Isn’t that Interesting?

Written by Kevin Martlage

The great CS Lewis once said, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different.” I absolutely love that quote and how it illustrates a very important point that is critical to think about as you continue to build a supportive business culture. That point is centered around awareness and your ability to intentionally understand the present, while leveraging the past, to advance towards the future. All leaders can do those three things to some extent, but my challenge is that to be a great leader, you must intentionally impact those things through your awareness of how it is impacting others and being perceived. Specifically, how can you intentionally impact the present so that you are providing enough context and understanding so your team is always in alignment with you and the strategic direction of the company?

As a business owner, your awareness around the ‘business’ side of running your company is at a high level. If it wasn’t, chances are you probably would not still be in business. As an arborist, your awareness regarding trees and how to care for them is something that you not only value as a business opportunity but is something that you are most likely highly passionate about. As a leader, you must have the ability to lead your team towards strategic and common goals and your ability to effectively lead is centered around your approach which resonates and connects with those you are leading. Awareness of what supports and detracts from that ability is important to understand as you continue to advance your team and leadership skills.

Awareness, and specifically intentional awareness, is critical to understand as you continue to enhance your business culture.  In the world of consulting my goal is to provide awareness so people can make choices. Choices about how they approach and impact their team, their leadership style, and ultimately their life. The more you can align your reality with that of your employees, the more effective you will become as a leader and the further you will be able to advance as a team. With all of this in mind, I want to introduce you to a key concept important to advancing your culture, team, and organization. That concept is what we call Mischief™. Mischief™ is something that is so incredibly impactful once understood that I personally feel it is important for everyone in the world to understand, be able to identify, learn how to eliminate, and how to effectively overcome all while building trust with those around them. With the elimination of Mischief™, I feel that the world will become a better place as we work to intentionally align perception with reality in the pursuit of greatness.

Mischief ™ is a term coined by my father that describes a key detractor which impacts personal interaction along with team and organizational effectiveness. Once understood, Mischief™ cannot be unnoticed and will be evident in everything you do. In fact, it is so prevalent in your day-to-day personal and professional lives, I challenge you to find a situation where it is not present at some level. This concept is the basis of all the consulting work I do and has significantly influenced and advanced teams and organizations around the world.

To understand Mischief™ you must first understand how it is created. The root cause of all Mischief™ is the misalignment of perception and reality. When perception and reality are not aligned, it allows those involved to become consumed with trying to figure things out intentionally or even subconsciously. When you spend time trying to ‘figure things out’ it causes disruption in terms of productivity, effectiveness, and understanding. While it ultimately disrupts your operations and team effectiveness, it has the biggest impact on team trust and alignment, which are both important for any team to reach their full potential. To help align reality and perception we must provide the proper context behind what we are communicating, the decisions we are making, and the direction we are going. To illustrate Mischief™ let me tell you a story about my friend Rick and his new boat.

I had a friend named Rick who purchased a new boat which was always something that his kids wanted, and he personally thought would be cool to have. All his family ever talked about was being able to cruise around the lake water skiing, tubing, and having fun. After doing some research, and finding a great deal, Rick purchased a 2-year-old, 24-foot Mastercraft ski boat from a High School friend. After an extensive and very expensive trip to the local water ski shop it was time for them to take their maiden voyage and do some water skiing and tubing at a relatively smaller lake near their house. Once they arrived at the lake, Rick put the boat in the water for the first time, loaded up all the equipment and kids and they headed out. As they slowly drove past all the people in the swimming area on rafts and the marina full of boats they eyed a spot about a hundred yards out for their first tube ride. Once in place, the kids jumped into the water, he hooked up the tube and off they went. While they started off slow, he quickly increased the speed and started to do donuts and S curves all over the lake. The donuts created huge waves that the kids could jump, and the S curves made it exciting for the kids to try and hold on as they drove around the lake. They were having a great time. Rick was on cloud nine, and so were his two kids, as they were realizing their dream of tubing and owning a boat.

All was going great until another boater flagged them down and waved them over to their boat. Rick slowed down and idled over to the other boat to see what was going on. Upon arrival, the reality of the situation quickly came into focus when the other boater looked back toward the shore to point out the numerous rafts and swimmers who were waving their hands trying to tell Rick to stop. Apparently, the donuts and S curves were great for tubing, but not so great for sunbathing on a raft or trying to swim in the designated swim area. Rick quickly realized that his reality of owning a boat and having fun with his kids had unintentionally disrupted those around him by not being aware of his impact on others. In his mind, he was having fun with his kids helping them live out a lifelong dream. In the eyes of those on the shore, and in other boats, he was just another ‘cowboy’ on the lake speeding around causing problems and was someone they wished would just go away.

Isn’t that interesting? The reality and perception of the situation was not in alignment so therefore, those on the shore thought he was self-centered and only cared about himself. What they did not know was he was a first-time boat owner who was trying to give his kids a great time as they lived out their lifelong dream. On the other hand, Rick did not realize the impact he was making on others, but as soon as he realized what was going on, he stopped and moved further out onto the lake where it was not making as big of an impact.  While Rick may have been a bit embarrassed, he was provided with insight into the reality of what was going on which allowed him to make a choice and move further out into the lake. In addition, those on the shore, once told what was going on, understood the reality of what was happening which helped to explain their perception of Rick and his boat. While they still may be a bit upset, they at least had more context around the situation which allowed them to understand what was really happening instead of spending time making up their own story about him while letting it ruin their day.

The boat example is a great illustration of Mischief™ and the misalignment of perception and reality. In the context of your tree company, how many times has Mischief™ come into play and disrupted your team? Specifically, have there been any situations where your best thought out decision was not well received by your team and caused lost time as they tried to “figure it out”? Have you ever been ‘Rick’ with the best intentions in the world only to find out that the perception of those you are leading is not in alignment with your reality or thought process? On the other side, have you ever been the ‘person on the shore’ that can only see the ‘Cowboy’ on the lake where you immediately thought the worst only to find out later that maybe you didn’t know the whole story and NOW it makes more sense?

I’d like to challenge you to spend the next few days trying to identify those areas of your organization, and even your personal life, where Mischief™ is present. When you identify those instances, I want to say to yourself, “isn’t that interesting” as you try to  understand what is really going on. The phrase, “isn’t that interesting” is one that we teach to all our clients to help identify when Mischief™ is present and to trigger their mind to start clarifying the perception with the reality, or facts, of the situation.

Isn’t that interesting that Mischief™ is everywhere? Eliminating Mischief™ will significantly improve productivity as you intentionally align reality with perception which will allow your team to trust the path forward. This will not only enhance your ability as a leader but will also help your team continue to understand and advance toward their full potential.

To learn more about the concept of Mischief™ be sure to join us for the Culture Webinar later this month. Also, be sure to check our other Weekly Tips articles throughout the month of July.

If you are interested in learning more about how to identify, build, assess, and nurture your business culture, please feel free to take our culture assessment which can be found at the following link:

Company Culture Assessment

Once completed, a Thrive Consultant will review the results with you and develop a high-level action plan of next steps. 

For additional help with growing your company, contact a member of the ArboRisk Insurance team! If you’re looking to improve upon your communication skills or want to help one of your key team members develop personally, sign up for the Thrive Leadership Development package today! Additionally, if you find it difficult to find or keep quality employees, check out our Thrive Hiring & Recruiting Package.

Tom Dunn