Lessons from the Farm: Overlap

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I started driving a tractor at a young age. Most kids of farmers do.

I cannot tell you how many hours I’ve spent on a tractor plowing a field. I’ve used chisels, sweeps, duck bills, and discs. I’ve started at sunrise and finished after dark, even spending some time running under the lights of the tractor.

Would you care to know the hardest part? Not overlapping too much.

There’s a balance to be had when you’re pulling a plow through a field. The goal is to turn the dirt over. Just how much or for what purpose varies, but the end goal is breaking the top layer and allowing soft, hopefully moist, dirt to come to the top.

If you don’t overlap where you were before, you leave dirt unturned. And it shows later.

If you overlap too much, you waste time. I mean, think about it. When you’re working in a field that is 1 mile by 1 mile, doubling up on 2 feet every 40 feet adds up.

Overlap is a delicate balance to have.

The same is true in leadership. There are some things worth doubling over: key concepts, values, strategies, motivation. Each of these can get lost in the hustle of everyday. Diligence, however, demands vigilance.

Excessive repetition, however, does the opposite. It means you’re spending more time, energy, fuel, and resources than necessary.

Not overlapping has a similar result: you skip the things that keep you centered as you lead, and later on those “skips” are noticeable. You may cover more ground, but the price is too high. 

Proper consistent overlap doesn’t happen on accident. It takes diligence. It takes intentionality. It takes focus. But in the end, the efficiency is remarkable.

What falls into your overlap? What do you need to continue covering? What do you need to avoid repeating? What do you need to make certain you don’t skip?

Lessons from the Farm: Adapt and Innovate

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My dad is my hero. Part of why I value my time growing up working on the farm is all of the time I got to spend with him along the way.

For some reason, there’s one conversation that has stuck in my mind for close to 20 years. It’s seemingly insignificant, but I can’t shake it.

We had just finished building a new set of corrals (quite a feat in itself). As we were talking about how to finish it, or maybe after we had used them a few times, he told me he had an idea for a sorting gate. It took the concept of a calf feeder (which probably won’t mean much to you), and combined it with a gate, to create a sorting gate.

Let me give the simple version: this sorting gate would allow small calves to “sneak” through the gate, while keeping their momma’s from doing the same thing.

My mind was blown. I never would have considered something like that. The innovation was remarkable in my mind. And I think that’s what has stuck with me more than anything from that conversation.

My dad has an ability to look at a situation and see an opportunity. And that inspires me to do the same.

So much of leadership is trying to make the most of the situations in front of us. One of my favorite trips at my previous church was our leadership trip. It was a hybrid trip where I loaded student leaders into a car and drove them to 4-5 people who would share leadership ideas with them. I wanted these students to get a conference experience in an area where there were no conferences. So we built our own.

If we’re serious about expanding our leadership influence, we have to learn to adapt and innovate. I’m not looking to turn the world upside down. But I am looking to make the most of the time I have now.

In the midst of COVID19 and online meetings, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. But we do need to adapt and innovate. Are you? How can I help?

Lessons from the Farm: Efficiency Isn’t Flashy

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I started driving a tractor by myself around age 7, maybe 8. It’s not as dangerous as it may seem because I only went about 3.5 mph most of the time, and it’s difficult to do much damage at that high rate of sloth-ness.

As I got older, I realized my time would seemingly go faster if I cut the work into smaller chunks. I mean it makes sense, right? This is what we’re taught throughout our life–if you have a goal, break it down to tackle it.

I remember one time in particular, I broke a section of plowing into three parts. I was constantly turning and turning around, and as a result, it felt like time was passing faster.

The problem: I was actually being less effective.

Every minute spent with the plow out of the ground, or re-plowing ground that had already been plowed was a waste not only of time, but of fuel. Wasted time and wasted fuel means wasted money.

Efficiency isn’t always flashy. It was fun to constantly make turns, to raise and lower the plow. It was more mentally engaging. But at the end of the day, it was a waste.

The same is true for your leadership. Efficiency isn’t always flashy. There is something you’re doing right now that could either 1) be accomplished better by someone else or 2) be finished faster if you spent less time with the plow out of the ground.

Maybe it’s how you plan for events, or the way you train those you lead.

Maybe you’re lack of efficiency is in doing something you’re actually not good at doing.

For me, it’s graphic design. I enjoy the mental challenge of design, but it tends to be a black hole in my schedule. I can create something simple and effective in 5-10 minutes, and then spend 3 hours adding subtle differences that I find fascinating, but most people will never notice.

So efficiency means limiting the time I allow myself to spend on it, or even trusting someone else to do it completely. It’s exciting to try 7 different shades of a color. It’s mundane to move on.

So the question becomes: Are you willing to endure the mundane to increase efficiency? What do you need to cut or limit (or bring someone alongside) to maximize your gifting? What are you waiting for?

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.

Leaders Cast Vision

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Leaders cast vision. In the midst of uncertainty, when no one knows what may come next, leaders cast vision.

I am fascinated by COVID19 and the rapid pace of change all around us. Every day new information bombards us, causing more shifts in reality. So, as a leader, how do you make sure you are leading others to move forward?

Leaders cast vision.

When I started in my current role just over a year ago, one of my goals was to set out some goals and some targets I wanted to aim for. This morning, as I was thinking about the road ahead, I realized my goals have not changed; my delivery method may change, but my goals remain the same.

My job, as a leader in my own context, is to make sure those I lead are on the same page, moving in the same direction. Chaos, by definition, is the absence of a unified movement. We are living in a time of chaos.

So, my role, as a leader, is to cast vision.

You are in the same spot. In a world dominated by chaos, casting vision is more important than ever. Return to the base line of your goals. If everything changes (which it is), what do you still want to accomplish? Now, communicate that to those you lead.

And remember, leaders cast vision.

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