When loading myself into the F-250 this morning, I had a short list of goals to achieve today. They went a little something like this: (1) Go to work happy, go home happy, look forward to returning to work happy tomorrow. (2) Hope for a smooth morning start-up of my twenty-two landscape crews. (3) Hoping our weekly management meeting would not last two hours with a lot of finger pointing.
Prior to entering my landscape kingdom; a place where I would later (and completely unbeknownst to me) where I’ve become the omnipotent ruler of the potentially damned, I wondered; what would today bring before me.
Yes, the potentially damned.
About 2 hours into my day, I swear to you I thought I’d landed a starring role in that ridiculously crazy show, “I survived” where people find themselves in the craziest of circumstances; pulling their weary bodies 3 miles across a dusky cornfield while nursing multiple gunshots wounds or a plethora of bee stings, in order to survive.
After successfully surviving what was, quite literally, the worst work day I’ve experienced in many years, I feel compelled to share a few tips to help you better navigate that next epic day of struggle that reads much like the pages of a gripping, horror-novel-turned-autobiography, like a pro. Here are some tips for surviving a day from hell in the world of landscape:
Remember to breathe – as you prepare to enter “the landscape zone.” Your office or your most annoying client’s property. I know this may seem like an obvious tip, but it’s totally necessary, which is why you’ll see it included in nearly every stress tips article for stressed executives or business owners. The stress will hit you like a 200 pound mountain lion leaping onto your chest, as you sit in that black, leather chair at your desk, attempting to figure out what in the hell just happened. Life as you knew it just moments prior is now over…
Heading towards HEAVEN…
First, In order to even begin to think about surviving in this situation – take a deep breath, followed by another deep breath, and mentally prepare to enter “the zone.” The goal is to calm yourself, as you attempt to slow your heart rate back down to nearly normal. Breathing – it’s easy. Give it a whirl! That’s step one. Let’s move on to the next step, step two, ‘Every problem has a resolution’
Digging In, getting to the ‘ROOT’ cause of each and every problem.
What do you do when you have a problem at work? Do you jump straight in and treat the symptoms, or do you stop to consider whether there’s actually a deeper problem that needs your attention? If you only fix the symptoms – what you see on the surface – the problem will almost certainly return, and need fixing over, and over again. However, if you look deeper to figure out what’s causing the problem, you can fix the underlying systems and processes so that it goes away for good.
Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a popular and often-used technique that helps people answer the question of why the problem occurred in the first place. It seeks to identify the origin of a problem using a specific set of steps, with associated tools, to find the primary cause of the problem, so that you can:
- Determine what happened.
- Determine why it happened.
- Figure out what to do to reduce the likelihood that it will happen again.
RCA assumes that systems and events are interrelated. An action in one area triggers an action in another, and another, and so on. By tracing back these actions, you can discover where the problem started and how it grew into the symptom you’re now facing.
The three basic causes of problems;
- Physical causes – Tangible, material items failed in some way (for example, a car’s brakes stopped working).
- Human causes – People did something wrong, or did not do something that was needed. Human causes typically lead to physical causes (for example, no one filled the brake fluid, which led to the brakes failing).
- Organizational causes – A system, process, or policy that people use to make decisions or do their work is faulty (for example, no one person was responsible for vehicle maintenance, and everyone assumed someone else had filled the brake fluid).
While I struggled many days putting bandages on problems, my sanity came when I realized that I really needed to get to the ‘Root’ cause of problems. Being able to investigate the internal, & external patterns of negative effects culturally and operationally, finding hidden flaws in the system, and discovering specific actions that contributed to the problem. Once identified, I mapped out systems and processes that everyone had to follow, there were fewer errors and delays, there was less duplicated effort, and our TEAM and customers where more satisfied through individual and TEAM performance.
Thankfully, today as a seasoned landscape business owner, even the worst days of overwhelming stress/anxiety/worry no longer take me down. I can drag myself across the fields of pain with the best of ‘em, bearing scraped knees, depleted sanity, and a weary soul to show for it, after having spent a day in the darkness.
This story is about my past life as a landscape contractor. Today being a landscape industry consultant, I live my former life through my clients and help guide them towards there own sanity be creating workplace environments like it did for myself.
So that said; does this blog post have any connection to your life sometimes as a landscape business owner/manager?
About the author; Steven Cohen is a landscape industry business strategy expert & chief innovation officer at GreenMark Consulting Group; a Landscape-Snow Industry Business-Consulting/Advisory firm that specializes in helping small-medium sized growth oriented companies grow from under one million dollars to over five million dollars. Do you have a business or marketing question for the GreenMark Consultants? You can reach Steven Cohen by phone at 610.905.3637. Email Steven at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.greenmarkgroup.com to learn more about our services.
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