On the second day of my Nevada cattle herding adventure in the Great Basin, a wind storm came up fast and furiously. At one point, gusts were blowing at 40 mph.
I was cutting inside the herd when Mike said, “You don’t have a string on your hat, you better step back into the line.” True, I had nothing to keep my hat from blowing away, except my hand which was needed for other things. In other words, I wasn’t properly prepared for the task at hand. My lack of preparation could prove problematic, even dangerous if the hat blew off and startled the cattle.
This makes me think about how many times someone walks into a meeting unprepared. Those who make a practice of this rarely, if ever, wonder what the cost is on themselves and everyone else. It may not be as life-threatening as cattle herding without a string to hold your hat down, but there is always a cost. Being unprepared for a meeting wastes the time of everyone involved and accounts for all-round inefficiencies that could ultimately lead to the demise of a company if the problem is not addressed.
A few minutes after I went to the back of the line, Mike rode out of the herd, with a piggin’ string* which he then tied over my hat – kind of a Calamity Jane meets Ma Kettle look. With my hat securely tied to my head I could rejoin the team and go back to cutting cows… Which I did for the rest of the day. Mike definitely had my back and without any fuss or muss just took care of the newbie. In corporate settings you’re more likely to see colleagues throw the newbie under the bus rather than help them out of a tricky situation.
*(The term “Piggin' String” has a special meaning to outside cowboys who rope and tie down wild cattle and doctor and brand calves. There are other names for this handy piece of rope. In the Southwest, it is sometimes called a “hogging rope.”)
Knowing When To Walk Away
At one point on the 3rd day of our rodear cutting process, the wind brought what looked like part of the state with it. One moment I was looking at 100 head of cattle. The next moment there was total black in front of me. Yes, a real Nevada black out, like half the state had blown right in front of us. Mike said in a very matter of fact tone, “You can’t cut them if you can’t see them” And, we called it quits for the day.
Once again, no arguing, no discussions, no attempting to do something differently. We all just headed back to camp. There are simply times when you simply have to walk away.
All along the way, there were lots of discussions and there were often disagreements. There were many things to contend with including the dynamics of father and son, boss and hired hands, and father’s students like me trying to do a good job. I noticed no one seemed afraid of standing their ground and enduring a few minutes of conflict for the sake of producing the best result.
I will never forget this experience, it changed me deep down inside. The honesty in the group built and deepened relationships that I prize and will treasure forever. The land, it’s beauty, the ruggedness, the magnificence…ending each day with a recap of the good work we produced together, then sorting through plans for the next day.
There were many times I felt afraid but could step into the unknown anyway because these guys had my back. I immersed myself and my horses into an adventure of a lifetime and we are so much better for it. The experiences have translated back home in life and in riding. There’s just not much that throws any of us anymore. We have more confidence when the winds of change blow and try to knock us off our game, now we just lean in.
As I wrap up my journey into the Nevada Great Basin to participate in a cow-herd, in this month’s article, I share an oversight on my part that could have been dangerous. It was a lack of preparation and though it may seem like a non-incident, believe me, it could have been very serious.
Had I not been a novice, the event would have been considered an act that could have eroded the focus on the collective success of the mission. Fortunately, I was a newbie, however, I had to stop what I was doing and move out of the center and out to the edge of the herd. There are things that can happen on the range for which every cowboy must be prepared. Experience is the best teacher as is being surrounded by a team of people who only have the success of the group in mind. There’s only room for one oversight. That’s the first time.
This is a sample of Dysfunction #5 In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: Inattention to Results
The pursuit of individual goals and personal status erodes the focus on collective success.
To find out what happened on the final days out on range read this months’ final installment. I invite you also to think about how when people pursue individual goals and only focus on their own personal status, how that can erode the collective success of a company, team, civic group or family. The danger may not be immediate or life-threatening as it is out on the range, but there is always a price to be paid.