Vannoy and Ross
July 27, 2010
A construction crew was building a bridge. The foreman was barking orders, commanding the men to work faster and smarter. As time went on, the crew began to ignore their boss. This frustrated the foreman. When he’d had enough, he stood on the bridge in front of them and shouted, “You need to listen to me. I have 20 years of experience!”
One of the men spoke up, “No you don’t. You have one year of experience that you’ve had over and over for 20 years.”
It’s an old story, but it isn’t tired. There are many lessons to mine. Including this one: When do a person’s years of experience become a detriment rather than an asset?
How many of your teammates use experiences that occur every day as their greatest resource for getting better? And not just as the capabilities necessary to deliver their job description – but as a resource to become a greater leader, a greater person?
It sounds easy in theory, doesn’t it? “Yes, I wake up every day knowing I can get better.” Yet, when, during my day, am I shaking my head in frustration? What “buttons” do people push that continue to drive me crazy? Who in the organization keeps torturing me with their attitudes and behaviors? What to-do item do I continue to avoid?
The answers to these questions reveal that I, too, may suffer from the illusion that “my-years-of-experience-mean-I’m-getting-better.”
What’s the fundamental message to ourselves if the same people, the same issues, the same circumstances provoke some sort of dysfunctional reaction by us?
My unenlightened answer is: “Well, they’ve got to change.”
My enlightened answer is: “I may have worked here for 20 years, but I’m not sure I have that many years of experience. How will I gain greater experiences today?”