Not long ago, I learned a valuable lesson while pulling weeds in my garden. Many lessons, actually.
One wouldn’t think there are lessons in leadership based on how you pull weeds, but I’m here to tell you that nature works in mysterious ways.
How Does Your Garden Grow?
It’s amazing how digging in the dirt can quickly transform into a time of random reflection, inquiry and introspection, especially since I had not tended this garden in a very long time.
What (or who) else had I been neglecting in my life?
What’s the difference between a weed and a plant?
Why do we tend to one and yank out the other?
Who on my staff (or in my life) did I treat as plants? Who did I treat as weeds?
The scope of this task seemed daunting and I certainly wasn’t enjoying my train of thought so far…But I was committed to cleaning up my life… I mean garden.
I thought, “let’s start with the easy weeds – those long vine-y strings look easy – but where’s the beginning and where’s the end?
Forget it – let’s try those pretty lacy ones, they might be easier. Darn! They have deep roots – maybe I’ll go back to find the beginning – or end – of the vine.”
Hhhmmm – where else in my life and work do I try to take the easy route – just to make it look good and leave the roots to weave a long and tangled web below the surface?
I’m becoming more and more frustrated with these $^$#()@%# weeds – or is it me I’m frustrated with?
Surely there’s a better way. So I trek into the garage, find some garden tools and am determined to get those pesky roots once and for all. A little hand spade, a narrow shovel and, if all else fails, weed killer.
Talent and Tools
The little hand spade is clearly inadequate for the job and defiantly bends in half at the handle. I try the narrow shovel, quite ineptly, and quickly fall off… hoping no one witnesses the degree of ineptitude.
I go back to using my hands and pull relentlessly, vigorously and to no avail.
Despite my attempts, I sensed a breakthrough of sorts – that didn’t have anything to do with the weeds.
I noticed the garden tools that lay on the driveway – broken, unused and inadequate for the job…
And herein lies the pearl.
Sometimes we use tools that are appropriate for the time or the situation and we keep using them beyond their capability – then they break.
We become comfortable with that tool, not realizing there are others that may be more effective and efficient.
We may invest in a new tool, but, like my narrow shovel, I didn’t know how to use it very well – so it remained in the garage … when in fact, that was the right tool – I just needed some practice. It’s hard to try a new tool, particularly when you’re not proficient with it – even though it would be more effective in the long run.
So here are some questions for consideration:
Take a look at the gardens in your life and business – is there anything that’s being neglected?
Are there tools in your “garage” that are no longer suitable for the task? What’s in your inventory that’s not being used? Are there systems, processes or procedures that no longer fit? Have you purchased new products or systems and never used them because the change is uncomfortable?
And how are you communicating with the people in your life? Are you treating them in a way that reflects who they are now, not who they used to be? Are you treating them as weeds or plants? Are you feeding them or killing them off?
If you’re unsure of your answers, I’d suggest you take some time and go dig in the dirt. You may find your answers there.
Marty Stanley is a national speaker and consultant on personal and organizational change. Her new book From Type A to Type T: How to Be a Transformational Leader in a Bottom Line World will be released this spring.