Monthly Archives: September 2010

Sharing Your Best Seed Corn

There was a Nebraska farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon.  One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors.

“How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.

“Why sir,” said the farmer, “didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”

The farmer had what Stephen Covey calls an “abundance mentality.”  An “abundance mentality” says, “There’s plenty to go around.”  A “scarcity mentality” says, “There’s not enough to go around, and if he gets some, that means less for me!”

Maybe we’ve got this competition thing all wrong.  Sure, we’ve got to compete with other companies for market share; we’ve got to compete on the playing field or around the track; we’ve got to compete when we want to be chosen for a new job or opportunity… but what about on our teams or with the people at the same organization or even in the Body of Christ?  Should we compete with each other in these groups?

As I look around, I see the net result of some of our competition: teams reduced to groupings of individuals who happen to work for the same boss, departments in silos that won’t benchmark with other departments because they will give away their “secrets,” plenty of “us-them” thinking, gossip, resentment, bitterness…  Even on the same teams, we can’t be happy for someone who gets a great opportunity or who God uses in a special way.  We delight in the misfortune of those we see as “competitors.”

Are we limiting the quality of our own corn just because we won’t share some of our best seed corn with our neighbors?  What could we learn from them if we were willing to give up something that cost us something?  Could helping another department, or team, or church actually help us to improve?

I had a boss one time who put it this way, “Michael, when I retire, I don’t plan to collect my retirement check from just this department.  By sharing resources and what I know with other parts of the company, I help us all to be more successful.”

Amen.  And if you belong to the Body of Christ, consider that your “retirement check” will not be based on your individual contributions as much as it will be based on how you advanced the Kingdom together with your brothers and sisters in Christ.


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Filed under Abundance, Body of Christ, christianity, Church, family, helping, marriage, mentoring, Productivity, Relationships, Scarcity, Serving Others, Sowing and reaping

Why They Are On Top

I ran across some research (Performance Intervention, Sugrue and Fuller) that has been done on top performers across industries and what separates them from the pack.   Take a look at the list of things they typically do, and I bet you’ll see some of your own success tactics listed.

Top performers often do the following:

  • They do away with unnecessary steps.  (Top performers innovate.)
  • They perform an extra step that is needed but not documented.  (More innovation.)
  • They use available information and documentation that others do not.  (Simple, but smart.)
  • They possess a self-created job aid that others do not.  (Hint: Look for sticky notes around their cubical.)
  • They possess information or data that others do not.  (Because they take initiative and search it out.)
  • They possess better tools than others.  (“The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”)
  • They possess different motives for performing.  (An internal drive; a goal they are working toward…)
  • They receive different guidance and feedback.  (Uh-oh, this is one you have control over.)
  • They obtain different incentives.  (We don’t have much control over this, unless you consider intrinsic rewards.)
  • They rarely succeed solely as a result of training.  (This one takes me down a notch or two.)

So, if this is what puts top performers on top, why can’t we teach it to our other team members?  Try this experiment… take this list of characteristics and ask your top performers if they use each one.  Document what you learn, and share it with the rest of your team.

If you want more leaders, multiply the ones you’ve got.

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Filed under character, coaching, commitment, expertise, feedback, leadership, management, Productivity, success