Terrorist Thistles

Abundance Accountability Respect


Story: I’m still digging up some August weeding analogies. We have a back garden where we have had a daily, ongoing battle with thistles. The little buggers literally pop up overnight. And we choose not to use a weed killer spray, because we find them largely ineffective. Plus, we just don’t like using the chemical junk near food we eat. So, the only way to get rid of them is to pull them out at the root. That is easier said than done. Gardners out there will know how deep the roots of even the tiniest, terrible, torturous thistles are. You have to dig them out one at a time. It’s the only systemic, sustainable way to stay on top of them. It involves focused and frankly tedious effort. (P.S., it’s easier when listening to country music and drinking a beer). So, what do thistles trigger in my self-reflection and post-retirement musings?

Key Point: Every organization has stinky “thistles.” What surprises me is how unwilling or incapable we seem to be at putting the focus on eliminating them. A thistle in an organization is some ongoing, relentless problem that we know upsets customers and distracts employees. In banking. it might be as simple as calling customers back and keeping them updated on the status of some transaction that is worrisome to the customer (e.g., loan approval). This is not a major and complicated issue. Yet, most banking institutions haven’t killed the “follow up” weed. Why? Perhaps avoidance is just very human, because when it comes to those thistles I’d rather plant new stuff elsewhere, just throw mulch over them and hope they go away; anything to avoid getting on my hands and knees and pulling them out one at a time. Of course, I could reinvent the garden and turn it into a swimming pool, but that argument doesn’t get much traction with the CFO in our family. So, what could this wandering metaphor mean to you?

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1.  Identify the thistles in your organization. Is anyone really focused on getting rid of them? Who, and by when?
  2. If you want to make a real difference in your organization, find the “thistles” and really do something to eliminate, or dramatically reduce them. The organization knows what and where they are. You can identify them by the fact that they have been around for a long time, pop up regularly, and annoy the hell out of people. Will you have the focus, courage and tenacity to really do something about them? Why not you?

Taking on thistles in Personal Leadership,

– Lorne

One Millennial View: I haven’t seen a poll, but I’d be willing to bet that removing weeds is a gardner’s least favorite of all necessary yard work. At least, it seems, with the “thistles” at work, if we truly rip them out at the root, then the same problem is less likely to grow right back or sprout somewhere new. If only real life weeds were that easy.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis