told they’d get to us when they could.

This time I asked my secretary for a purchase order form and check request form. I then typed up a purchase order for a ski lift from Switzerland. Since I had no idea how much a small ski lift cost, I put down $600,000. I figured I could get something for that amount. Then I requested $60,000 as the required deposit. To this day, I have no idea of the procedure for such a purchase, but it didn’t matter—I was making it all up.

I photocopied the forms and posted copies throughout the school. Then I hand-delivered the bogus requests directly to the executive vice-president’s office, since he was the authority over physical plant operations. I informed his secretary that this was very important and I needed an answer ASAP.

Within minutes of returning to my office, I received an irate phone call.

“Have you lost your mind?” thundered the executive vice-president. “We can’t afford this! Who authorized you to order a ski lift?”

“The president,” I answered meekly.

I’m told he slammed down his phone, went charging down the hall, requisition in hand, burst into the president’s office and demanded, “Did you authorize this?”

The president, who knew me well, took his time reading the purchase order. Then he slowly looked up and said, “You didn’t clean her hill, did you?”

“Why didn’t she just say so?” the vice president spluttered.

The president laughed. “She certainly got your attention, didn’t she?”

Within 10 minutes we had snowplows and salt trucks up on our hill. Everyone was at the windows, laughing and cheering.

Dr. Ann E. Weeks

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