June 17, 2020

Setting Clear Goals - The King and the Crooked Furrow

How can a servant leader help his or her team stay on a straight path in a world full of distractions, and unclear or moving targets?

Davy Crockett, described in the 1955 Disney film as ‘The King of the Wild Frontier,” once told a story about a young boy plowing a field. The story was recorded in the book, “Davy Crockett” by William Sprague, 1918. I remember reading this story as a boy:

“...then he [Crockett] told the story of the farmer who directed his son to plow straight toward the red cow that was standing in a far corner of the field. The lad obeyed to the letter. But the cow wouldn’t stand still; it wandered all over the field, the lad following. When the father saw the crooked furrow, he was of course enraged and scolded the boy. The lad’s excuse was that his father had told him “to plow to the red cow” and he had obeyed, but that she wouldn’t stand still, and in obeying his orders he had to follow the cow all over the lot.”

The Classic Moving Target!

The kid tried to do job that pleased his father. He kept his eye on the target (as instructed) but the target kept moving. The inexperienced boy didn’t understand the variable introduced by the cow. Poor ol’ dad didn’t recognize his error it until it was too late, and the kid got the blame.

As leaders, how often are we just like that dad?

Good Intent, Poor Instruction

Effective servant leaders must have clear vision and set consistent targets for their teams. They must also exhibit enough situational awareness to adjust their guidance in sometimes chaotic, changing environments in order to help their teams stay on course.

This doesn’t mean constantly standing over them giving direction. It does mean thoughtfully considering the skill and experience level of each person and adjusting the leadership style to provide the level and frequency of guidance necessary

Think about your team. Are you expecting them to plow a straight furrow but allowing lack of overall vision, poor tools or poor guidance to constantly alter their direction?

How can you provide guidance for your team that keeps the furrows straight?

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