Are You Trimming Hedges When You've Been Asked To Mow The Lawn?
There were several times during the Noodlehead Marketing journey where I asked team members to execute on specific projects and tasks. I'd ask them to do one thing and they'd distinctly ignore that thing and work on something else. In these cases, the work they did on the something else was well done, but it wasn't what I had asked them to do.
Let me share a quick landscaping metaphor to bring the point home.
It was as if I asked them to mow the lawn and they simply ignored my request and trimmed the hedges. Sure, the hedges needed trimming but it was not the direction I gave. So, while the hedges were nicely cared for, the lawn went out of control.
In many of these cases, my team members had good justification for why they needed to trim the hedges and ignore the lawn. From their perspective, it was the most important activity. And, it may very well have been, but it didn't matter. I needed a team that could follow my lead more than I needed the task to get done.
Usually, their resistance came from not wanting to do the task, and that they were unwilling to submit to my authority. As a young entrepreneur, I struggled to assert my authority even in entirely appropriate situations. As a result, I was walked over by clients and team members. It was unpleasant, to say the least. I'd end up at my breaking point where I couldn't allow it to continue. While I hated firing people, these team members were the ones who usually got the ax.
So, here I am on the flip side of the coin. (Well I've been here before, but now I want to do things differently) Since I'm working with various business owners, I come across many scenarios where we disagree on the what is the top priority and what is the best course of action. While there are appropriate times and places for challenge and discussion, there comes a point when my clients decide something completely contrary to my way of doing things.
It's in these moments when I've got to disagree and commit. It's not always pleasant or easy, but it's part of my duty. I'm there to serve them and sometimes it's not how I'd prefer. In fact, sometimes it doesn't feel good, but I've learned we can't always trust or be guided by our feelings. Sometimes we have to do what is best even when we don't feel like doing it (with the exception of moral issues).
The tendency in these situations is to call it in and let the project fail, so we can be proven right. Instead, I focus on what I can do to make it succeed. If it's going to fail, it'll be on the merit of the idea, not my role in making it happen.
In other cases, and back to the metaphor, I focus on mowing the lawn (following their direction) first and doing it so effectively I can also take care of the hedges (my agenda). By taking care of their request and addressing what I think is most important, I set me and my client up for success. And usually, the combination of these two approaches combines into one more powerful than either of the two on their own. In fact, we end up with a wonderfully curated yard!
So, the next time you're asked to mow the lawn, what will you do?