Ownership

After a typical fall storm in central New Jersey, my lawn was covered with fallen leaves and tree branches. It’s just such a headache because I have to pick up all the fallen branches by hand before I could get on my ride-on lawn mower and clean up the leaves.

Lawn after a storm
Lawn after a storm

This time I asked my two kids for help.

Of course this is not their first time for such a task and they know perfectly well what was expected of them and quickly got on the job.

My lawn circles around the house and there are always a few heavy-hit spots full of fallen stuff from the trees after a storm. The broken branches, large or small, are those need to be picked up by hand and dumped at the curbside for being removed by the township at a later time.

Curbside brush removal

After like 10 or 20 minutes, while I was working on such a spot, my kids returned to me and reported that they’ve done. I saw they walked around the house a couple of times and were really looking for things to be picked up. I congratulated them for a nice job done and let them returned to the house.

After having finished up my own spot, I took a final walk and examined the result. Not totally out of my surprise, as this had always happened before, I spent the next 20 minutes cleaned up what were left by the kids.

It’s not like the kids lied to me. They truly thought they had done their job, as most large pieces had been picked up – I saw what they did. It’s that they overlooked the smaller ones, even after having walked around the lawn a few times.

I didn’t overlook the smaller ones because I know if I did, I would have to deal with them when I was on the ride-on lawn mower, and that would be mostly inconvenient.

The difference between my kids and I is not because I am better at picking up fallen tree branches. It is because, out of my choice, I felt the ownership of the task and the kids never did. To them, it’s just a chore and they can afford to overlook small imperfections, but I can’t.

This makes me wonder, in any job, how often we feel it’s a job we own vs. a task with enough effort to get by? In a well-structured and well-managed organization, everyone knows what he or she is expected to do, but how many of them feel the ownership of what they do? The former is a manager’s job well-done, and the latter is a leader’s forever challenge.

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