Stuck in the Pit?

My yard has a few sinkholes on the back corner of the property. The man who came and filled the biggest one told me they weren’t really sinkholes. He said that when my house was built, back in 1991, subdivision developers dug deep holes and filled them with trash, mainly trees and brush, rather than pay to have the waste hauled away. After many years, he said, the rubbish would decay, especially when there was lots of rain, and the vertical pile of rubbish would settle, collapsing into the empty pockets, creating a depression in the ground above. He poured two truckloads of clay into the depression, making the ground almost level again. The area he worked on looks better. However, I have a couple of other spots nearby that have been sinking at a slower rate.

Rather than having the contractor come back and fill these smaller areas, I decided to try to fill one myself. I collected grass clippings rather than taking them to the landfill. After I filled my 6′ by 8′ trailer over the course of several months, I figured I had enough materials to do some filling. Plus, I had to do something–the smell was getting quite strong. The grass had liquefied, turning from green to brown to gray to black, producing a smell that is a little like manure only sweeter. Swampier.

I had purchased 15 bags of dirt at Lowe’s last week, so this morning after I had walked the dog, I figured it was time to rev up the lawn tractor and haul the smelly grass bags to the hole, dump them, and spread the dirt on top to keep the smell from reaching the neighbors’ noses.

The project went pretty well. I loaded up the bags of grass, drove to the hole, dumped them, spread them around a bit with a pitchfork, then hopped back on the tractor for another load. During one pass, I had the thought that I could drive the lawn tractor over the decomposing grass pit to pack it down. But it also crossed my mind that it might be dangerous, and I would run the risk of getting stuck.

How did it turn out? I made a number of runs, and then when I emptied the last grass-filled garbage bag into the depression, I did a lap with the tractor and drove down the middle of the pile to flatten it. The fact that I had thought driving the lawn tractor over this quicksand could be risky encouraged me to try it. I never really gave it a second thought.

The back tires were about two feet into the pit when the lawn tractor got stuck. I had figured that the wheels would sink, compressing the grass clippings beneath, but I did not consider that the blade housing would not sink at all. The wheels pressed the grass clippings down about a foot. But, the metal housing for the cutting blades had no where to go. The housing therefore filled with the grass that wasn’t being compacted, preventing the lawn tractor from moving forward. I tried moving ahead. But, I was spinning my wheels. I could go neither forward nor backward.

To free the tractor, I had to get down in the clippings, dig out and unhook the trailer hitch, then scrape out the compacted clippings from under the blade housing. It took about half an hour. I eventually had to push the tractor by hand to free it up. I was lucky I did not damage it in the process. I was one smelly creature because I was laying in the grass pit, digging, up to my shoulder, pulling out fermented grass a handful at a time.

The clothes I was wearing are heading for the garbage. Bringing them inside the house would not be a good idea. I also found that one shower was not enough. My dog, however, seemed to think rolling around in some of the stray lawn clippings was a good idea. She may well have thought my new scent was fine.

I could be wrong, but I think my approach to filling the hole reflects how many males think. If there is an option to choose that seems easy and profitable, we’ll do it. If there is a risk involved, so much the better. We don’t like taking the time to reflect. We go with our gut. We like taking chances. Tried and true is boring. So is taking things one step at a time.

There has been quite a bit of talk and research about male and female leadership styles over the last decade or two. Females are finally making it to the top in many industries. What is the difference in these two styles?

The male style is more individualistic and competitive. Males like to shoot from the hip. They enjoy taking risks. Male leaders see themselves as decision-makers. They see their task not so much as listening to what is going on in the company and collaborating with others, but directing others. Being the boss.

The female leadership style, however, is said to be more thoughtful and nurturing. More transactional or transformational. The role females play involves collaborating with other employees and helping them to do their jobs better. Encouraging them. Taking into account their emotions. Not taking unnecessary risks. There is no way, for example, that my wife would have ever driven the lawn tractor over the smelly grass pit. She would have said the entire enterprise was ill-conceived.

Now that increasing numbers of women are rising to top leadership positions, studies are finding that those who use a female leadership style are getting better results. They seem to care more about their employees, make decisions after having gathered input, avoid taking unnecessary risks, and get to know those who work with them.

Trainers are, by definition, leaders. They are often involved in the decisions about the direction the company will take, and they help employees develop the skills they need in the future. Trainers’ efforts help prevent employees from spinning their wheels. When employees do get stuck, trainers find ways to help them out. If you plan to be a trainer or any kind of leader, what style should you choose?

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