Lessons from the Farm: Fill the Water Jug

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Do you remember the old school Tupperware? When I was growing up, we had some pieces of Tupperware that were (not-so) beautiful shades of orange, green, and brown. Ironically, they kind of matched our shag carpet.

One of the best uses I remember for the Tupperware was to fill it with water and put it in the freezer, which would create a rather large ice cube. Then, at the beginning of a day, or if we were lucky enough to go to the house for lunch, we would take the giant ice cube, dump it into a water jug, and have iced water for the rest of the day.

Why was that important? There aren’t a lot of convenience stores in the middle of the field. In fact, there are no Allsup’s in the field. It’s only dirt.

If we were trying to plow a field, time was money. That meant stops which could be avoided, should be avoided. One of the best ways was to be prepared at the beginning of the day, so you could make the most of the time you have.

There are some things in the field we could not plan for–a flat tire on the plow, a busted hydraulic hose, or a broken implement. But thirst? That was a given.

Leadership is the same. For us, it could be a conversation to ease concerns, an unexpected phone call, or the missing piece to your plan.

But some things that capture your time are akin to starting the day without a water jug. It happens regularly. It’s a weak spot in your approach, and you know.

Let me challenge you today to spend a little time asking yourself what’s the biggest time waster you deal with on a regular basis. Now, make a plan to fight it. Grab the Tupperware, fill it with water, and put your plan into action. Your effectiveness will grow because of it.

Lessons from the Farm: Building Fence

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I’m continuing our lessons from the farm series today. You can click here to read the previous post.

Today, let’s talk about fences. Every field I talked about Tuesday was surround by a fence.

Here’s the thing about fence: A great fence is great because of great labor.

Someone who is willing to put forth the time and effort to build a great fence will reap the benefits of a great fence for years.

Someone who is unwilling to put forth the time and effort to build a great fence will pay for it sooner rather than later.

But after decades, even a great fence gets weak and worn. We spent countless days fixing old fence and rebuilding fence lines, and there was one aspect I found fascinating.

We always knew the beginning and the end of the fence line. That was pretty easy. The tricky part was making certain all of the posts in between lined up.

One of the greatest dangers in fence building is failing to balance where you are with where you’re going. The next post had to be in line with the final post.

Alignment is critical.

In the midst of our current COVID19 reality, alignment is still critical. The delivery of what we do may be different, but the next post needs to be in proper alignment. Otherwise we lose alignment, creating undue stress on the rest of the fence.

I hope you’ve done your due diligence prior to this shift in delivery so as to give you a post you’re aiming for. And I hope the next post you drive is in alignment with where you’re heading.

But more importantly, I hope you don’t lose your way during this time. Follow the fence line. Stay in alignment. Build a great fence.

Boundaries

Lessons from the Farm: Boundaries

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Stampede! Or, at least in my mind that’s what I thought was happening.

Granted, now, I realize there was definitely a flare for the dramatic in my response, but I was still pretty green at the whole thing.

We were “driving” cattle, which meant we were trying to move them from one field to another. In the process, they will sometimes naturally run.

The field we were trying to move them out of had a very large ditch (about 40 feet deep) on one side. As we were moving the herd closer to the gate, they started running toward the edge of the ditch, or draw as we called it, I started freaking out.

In the movies, this is where the hero rushes in to divert the herd from the cliff, thus saving the day. So, in my infinite wisdom, I sped over to keep them from jumping to their death.

I didn’t understand one basic concept: cattle may not be hyper intelligent, they’re also generally intelligent enough to realize a 40 foot drop is not a great idea. In other words, the herd was not going to plummet to their death.

The very thing I thought was a danger, was in fact a boundary.

Boundaries are beneficial as you are moving a herd, because it helps reinforce the direction you’re heading. Having a solid boundary on one side allows you to multiply your efforts on the other two sides, and actually increases progress.

Leadership is similar. Sometimes the things we consider to be death traps are actually boundaries in place to help us maximize our effort.

The sacred cows (no pun intended) that drive us crazy actually give us insight into the priorities of those we lead.

The attitudes we don’t understand help us process and choose the right steps forward.

When we understand the limit on one side, we can spend more time on the other two to help push things forward quicker.

Sometimes the boundaries have to be broken through, but often if we shift our mindset just a little, we begin to see the opportunity in front of us and it helps clarify our next steps.

The rest of the story is this: boundaries shouldn’t be boundaries forever. Eventually we moved out of that field into a new one. Those attitudes and sacred cows will eventually stop being boundaries, but only after you’re able to lead forward.

What are you facing today that feels like a death trap, but is actually just a boundary? What adjustment do you need to make to help move things forward?

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Lessons from the Farm: Traditions

Lessons From the Farm: Traditions

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We are continuing our Lessons from the Farm series this week. If you’ve missed any of the posts, or want a refresher from years past, please click around catch up!

Growing up I spent countless hours on tractors. When plowing, I would make “rounds” which meant driving down one side of a terrace and back on the others side. It truly didn’t matter which way I went, but I generally went in a counter-clockwise direction. I never knew why, it was just what felt more natural.

Then one day I discovered why.

There was an old implement in one of the fields. I guess it was more alongside one of the fields. I had never used it, but it had always been there.

One day I asked my dad about it. He told me it was called a “one way” and it was what they used to plow when he was growing up.

Care to guess why it’s called a one way? Because it could only make the rounds one direction.

Care to guess what direction? Counter clockwise.

Can you see where this is going? I was living out a reality that was established by an implement decades before I ever existed. My dad grew up driving a tractor with a one-way, which trained him to go a certain direction. In turn, when I was old enough to plow, my dad taught me the same way he knew and had been doing for decades.

It was tradition.

Tradition always starts somewhere, and usually for a good reason. Tradition often times, however, moves into the realm of “does it really matter” after a little while. The tractors and implements we were using were mechanically ambidextrous, but our tradition-driven habits were not.

As you lead, you will encounter traditions and people who are unwilling to change because of tradition. Sometimes, the tradition is valid. Sometimes, the tradition exists because it’s what is comfortable and known, but the tradition itself is simply strange.

Your role, as a leader, is to help navigate the traditions. Find the good in traditions and maximize it. Find the bad in traditions and erase it.

But understand, traditions are hard wired into everything we do. Eventually, some traditions get so hard wired into our systems that we don’t realize the shortfall. But sometimes, knowing is half the battle.

One last thought: be sympathetic to traditions. Yes, sometimes you have to take a hatchet to a bizarre tradition, but that doesn’t negate the emotional connection.

Ultimately our job as leaders is to lead people, so we have to learn to navigate the emotions people feel when it comes to traditions. Lead with grace and understanding, but also lead with courage. The balance may be difficult, but it is definitely worth it.

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rites of passage

Lessons from the Farm: Rites of Passage

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We’re continuing the Lessons from the Farm series today. Click here to read some of the previous posts, or click here to subscribe so you don’t miss what’s coming next!

My dad grew up 70 miles from where his operation is centered today and still has some land there. When I was growing up and when I moved back to work on the farm for a few years, we would spend a few days each month going back and forth to “the ranch” to take care of cattle and other things.

The things about owning lands in two different locations, separated by 70 miles, is sometimes you need something at Point A to be at Point B. This could be anything from a tool or part, to a tractor or herd of cattle. So, moving things across the 70 miles was simply a part of the operation.

But throughout all my life, I only had to move “the disc” one time. Now, it’s difficult to describe “the disc” to someone who doesn’t understand the world of farm implements, so I’ll over-simplify it: a disc was something we pulled behind a tractor to plow the ground. A disc is not a plow because it’s a disc, although it does the same thing as a plow, it just uses a different approach. Simple enough, right?

Our lesson today isn’t about the difference, but about one key part of the disc we had to move: when raised and ready to haul, the disc had three wheels side by side by side, which means one wheel was sandwiched between the other two.

In the field, behind a tractor, this was not a problem. But a tractor drives about 5-7 mph, so the wheels never heat up too much, and even if you need to change the wheel, you have the aid of the tractor.

On the highway, behind a pickup traveling somewhere between 55 and 65 mph, this sandwich became a problem.

The one time I had to move “the disc”, you can probably guess what happened–the wheel bearing on the middle wheel went out and needed to be replaced before we finished the trip.

Working on that wheel was one of the worst, most frustrating, and entirely exhausting tasks I had to do in my time back on the farm. Thankfully, I had someone else there to help.

Later, I made a comment to my dad about how frustrating that was and his response took me by surprise: “Yeah, but it’s just kind of a rite of passage.”

You see, he knew moving the disc would probably result in a 2 hour stay at the truck stop trying to fix it. He accepted it as part of life. It wasn’t neglect on our part. It wasn’t foolishness. It wasn’t stupidity. It was natural.

In your leadership, there’s something you’re facing (or have faced) that feels like changing that wheel bearing. You feel frustrated, angry, exhausted, and worn out as a result of it. The reality–you’ll never move forward without doing the hard work that needs to be done.

So today, this week, this month, or this year, know the struggle you’re encountering is something you need to work through, and once you get to the other side you will look back and say “there was no other way.”

Make the most of the time you have today.

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