Lessons from a Lawnmower

Posted on September 20, 2015. Filed under: coaching, expectations |

Yes that’s right. today’s blog is about how a lawnmower can share insights about coaching and how you might be undermining yourself.

At the moment as I write we are experiencing the beginning of Spring. Which also means the start of the season in which everything in the garden grows and grows.  It’s also the season when we realise that the lawnmower has sat idle and unused in the garden shed for many months. In my case, well over a year as I have been paying someone to cut my lawns for a while. Lawnmower

My lawns had grown and were out of control as I have not been happy with the most recent lawnmower guy (he compared my lawns to those of a neighbour saying I needed to do what they have done and sow my lawns – when he was referring to a neighbour who had re-turfed their lawns! There is a large and visually obvious difference between recently turfed and recenly sown lawns.) in whom I had lost confidence and comfort with paying him to cut my lawns.

So here I am with a big task ahead of me (weeds and grass at least 4 inches high) and doubt in my mind because the best tool – the lawnmower – has sat unused for a long period of time.

Reference One – how often do we do this to ourselves at work, thinking that we will be unable to effectively tackle something because it has been so long?

Now I’ve also succumbed to a lurgy at the end of winter which had me doubting my physical capacity to pull start the mower. We all know how exhausting those things can be. don’t we?

Reference Two – we base our expectations of effort and anticipated effort on what has happened in the past rather than an accurate and fact based assessment of the current situation.

Me feeling some self doubt plus the assumption that a mower not used for a long time would be hard to start led me to conclude that it would not start. This was supported by the fact that my fuel can had been damaged and I knew I had no petrol for the mower. And so I gave up before I had even tried.

Reference Three – all too often people give up on a task before assessing it realistically let alone trying

And here is where it all gets interesting.

I decided that the lawn had to be mowed and that I did not want to use the same guy who had been doing it in the past. And therefore (oddly) that led to a belief that I ought to do it myself (not call another lawnmower person) and based on the fact that I knew that I had a manual push mower in the garden shed.

Doing the Hard Manual YardsYes one of those old, outdated, hard to find manual, hand push mowers that have metal blades and no catcher. A steel handle and a tendency to jam – especially when trying to plough through weeds that are as high as the wheels of the push mower. The blades kept jamming and I had to keep stopping to un jam them and it was really had manual labour to push that mower through the weeds and grass.

As you can see from this photo. Now let me also say that my total lawn area is probably the size of 1.5 tennis courts. That’s a lot of square metres of greenery to be pruned or mowed. In fact I had weeds that were so big Big Obstancles and Toolsthat it seemed more sensible to pull them out whole or to clip them with the hedge shears.

My neighbours must have had a good giggle at me on my hands and knees cutting greenery with shears rather than using a mower.

One neighbour, and only one, commented that “Gee, that looks like a good workout” while all the others who saw me said nothing. They probably think I am insane or have a problem that results in me doing things manually.

Reference Four – beware of the assumptions that you make when you observe others doing things that seem unusual or unexpected

Now I am not really crazy – although I did persist in mowing almost half my total lawn area with the hand mower before taking the other mower o a friend and asking for some help to check that it would start. And guess what? Two pulls on the starter, we checked and confirmed that it was totally out of fuel. Perhaps evaporation or perhaps that I’d put it away when empty the last time it was used. No drama, let’s fill it with petrol and see what happens.

So, with a bit of fuel and following proper start procedure the mower started on the second pull. Yes that’s right.  After at least 18 months of being idle and untouched, all it took was a little fuel and proper procedure for the motor mower to start.

Reference Five – sometimes it takes less input than we think to get something started.

The moral of this post? Please do not allow yourself to fall victim to the same set of assumptions, beliefs and limits that I show in this story when you are at work or working with people. Make good use of the critical friend who can:

  1. Make sure you follow a good process to get things going
  2. Ask if you have tried things rather than allowing your assumptions to limit you
  3. Encourage you to give it a go even if you have doubts
  4. Believe in you and your dusty skills at times when you may think that they have passed their use by date

And so the lawnmower is now my personal analogy for how I can make sure I remain open to coaching and mentoring in the same way that I ask my clients to allow me to coach and mentor them.

It may not be the perfect story for all situations as there are genuinely circumstances where old and unused skills have become rusty and redundant – that’s where a coach can help you establish if they are genuinely out of date or if you are limiting yourself. It’s too easy for us to limit ourselves.

Now I shall complete my lawn mowing with the motor mower. (insert happy face perhaps?)



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