Seeing the excellent in the difficult

Earlier this week, I was able to help clear the LARGE flat roof of our Church. Now, in almost every other situation I’ve been dealing with of late related to snow, I will admit that there has been lots of whinging. (I love this word, look it up.) –and I have not looked forward to what has become the daily routine of moving snow, and now, ice.

But this was a different experience !!

I enjoyed it. Everyone else enjoyed it, too.

I have thought a lot about why that was, and how it relates to work and leadership. So, I broke this experience down and made some observations:

  • Risk/reward/meaning:¬† The potential for destruction (roof collapse) or damage (lots of leaks) were real to a building that was personally important to these people. The reward was the continuation of a place meaningful to everyone involved.
  • Know how: You could not take a snow blower up there; this roof has a rubber sealed top. A snow blower would cut that, causing leaks. It simply had to be shoveled, put on tarps and dragged many feet to the edge, and pushed then off the roof. Someone, and I don’t know, who had the idea of plastic tarps, teams of shovelers, teams of pullers, but someone knew how to get this done. Someone even told me an average shovel weighed 17 lbs. (Who would ever weigh a shovel full of snow anyway?)
  • Communication: Word went out the night before of the need – strong backs, lots of people, bring plastic (only plastic) shovels. 70 to 100 people showed up at the appointed time. 8:00AM.
  • Use of talents: Clear appointment to the task, after a conversation that went like this: “We need someone over there working to pull that tarp, would you want to help them?” It was clear, respectful, and the person was made to feel part of the decision process of what he/she was going to be working on.
  • Achievable: It was clear to see as time went on that we’d be able to accomplish the goal, actually sooner than originally thought possible.
  • Community: It involved many people, those who called, cooked, shoveled, pulled, moved snow again after it was dumped off the roof. I think it was community that added the ingredient crucial to enjoyment. Could 7 people instead of 70 have accomplished ¬†this? Yes. Would it have had the same reward? Yes; would it have been as clear? Yes, but it would not have been as communal and would have lacked the sense of involvement – which generates enjoyment.
  • Commitment: I actually thought about those who lead this effort – trustees of the building/congregation’s physical welfare. They must have shown up at 7:00AM or earlier that day, and they were the ones who stayed to clean up carpets, sweep the last of the snow away from doorways, and put away tools (tarps and shovels) after the rest of us left.

Are we lacking all of the above in our work lives, even our personal lives? In the work we do, or the leadership roles we perform are we seeing and demonstrating:

  • We know the risk
  • We know or have access to the know-how
  • We are able to communicate what, when, and the expectations specifically
  • We are using people for their best. Placing them where they want to be so they can contribute and succeed – with involvement and respect for their wishes and ideas
  • We are working on “stuff” that is meaningful and achievable. Is the goal something we can sense and see, not an unknown illusion?
  • We are part of, and belong to, a community of others who share the same goal
  • We are lead by people (or leading people) with commitment to go the extra hour, prepare before others show up, stay late when others are gone. Not for praise, recognition, or reward, but for the benefit of the community and to push everyone to the goal.

These ingredients made a drastic change in approaching, completing, and now pondering a difficult job- one that as I was doing it alone made me whinge. But the things I outlined above made a difficult task… excellent. How can we do that in every aspect of our work, leadership, and life?

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