How My Lawn Identifies My Flaws As A Professional
Growing up I hated to mow my parents’ lawn. Pushing the mower for 2 hours every week was not very high on my list of things to do as a kid. There was nothing of this household chore that spoke to me and I resisted my family obligation at every turn. (I formally apologize to my Mom and Step-Dad…) However, as I became a homeowner, I now enjoy the process because I feel a sense of accomplishment when I see my lawn cut with straight lines and being as green as Jack Nicklaus’ green jacket.
Why does this matter at all? I believe that cutting grass with a purpose of excellence has a direct connection in teaching our youth how to complete a task at a high level. I only wish my Mom was around to see how I’ve changed my ways.
I think there is a lot to be said when someone can visually see that they are not completing a task. In our daily lives, sometimes our mistakes are not as apparent as a missed strip of grass in our lawn. Since the dawn of time, young adults have been known to complete only the bare minimum in their school work and their chores at home. Sadly, when students are not ever asked to give 100% is when a pattern of complacency can develop that follows them their entire professional career.
As a professional, I try looking at my tasks with the same view as looking at my mistakes while cutting my lawn. When you are lazy cutting the grass, you can see your mistakes. EVERYONE can see your mistakes! Your inattentiveness or laziness is right there for everyone to see. In fact, your mistake is physically taller than the rest of the grass you’ve already cut.
When you cut your grass, your willingness to fix your mistakes are also on display. If at the end of your mowing, you look back and see tall grass where it should be short grass but still put the mower away, you are making a conscious decision to not complete your job at a high level.
This now begs the question, how can we become better at not leaving tasks unfinished? I believe this is a learned trait.
I’ve had many people in my life that have demanded more from my efforts. I’ve had coaches, teachers, professors, colleagues, and family members that have asked me to do my best. Many of these mentors were not training me specifically for my current professional duties but they helped provide me with the building blocks for my future occupation. These same people also set up an environment in which I was surrounded by others who were asked to do the same. They also created their lessons so that I felt like my efforts were also tied to helping a group of people.
We learn these attributes in our adolescence by being a member of a team, a musical ensemble, or working an entry level position. We are taught to work hard and to not let others on our team “down.” We learn to become dependable by not wanting to be the weakest link in our group. We also learn about not “cutting corners” because we want our teammates to value our contributions to the overall goal our group is trying to achieve. Our teammates also know when we are not giving our full effort.
In high achieving organizations, students are taught to show up early, to be prepared, to try their best, to have a positive attitude, to be coachable, and to do more than what was asked. Through these life skills, our youth can begin their own journey of learning what it is like to not give up and to fight through adversity.
Once we teach others to become committed to a high level of excellence, it becomes harder to submit subpar work. It becomes harder to say that our efforts are “good enough” even when we know there is more to do. At home, our chores also become our own way of looking back to see if there is grass that we missed cutting the first time. Our lawns teach us that we have the ability to look at our assigned tasks and ask ourselves: “Am I done with this task or do I still have things I need to fix before others see my work?”
But how does this translate to our professional life?
As professionals, in every occupation, we are assigned tasks to complete. Some are tasks that we enjoy and there are many tasks that I’m sure we do not enjoy. The tasks might be tedious, time consuming, or they might be unrelated to our own goals. Sometimes we might feel that the task is “beneath us” as we have our own perceptions of our own value or self-worth.
As a mentor, boss, or manager, exhibiting these same attributes on a consistent basis is just as important as teaching these life skills. If we are going to profess that being early to meetings is important, then people under our leadership should also see the mentor showing up early.
I’m by no means perfect. I will find myself looking at my yard and know that I could make it look nicer. As a professional, I am constantly encouraging myself to work at a level that ensures that others will not have to pick up for things I have left undone. When I fail, I do my best to rectify the situation and or offer thanks for someone who has helped me with my task.
My lawn, like me, is nowhere close to perfect but it is a reflection on what I think is a building block for success and the success of our youth. By finding and seeing our mistakes, we can then find ways to go back and address what needs to be fixed. Adding this life skill to my professional duties has given me an opportunity to be a contributing member to a high achieving organization.