An interesting thing that one of my mentors told me this past week caused me to think a bit deeper about people, communication and interactions. He said the greatest thing that we can do is plant seed. My pastor’s wife has always put it this way, everywhere we go we’re gardening. We have to make a decision on what to plant, when to plant and even how much to plant. We should consider if the ground is fertile or not etc. There are times when it may seem that it is easier to let it ride and not put so much time and thought and energy into it. But the truth is there will always be people around us and our very existence is based on community – having relationships and being associated with one another. My mentor took his seed planting theory a little deeper by saying that we at times try to pull certain behaviors out of others by teaching and sharing; which can feel more like pulling teeth especially when they don’t want to learn; they have their own agendas, they don’t want you to teach them; they’re dealing with mind sets or they feel that they have paid their dues and learned what they could learn and couldn’t possibly learn one more thing… you know “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” There are all sorts of mentalities that I encounter on a daily basis. I actually work for an agency where every thing down to our computer systems were built in the dinosaur age and the majority of the people don’t want to learn anything new and they don’t want to teach anything old. They hoard information and the things that they know even if it’s beneficial to and for them to share it. This probably doesn’t make much sense to some but if a company hired an individual to assist; then my thought process is that projects, processes and every task should run smoother because there is a support system. Can you imagine how it would feel to go on your regular annual vacation and instead of returning with the complaint that you have a pile of papers, a million phone calls to return and nothing has been done since you left; to instead everything is organized and still running smooth? Ah the vacation continues. What a wonderful world, right? Have you ever met people who enjoy complaining? I can only assume that they enjoy it because instead of teaching their teammates what they know and how they could help, they believe instead that they’re job is at risk and they have to safe guard it by keeping all information to themselves (Top Secret and Classified). They decide to do all of the work instead of share the wealth. Their competition is unhealthy because they make everything about competing instead of doing the job and enjoying what they do. There is no effectiveness or efficiency. And at the end of the day they are burned out, over worked, anxious, paranoid and almost hostile. It is an endless cycle but I see it every day. I want to help. The teacher in me screams out, YOU CAN’T TAKE THE INFORMATION WITH YOU WHEN YOU DIE, SHARE IT. But the screams are silent. At the beginning of the year when our organization switch from using WordPerfect to a Microsoft Office package, you would have thought that it was the end of the world and Jesus Himself was coming back. The conversations in our office were painful to the point that it became comical. “What are we going to do with all of our documents? I can’t believe their doing this to us. They don’t know how much data we will have to re-type” and so on and so on. In the beginning I would say, “I can show you how to convert your files, it’s an easy processes and it will only take me a minute to share it with you. I would get was a solid “NO”. I’m thinking, ok, so you’d rather retype instead of learn the quick built in function to convert? Hmmm WHO DOES THAT?!!! My mentor indicated that sometimes we must plant seeds in such a way that they you get the intended results but you plant so that others believe it’s their own idea. He encouraged that I should never stop working toward the goal but realize I may have to take a side street or a different route in reaching it. Occasionally I would have those who were curious about how I produced so much work and when that opportunity presence itself; I jumped on it and show a few short cuts without overwhelming before their brain realizes they were learning something new and OH the excitement! Some will still hoard the information but there are others who end up telling those that they are in close working relationships with. And still there are those who will share with others showing how they stumbled upon it themselves. I’m not so much concerned about them taking credit but more excited about the possibility that we could be on the same page and come up to speed in every area. The hope is that we could get things done accurately, efficiently and in a timely manner and there would hopefully be less complaining.
There were those who caused me to stop and think for a minute about the “credit taking” aspect. Thinking about it causes frustrations because there are too many unanswered questions. Why does every ones idea have to be yours? Why are you taking credit for something that you had no idea about just twenty minutes ago? Why do you gather information from everyone but share with no one? Why are you constantly in my face asking for yet more information pretending to be a team player but only caring about self? One “why” question can open the door to an ocean of why’s. I try never to open that door because it’s counter productive. I had to determine in my heart that there will be those and there is nothing that I can do about it but continue to plant seed in hopes that one day it may take root so that they too will feel comfortable in sharing and planting. There are thoughts that pop up in my head sometimes (that I won’t share) when I see them coming around the corner with that beautiful yet disgusting fake smile on their faces in hot pursuit of information, but I turn, say a quick prayer and then meet their smile with an attitude that is always willing to help; always giving; never too busy to teach and hand prepared with a seed. I am not the manager of my group but feel that we all manage in some way. So at times in my hopes that everyone will begin sharing and truly become a team, I might mention how quickly one has picked up on something and compliment how well they are doing and end with saying co-worker A and B were just talking about how well you work and they were hoping that you could teach them a thing or two when you’re schedule permits, of course. I may send co-worker A and B an email to let them know that Co-worker C has information that they want to share when they have time. And because Co-worker C is now such an expert in this new task that will, of course, be something that they learned on their own or stumble up on… they go share but there is still some information that they hold onto like a secret treasure.
There is a leader in one of the church programs that I am a member of that just recently did a similar thing. I asked her if a particular student had received copies of the homework assignment. The student sent and email on the week that missed indicating that she was in the process of moving and had packed the books for the course, accidentally. She questioned if someone could send her the questions. Since I had been out and didn’t want to duplicate efforts, I asked the leader if anyone had made copies for her and she honestly had no clue what I was asking and why; so I explained the email. I assumed that that the copies weren’t made so took time to do it. On our next meet up; I heard the leader informed the student that she didn’t even know that she needed the copies until that day so she made them right away. I was left there thinking … yeah, you knew because I told you yesterday. This is small so my thought turned to the fact that the good thing was that the student received copies and the credit well… let her have it. She does this quite often but I cannot allow that problem in her to become a problem for me. There will be those people whose nature is take credit for everything, even the small things. Some would say pick and choose your battles but I say, why battle? Life is too short, I would rather choose a good day then one with frustration and anger that will never solve that persons deep routed problems. I say let them have it. One day they will meet that one person who will teach them through the school of Hard Knocks, if they are not careful. My pastor’s wife has many wise sayings and one of them is more is caught than taught. The concern must be for those who are willing to learn. When you know that you will be grace by the presence of someone of this magnitude; come baring seed. Give anyway, teach anyway, share anyway; knowing that if you see the nature and the very character of that person; others see it and I am sure they see it as well. Maybe just maybe one day sharing, team work, giving back, supporting and serving will all rub off and you’ll look around to find a beautifully bloomed garden yielding so much fruit that it’s ripe and ready for harvest. Mentalities learned can be unlearned.