Thursday, November 25, 2010

PIcking up leaves with a 2.5 year old

As Nika and I were trying to pick up leaves the other day in our yard, me sweeping and raking and stuffing into bags, her attempting to help.  I realized that leadership and picking up leaves with her had much in common.

In theory, she was willing to help and with instruction she could be useful, helping to sweep and pile the leaves.  But every so often, she would get distracted, bored or decide that while nice piles of leaves were good and orderly, that was a bit too much order in her life and she needed to shake things up.  At that point, out would come her Care Bears car and BOOM, my carefully stacked leaf pile was now all over the yard again. 

How many times has a leader gotten a team together, begun working on a project, see initial success and progress, only to have one member (or a cadre of saboteurs) decide they needed to drive their proverbial car into the leaf pile? With a 2.5 year old, you get it.  She wants to put the leaves in the bag, and then take the leaves out of the bag.  She is learning in and out, boundaries, etc...  But with "big kids" what it is in them that makes them decide to tip over the bag and dump out out all those leaves we worked together so hard to sort or to just blow the whole thing up before they even make it in the bag?

Do these "big kids" just get bored?  Do they not understand the goal completely?  Has it not been communicated to them what the goal is?  Do they doubt the ability of the leader?  Or are they just acting out because order threatens the chaos that allows them to thrive and keeps the status quo in force?  Or perhaps to think more positively, are they just trying to inject some fun into the whole thing?  I mean, raking leaves isn't the most exciting task in the world.  And neither is much of life.

Eventually, I was able to get all the leaves into the bag.  It took a lot longer than I thought it would, required much more patience than I thought I had and a lot of communication with her about the goal.  But finally, we accomplished the goal and even had some fun along the way.  So did I learn anything from this? Well, I might have learned not to include the 2.5 year old in the process if the goal is speed.  But also, perhaps there is something in the journey that jumping in the leaf pile and starting over again allows us to enjoy and might even produce a better result.  Not sure I have the personality type to always be picking up leaves with a 2.5 year old, but it can be fun.

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