People Power - June 2013
By Scott Humphrey
I love a well-manicured lawn. Part of that love is the enjoyment I receive from mowing the grass. I know it sounds crazy to those of you who consider it drudgery, but I will often mow the grass multiple times a week. The psychologist in me has figured out that I enjoy being able to look back and see what I have accomplished. Let’s face it, many of us work for days, weeks or even years without visually seeing the fruit of our labor.
In my yard there are two well-worn paths that stand out distinctly in the otherwise pristine lawn. Even right after I mow, you can’t miss these well-trodden trails. One goes straight by the dog lot and another branches off to a wooded area in our backyard. Now, you might imagine that these paths have been worn by my four children, but my children had nothing to do with creating them. No, these are the roadway of freedom for a gentleman who has succumbed to the silent force of Alzheimer’s.
Jerry walks through my yard sometimes as many as ten times a day. He loves to walk, and the trails he has created serve as a safe zone to direct him back to his own home. Without them, I have no doubt that he would lose the freedom to get out and walk on his own. Jerry has taught me quite a few lessons through his life of repetition.
All routine is not bad. I know this smacks in the face of some articles that I have written focusing on the need to embrace change. But, in reality, anything worth doing starts as a single event and then becomes a routine, at least for a time. It may seem counterintuitive but, just as in Jerry’s case, routine can free us up to reach the desired goal. If your team understands your expectations, isn’t that expectation, in a sense, a routine? Isn’t it a consistent path to a desired goal?
In fact, I have seen many teams that were dysfunctional because they had no routine, no consistent path to excellence. Top performers on the team always seemed to achieve success, but they were unwilling to share the path to that success for fear that others might steal their glory. Their desire to stand out kept the others on the team from being able to reach the mark expected of the team as a whole. The reality is, the creation of this pathway to success is no different from creating standards. A standard is nothing more than a boundary, a safe zone, in which we expect others to operate.
But be careful. Though there is nothing wrong with routine, there is something wrong with you imposing your routine on others. A weak leader will always assume that their subordinates have to do it the same way they did. This is the reason we often see great salespeople fail after being promoted to sales manager: they only know how to coach their players to play the game the way they played it. If your employees, co-workers or children are operating within the standards you have created, if they are following the path you have laid out, do you really care if one runs while another skips? In fact, some may walk but in their walking create a depth of relationship that helps them accomplish more than those super-achievers who appear to frantically run through life. Standards and routine do not have to diminish individuality and creativity. They can create the boundaries within which we encourage others to use their unique gifts and talents.
Another danger to routine is when it begins to control your life and take away your creativity. Over time, this will prove detrimental to your success. In short, routine is not bad. It is essential to creating success, but we must be willing to break away from that routine when its results diminish and create a new cycle of success.
Prepare now for someday. Before his disease progressed to its current level, Jerry had the foresight to create two paths. He literally extended his own boundaries by realizing there were multiple ways to reach his desired goal. What are you doing to prepare for your someday?
I see countless people who are so busy living for today that they forget to prepare for tomorrow. This is an easy trap in which to get caught. We are so busy doing for our kids, our community and our church—all good things—that we forget to prepare for our futures. The old saying is, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.” Put another way, if you don’t create multiple paths for your future, you’ll either end up stuck in a rut or walking someone else’s path.
I once heard a professional speaker ask his audience, “By a show of hands, how many of you are living your dream?” Maybe a fourth of the hands in the room went up. We were all shocked when he asked, “For the rest of you, whose dream are you living?” If you don’t prepare for someday, you will likely end up working for someone who did.
If you forget everything else, remember to love. I know that the word love can make some people very uncomfortable, especially in a work environment. I am not telling you to hug your employees when you greet them or tell them you love them when you leave each evening. I am talking about exhibiting the kind of care and concern that will help them reach their potential.
A leader can show love in many ways. Leaders show love to their team when they choose to trust them and not micromanage. Leaders show love when they go to bat for their team to reward them with additional pay or family time. Leaders show love when they notice good performance and point it out. Leaders convey love through the words, “I appreciate you,” or even in the way they correct someone after a failure. The truth is, love is rarely experienced in words alone. Love is all about actions.
Love is about having the best interest of the other party always top of mind. Love is not selfish, and that is important because if someone believes you have their best interest at heart, they will trust you, let you influence them and be loyal to you.
When I first started watching Jerry, it wasn’t because of the paths in my yard. It was because I would hear my dog, Hershey, yelping, a yelp of sheer delight, the yelp a chocolate lab emits when it is the sole focus of a human’s attention. It didn’t take me long to realize that every time I heard Hershey barking, Jerry was at his pen loving on him. Occasionally, I would listen in and hear Jerry repeating, “I love you. I love you. You’re a good dog.” Then Jerry would head on down one of the paths but stop and return to tell Hershey he loved him again. If Hershey could talk, he would tell you that he lives for those brief periods each day when Jerry’s path brings him by. I don’t know what else goes on in Jerry’s mind, but there’s one thing I do know: Jerry loves.
I want you to know that I wasn’t satisfied with Hershey getting all of that attention. Now when I am outside and hear Hershey’s excited bark, I look for Jerry. When I see him, I turn off my mower and go over to where Jerry is reaching through the fence to love on Hershey, and you know what Jerry says to me? He looks me right in the eye and says, “I love you.” I pause a minute to let that soak in because I don’t ever think you can hear it enough, then I look him in the eye and say, “I love you too, Jerry. I love you too.”
What an amazing world this would be if each of us could only remember one thing, and that one thing was to love.
Copyright 2013 Floor Focus