A few weeks ago, I put the following update on my Facebook page:
I got a number of fun comments about this post, but it was my friend Leanna Muscato from Knoebel’s Amusement Resort that really got me thinking. She said, “Now there is a blog topic!” The more I thought about it, the more I thought she was right.
I began to think about how many parallels there are to leadership and business in this one act. Here is what I came up with (feel free to add more in the comments!).
- Be flexible – My Dad always said, “you have to be flexible, so you don’t get bent out of shape.” I was halfway through mowing the lawn when the mower just quit. I couldn’t get it restarted no matter how hard I tried. So, while a trip to Lowes wasn’t in the plan, I had to adjust my strategy for the day. The lawn wasn’t going to magically finish mowing itself.
- Finding the right problem to fix – I’ve mowed my yard enough times to know that if I fill the gas tank before I start, I will have plenty to finish the entire yard. However, when the engine died, I still checked the tank just to be sure I wasn’t dealing with a lack of fuel, which I wasn’t. I also checked the oil (mostly because I actually know how to do that) but it was fine. Okay, so I had exhausted the things I knew how to check, it was time to look elsewhere. Hello, spark plug!
- Learn new things – In my Facebook post, I mentioned that I learned how to clean a spark plug – which is true. I also learned that Lowes has about a bazillion different kinds of small engine spark plugs EXCEPT that kind that matched the one I had in my hand. What made that excursion valuable was that I got to see a whole bunch of bright, shiny, new spark plugs. And comparing those to the one I had, it looked like mine was in fairly good shape mechanically… it was just super dirty. Hmmm….so I went home, grabbed a wire brush and removed all of the grime I could get to. Put it back in the mower and it started on the first pull. Music to my ears!
- Maintain what you have (so you don’t have to replace them) – It is certainly more cost effective, convenient and efficient to keep the current spark plug working than buying a new one – especially as I was right in the middle of the lawn mowing process. Had I spent a little time on preventative maintenance, I wouldn’t have been in that predicament.
- Doing “whatever it takes” – We have a car dealership here in Central Florida whose marketing slogan is to do “whatever it takes” to keep the customer happy. I realized I was in a situation where I had to do whatever it took to get the lawn mower running so I could finish the task. That could have meant going to other stores, asking my neighbor to borrow his mower or finishing the lawn with the weed-whacker. One way or another, that grass was getting cut THAT DAY!
I think each one of these has a direct corollary to what we do as leaders.
- If we are not flexible, we burn out and likely create a very unhealthy work environment for those around us.
- If we try to fix the wrong problem, not only do we get frustrated, but we also never really fix what was happening in the first place, so it continues to be a problem.
- If we stop learning, we’re done.
- If we don’t nurture and maintain relationships with our employees, they will leave. Then we’ll have to get new ones.
- If we let things slide or go unfinished because things get tough or inconvenient, then we become known for dropping the ball, and people lose trust in us.
What else can we take from this?
Thanks for reading!
About the author: Matt Heller and his friend Chris spent a few summers in junior high school cutting lawns in the neighborhood. Their favorite client, Mrs. Leezak, paid them $7 each, and always threw in a can of ice-cold 7-UP.