Have you ever driven a zero-point-turn mower? I was recently and reluctantly granted permission to use my dad’s coveted mower while helping my parents manage their five acre yard due to Dad’s health issues. As a kid, I loved driving…anything – tractors, minibikes, motorcycles, snowmobiles, cars, and horses (technically you ride a horse not drive it, but you get my point). And now I was going to add zero-point-turn mower to my list. I anticipated I would put my earbuds in, enjoy the sunshine, and have a relaxing uneventful ride. Well, that was my intention anyway.
I didn’t realize it was initially going to be such a challenge! Full engagement!! This machine required my full attention, so no earbuds. You see, the clutch, the power/gas, the steering wheel, and the gear shift/neutral are ALL maneuvered from the handles…separate right and left handles – requiring supreme coordination. God forbid you itch your nose while driving, and end up veering off in the wrong direction…oops, was that a strawberry plant?
In the first half-hour of my grass-cutting adventure, I could not stop thinking about all of the leadership metaphors! Primarily centered around engagement. I was so “in it to win it”. My senses were heightened. I was excited. I was challenged. I wanted to do a great job for my parents and prove myself worthy of the task, and that meant taming this beast. How silly that I could be having so much fun cutting the lawn?! But I was!
I realized all three of the factors from Daniel Pink’s book DRIVE were fulfilled – Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose. Mastery: My desire to learn, master, and quickly conquer this machine was off the charts. Autonomy: My dad had given me a quick lesson while still parked in the barn, covering the basic mechanics and some trouble shooting, and then I was off to figure it out on my own. Purpose: All of us, my sisters, and spouses included, were helping out during this rough patch with Dad’s health. Taking care of the yard was important to him, so it was important to us.
Engagement is a huge topic in business as the estimated and conservative costs of disengagement are 10-20% of revenue according to the forbesbooks.com article, “The Real Cost Of Employee Disengagement”. And, based on the Harvard Business Review “Disengaged Employees? Do Something About It” article, only 30% of employees are engaged, which means 70% are disengaged! The impact on business is substantial. What to do?
Some of my aha’s:
- The challenge of learning something new is/was fun! When’s the last time you were engaged?
- Basic training followed by the freedom to figure it out and work out the kinks…mistakes included, was critical.
- “Goldilocks” feedback is a critical step in the engagement process – not too much, not too little…training/guiding/tweaking while encouraging.
- Mastery takes time. Period. Get out of your head and cut yourself some slack. I know I didn’t do a perfect job, but for a first timer, I did do a great job. [NOTE: I see this with many clients who step into new roles…they berate themselves for not being immediately accomplished and go into “giving up”/disengagement mode very quickly. Incredibly self defeating. Do yourself a favor and discuss and set realistic expectations]
- Some people enjoy the challenge of learning something new, some people enjoy the perfection of a job well done, some people want the praise from a respected leader, etc. etc. Learn what your constituents need and want. Find ways to engage them.
- My first few rounds were slow. Be patient with yourself. I couldn’t have gotten up-to-speed as quickly if I hadn’t taken time to learn on the front end.
All said and done, it was great to be so engaged in something! My ultimate test was the last section right behind the deck (short up and down turns) …with my father watching. My absolute best and tightest turns of the day. I got the nod.