The other day, as I was on my way to a meet with a client, and after a welcome night of soaking rain, there was a dandelion in the middle of my lawn. The intricately beautiful, yellow flower stood out in luminescent contrast to the green Kikuyu grass. Instinctively, I stooped down and uprooted the whole plant and disposed of it in the bin.As I drove into the morning traffic, I was thinking about what I had just done.
A number of questions were going through my mind:
Why did I bother?
Two houses up the road, my near neighbour has cultivated a veritable carpet of dandelions. Clearly he is unaware, or unconcerned, about a weed taking over the verge. Maybe he does not know it is a weed? It may even be that he knows that dandelions are actually beneficial to the soil and even to hungry passers-by who would know that they are edible.
In any case what he is doing and what we are trying to accomplish are completely divergent. I resolved that, at the very least, his idea of what a grass verge should be like was very different to mine. I couldn’t help wondering whether he knows, or even cares, about the chaotic effect of what he is allowing to happen. The slightest wind spreads the hundreds of seeds produced from every bloom, affecting the lawns of everyone in our neighbourhood.
In the world of business, isn’t this the sort of thing we regularly encounter? The way others do things really can affect how we do things. For example, consider the shabby practices and poor disciplines of key suppliers, service providers and customers. Are we choosing to allow these things to affect the calibre of our enterprise? Is it because we can’t be bothered to resist the “inevitable”? Are we going to give up on our vision of excellence? Surely not.
Be aware, be observant and allow yourself to care enough about it to do the necessary. Actually do something that will bring about change. I’m not sure what to do about our neighbour up the road but, until I do, I will keep on removing the weeds when they arrive.
Was it worth getting mud under my nails as I up-rooted it?
I am not the gardener who was employed to manage the weeds in the lawn. Am I undermining him and the work he does? How does it look to my client when they discover I employ a gardener and yet am doing the gardening myself? They would be right to think that I was a little confused. Should I leave the weeding to the gardener? Then I began to wonder about the old practice of MBWA – Management By Wandering Around. The mud under my finger nails made me think. Working together and getting the job done is quite a challenge.
Why was my response so impulsive?
Is it helpful to be impulsive in responding to the evidence of an infesting weed? At a very practical level, there are occasions when it is better not to allow ourselves to be distracted. This was especially so for me, as I was close to being late for my appointment.
Sometimes being distracted along the way may affect the manner in which we arrive to be with our client. It is far better to remain properly prepared and focused for what is immediately ahead. If weeds irritate us, our clients may see in us irritation or anxiety that has nothing to do with them. Perhaps the weeds distract us because we are “sweating the small stuff”?
Has this become what we do? Surely the impulse to do the work of others needs to be curbed and managed as well? It may even be that this has become another “weed in our lawn”? Things can become so confusing!
As I arrived at my destination, I was aware of there being “sooo” many questions. Getting out of my car, walking to meet with my client, I realised that there were many possible answers to each question. I was, however, resolved that it is better to keep thinking about the questions, and never to shy away from asking them. Also I noticed that the heavy traffic had not got to me. I was there before I knew it!
After an hour or so with my client, his comment was, “That was really worthwhile. You sure do ask a lot of questions!”
I left, thinking wistfully about the dandelions.