Adaptive Leaders: Finding some purchase

Finding some purchase…

Growing up on a farm and being a farmer instilled a keen awareness or trust for thinking intuitively. I watched my dad work and do things from a very young age. My learning took place by being observant in how he went about fixing things and solving problems. I would ask questions and sometimes his answer would be, “Just sit and watch son…pay attention and you will learn”. I was curious about how did he know what to do? It fascinated me regarding all the things he “just knew”. When he died I lost a wealth of “knowing” and source of wisdom.

In fact, when problems would come up after he was gone I would catch myself thinking I’ll just call Dad…then realizing he was gone. This happens to us at work and in our communities as well. We have a great mentor or manager and they get promoted or leave the company. Our next door neighbor had every tool you needed and always helped you out when you needed it most…then you move away or they do. It really stinks when you lose your “go to” person or network at work or you move to another community and have no connections.

  • How do you adapt to the new realities in your workplace or communicate?
  • Do you find someone to complain to or seek someone new to collaborate with on something?
  • Do you seek out more information to understand what’s going on or feel hurt for being left  in the dark?
  • Are you relying on popular opinion or well understood values to base your decisions on?

Change definitely can  impact our work,  family, and our sense of community. When we’ve lost our source of information is doesn’t feel good. No Dad, co-worker, or old neighbor to consult and now you need to learn on your own, find a new mentor. Finding a new mentor can be  as frustrating as it is rewarding. Its difficult, especially when there are so many willing to offer opinions and ideas without regard for the impact it might have. Maybe its time to begin to trust your own intuition like your mentor role modeled it for you.

There are seasons of life and moments when things becomes confusing…and overwhelming for many individuals to rely on their own intuition. It is a challenge to gather your own perspective and make your own decisions. Who am I to make a big decision? Look at all pundits espousing views on talk shows, their own blogs, and tweets that may or may not be giving sound advice. You want that to be your beacon of destiny? (I know…I’m blogging and you should test everything I’m saying!) Trust your intuition! I am annoyed by the following precursory statements that are made habitually on talk radio and TV.  “Well, the fact is–or–The fact of the matter is…”.  What’s really the matter is most of the time its not fact and it doesn’t matter.

Like my Dad said to me…”Just be still–watch..observe”.  He really was helping me develop by ability to think intuitively about what is going on. Dad was coaching me to think for myself. If you have never trusted your intuition as source of information to make decisions it may feel a little…well unsophisticated or weird. That’s because its a little unsophisticated and weird at times.

Let me share a simple example. While farming I rarely met a piece of machinery that gave up its wounded/broken part freely “sans” skinned knuckles or a few harsh words. Oh, and things never breakdown when you aren’t using them so it never happens at a convenient time. And usually the part is in some inconvenient nearly impossible place to get to as well. You are in a hurry to get it fixed.

Consistently you had to soak things in WD40 or CRC to break rust’s fiendish grip on a nut, bolt, or broken bearing. By using some quick penetrating oil as part of the process you knew “intuitively” it would put the odds of a timely and successful repair in your favor; this just became intuition that was usually rewarded by the result you wanted. You had to be patient, let it soak in the “magic juice” and go do another task and come back a little later…it was quick penetrating oil, but not in 3 seconds.

Even with what my father called “magic juice” fully applied. Sometimes, things just got tight and nothing but shear brawn would loosen it. Enter my lesson of “purchase”. That seems like an old fashioned statement or concept now. Getting a better purchase on something in this context isn’t about a great buy on clothes. Its about gaining more leverage on something or getting a better grasp on a tool. Sometimes simply adding a length of pipe on the end of a wrench gave you the edge you needed.

Many business owners  struggle to gain a “purchase” (means a stronger grip combined with leverage) on what is really going on around them in work and life. I learned the meaning and the value of gaining more “purchase” from my Dad who lived and died a farmer. I’m a big guy with a lot strength and he showed me time and again he could out do me as a little German man, 40 years my elder. Use your brain and not your brawn may not have been invented by my Dad,  but he sure followed it as a maxim.

Now, I’m not going to tell you his hands didn’t bare the scars of hard-work or mistakes made from time to time. They were gnarled and vice-grip strong well into his late 70’s. He followed his intuition to wear leather gloves his whole life and it protected his hands many times. However, over time he adapted to new tools. We got a cutting torch to he at the broken piece or nuts that held it on. This was a great way to expand the item enough to loosen it or drive it off a shaft more easily. And sometimes your intuition told you that, you might as well cut it off with the torch first thing and run to town for a new part. In the end you just knew it was the best thing to do…even if it was going to take a little more time and money.

My dad was an adaptive leader, he loved new technology and cherished new farming methods, even though he grew up farming with horses and did so early in is marriage to my mom. Dad was a learner.  Here’s a poem I wrote about my dad… Bud (Weir) Uhlenberg.

Hard Hands

No rings or jewelry just hard and strong

Marred and scarred by farmer work

Bruised and broken

Healed while working

Earth and seed caressed

New born livestock helped into the world

Labored and beloved me

They held me gentle

Combed my hair and tied my tie

Squeezed my limbs with iron grip

Delivered discipline to make me mind

Always, always guiding

Held his “Love” while dancing

Turned a page to read adventure

Felt the faintest walleye bite

Connected to a heart softened by love

Held sacred music to praise his God

Greeted his Savior when he went home

©2011 The Heartwood Group, LLC

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