The Snow Blower Challenge

The Snow Blower Challenge

The Snow Blower Challenge

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A few years ago, my husband was getting ready to leave on a business trip. Looking at the forecast for the week, I realized there was a potential major snowstorm happening while he was away. I went to him and said, “You need to give me a quick tutorial on how to run the snow blower.” So, we end up standing in the garage as I furiously write instructions on a yellow legal pad for how to start and run the snow blower.

To give you some context, the machine is 8.5 horsepower with a 26” clearing width and 2 speeds for reverse and 5 speeds for forward. I don’t have any experience with this kind of machinery. The power tools and machinery for the yard are my husband’s area of responsibility.

So, my husband leaves and the storm comes, and the snow is piling up. I remember him saying you can’t let the snow get too deep because it is hard to blow more than 6 – 8 inches at one time. It becomes apparent that I am going to have to use the snow blower. Normally, I like to learn new things and face new challenges, as long as I can choose them and not have them thrust on me.

Picture me bundled up against the snow and cold with the temperature in the single digits. I have my reading glasses on and the yellow legal pad in hand and I am going through the steps. One of the tricks to this is you have to turn the choke all the way to the right to start the engine. Then once it has run for a few minutes turn it back to the left part way but not too far because the engine will shut off. Of course, the first time I do this, I turn the knob too far to the left and the engine shuts off. I think, “I’m off to a good start.” Eventually I got the snow blower working and did a surprisingly decent job clearing the driveway.

The snowstorm continues overnight, and I speak to my husband. I am waiting for the big kudos about “mastering” the snow blower, but he doesn’t say excellent job or anything to that effect. He is tired from his trip and long days. We talked about how to check the oil and fill the gas tank.

The next day I am again operating the snow blower. The experience isn’t as easy as the first time. I ran into a couple of problems to troubleshoot mostly about running out of gas and knowing how much to put in the snow blower without overflowing the tank. The instructions have some very scary language around filling the gas tank and not spilling any on the engine. Bottom line: the job gets done and I am able to get out of my driveway. By the way, the final measurement of snow is 17 inches.

So why am I telling you all this? Because this story has lots of applications to our professional lives and the businesses we work in.

How many times have you needed to jump in and take care of something with little training or advance notice? I found myself wanting the problem to go away. I resented being forced into handling the situation. I had to figure out how to work this machine or find another solution. I had to “motivate” myself to get out there and work the snow blower before the problem became unmanageable.

Once I began to do the work, I got excited about mastering something new. And I was nervous and scared about not screwing up. Because I was new at doing this, I had to make sure I followed the steps and be very present to what I was doing. At one point the snow blower stopped. I needed to figure out the problem and get it started again or I was going to be dragging this big, heavy piece of machinery back to the garage which I wasn’t sure I could do (which provided great motivation for figuring out the problem).

Lessons Learned From the Snow Blower Experience:

  • Some of the challenges we don’t want to take on will provide great learning opportunities.
  • When learning something new, be present and follow the instructions.
  • Expect resentment, annoyance and fear when forced to do something new and know that you can get past it – step by step.
  • Be aware of what you are thinking and feeling in times of change and challenge, it can teach you a lot about yourself.
  • Overcoming a challenge gives you confidence to face the next one.
  • You won’t always get recognized for your accomplishment, but YOU will know what you did.

Will I operate the snow blower again? If I need to, I will. More importantly, I now know more about myself and how to dig deeply to meet a challenge. That self-knowledge is an invaluable gift.

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Welcome to the Listening to the Leader in You Blog

Super-leaders arm themselves with insight. This blog is where you’ll find concepts, ideas, resources and more for honing your full set of leadership capabilities. 
 
Lynn Schaber, MCC
For the past 20 years, I’ve been privileged to partner with individuals intent on cracking the code to leadership beyond the ordinary.