Let’s think like farmers for a minute. It has often struck me that if you want to develop practical solutions to problems, you should try to think like farmers. That’s because in general farmers are no-nonsense, practical-minded folks. Don’t get me wrong, I like out-of-the-box thinking as much as the next guy. However, there’s a time and a place for all kinds of thinking and when you need to solve a real-world problem quickly, you might want to try thinking like a farmer.
So, imagine you’ve got this farm. One necessary structure for most farms is a barn. You need a place to store the hay, keep some of the livestock, and have the occasional Saturday night dance for the community of hard-working folks who need some entertaining relief from the stresses of farming. However, you simply can’t build a barn by yourself and you have little or no money to pay for labor. One practical solution is to schedule an old-fashioned “barn-raising” event.
Here’s how barn raisings work. Members of the community collectively build a barn for the farmer in need. Such barn-raising events were fairly common in 18th and 19th century rural America. Nobody got paid for their labor; participation was mandatory among able-bodied males and – similar to when Don Corleone did you a favor – someday you would likely be called on to repay the favor.
Now let’s see if we can somehow use this barn-raising strategy in the modern workplace. Let’s start with the fact that a workplace is a form of a community. Say someone in your community, not necessarily someone in your department or on your work team, is struggling. For example, someone who heads up sales for one of your major product lines is performing well below expectations. In this situation, here’s what I often see and hear. People in other departments (but in the same community) gossip about it, complain about it, criticize the person, and sometimes even take some measure of delight in the fact that “someone else is worse off than me, or us.”
Rather than giving the struggling person or team a hard time, why not think, “Let’s all schedule a barn-raising event to help these folks out!” In other words, let’s put our heads together and solve this problem for members of our community.
Who knows, if circumstances in the marketplace change significantly, you may be the person in need of a metaphorical barn in the future. Wouldn’t it be nice to think that rather than being criticized and ostracized by your fellow community members during such hard times, they instead banded together to help you through your rough patch?
Why not work toward building a company culture that encourages company-wide help for anyone and everyone in the community who might be in need? In other words, why not develop a barn-raising company culture? Look around you. Who needs a barn? Such an attitude will probably serve you and your organization until the cows come home.
Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through www.dmetraining.com.