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Are We Weeding by Example?

Are We Weeding by Example?

In the early days of my management career, I remember a scheduled manager training session on weeding. It was the good ol’ get on your knees, bend over and clean out the bed without damaging the plants exercise. Back in the old days, it was not uncommon to assign a new person the task of weeding to see if he/she had what it took to make it on the team. Not long into this unpleasant task, I started trying to figure out ways to avoid being assigned to it in the future, but in this case, it was more about my attitude versus finding a faster and easier way to do the job.
When I was first hired at the University of Mississippi Landscape Services, the former Chancellor, Dr. Robert Khayat, set up a walk-through meeting early one morning my first week at work. It was not long into the walk that I saw his leadership style. He was constantly picking up litter as we walked and even stopped to pull a weed along the way. He never said anything about the tasks; he just did them as we went through the campus. While I never saw him go to the extreme of doing these tasks all day, he didn’t need to. His actions spoke loud and clear as to what was important. I felt like he was modeling to me that no matter who we are, we are not above any task that needs to be completed. He was leading by example, or more precisely, Weeding by Example.
His leadership style continues to set the tone in my life. Each time I walk the campus, I am aware of the small details that need attention. If it is something I can take care of right then, like picking up a piece of litter or pulling an errant weed, I do it. If the leader of our campus, a former all-American football player, NFL player and former law professor, was willing to Weed by Example, then isn’t it, even more, my responsibility to do the same?
Details matter. Weeding by Example matters. Setting the example by our actions gives others a model they can follow. I am grateful to Chancellor Khayat for modeling to me what it means to be Weeding by Example.

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