Category Archives: Follow up

6 Business Lessons from My Son Mowing the Lawn

I have a fourteen year old son. I am very proud of him and I love him dearly. But that does not change the fact that he is a teenager and as such is prone to many of the activities and attitudes that come with that age. Like most teenagers he has almost unlimited wants and desires and has almost no money with which to pursue them. On the other hand I have a significant number of activities that need to be done around our house that I am willing to pay him to do. These majority of these activities are called yard work. You would think that with my cash and a need for labor, and his labor and a need for cash we would be able to work out an equitable solution. You would think. The following are a few business lessons I relearned from my son in this situation.

1. Set a deadline for all work to be complete. Make sure there is clarity of when your staff’s deliverables are due. 
    It’s always nice to start the new week with a clean yard, mowed lawn and trimmed bushes. I don’t know why that is the case. Perhaps it is what I learned as a kid. Needless to say though, as I am the nominal boss around my house (with the possible exception of my wife who I refer to as “The Most Powerful Woman in The Universe”) I set the objective for my staff (in this case my son). I thought I was pretty clear on this.

I learned the lesson of setting a hard deadline the hard way. I initially I just told my son that I would pay him at the end of the week to mow the yard once a week. I didn’t think I would need to specify when the week ended and when it began. He came in on Sunday to ask for his wages, and informed me that he would then mow the yard in “the next couple of days”. I informed him that Saturday and Sunday did in fact constitute the “Weekend” and that he would have to have the job complete by then before he was to get paid. He seemed surprised by this stipulation and development.

2. If it needs to get done, do it early. The job will just get more unpleasant the longer you wait to do it. 
    We live in Texas. In case you have not heard, it does in fact get hot here in Texas in the summer. It gets very hot. When my son agreed to mow the yard in return for money I suggested to him that he might want to mow early in the morning when it was only warm, instead of later in the day when it would be hot, or later in the afternoon when it would be approaching blast furnace status.

Mowing the yard early in the morning on a weekend would mean that he would have to get up early in the morning on a weekend. For those of you who do not have teenage children, you would not understand the absurdity of that last statement. Teenagers do not get up early in the morning of their own volition, ever. Weekends especially. This left the hotter part of the day and the blast furnace of the afternoon. To make a long story short, he procrastinated till the later afternoon, when the day was at its hottest (close to or above triple digit temperatures) and was miserable as a result.

3. Make sure your staff knows how to use the tools needed to get the job done. Just because you know how to do it doesn’t mean they know how to do it. 
    I showed my son where the tools were that he would need to do the yard. I was also pretty sure he already knew where the yard was. What more would he need? His objective was to take the tools, apply them to the yard, and then to let me know when his objective was complete. I would then applaud his ingenuity.

By my third trip out to the garage to show him how to start and operate the trimmer, the edger and the lawn mower, I suspected that I might not have set him up for success in his initial attempt at the yard. I had assumed that he had seen me performing the task often enough before that he would know how to do it. Perhaps if he had not been so engrossed in his video games he would have been better prepared, but I digress. It was my responsibility to make sure he knew how use all the tools. I also should have shown him when it was cooler in the garage.

4. We are paid for the job. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to do it. It is the completion of the job that counts. 
    Mowing the yard is not a difficult task. I have done it for years myself before I hit upon the idea of paying my son to do it. It doesn’t take an overly long time to do it. We live in an area where the lots are standard size for a suburban subdivision. It doesn’t take a lot of physical effort. Over time I have acquired all the automated and motorized tools (including a self propelled lawn mower) needed to accomplish the task. In short, I had a reasonable idea of how long it would take and how much effort would be required to get the yard done.

I had not however expected an underly-enthusiastic approach by a fourteen year old teenager (my staff in this instance) who would have much preferred to be inside out of the heat doing something else and just be given the money. By the time all the struggles and complaints were accounted for he took roughly twice as long to do the yard as either of us anticipated. As such he immediately asked for a raise. I reminded him that I was paying him to mow the yard, not paying him by the hour to mow the yard. If he worked at applying himself a little better to where it did not take so much time to mow the yard he would be much happier and realize a better return on his time investment.

5. Set the expectation of the quality of work to be delivered. Standards of performance differ and what may be acceptable to one may not be acceptable to another. 
    When I mow the yard I try to do the best job mowing the yard that I can. I try to take that approach with just about every job I take on, either at the office or in the yard. I like to know that I have not shortchanged myself or anyone else with my effort. Again I thought that since he had seen how the yard looked after I had done the work; my son would understand how I expected the yard to look when he was done.

He finished, came in, asked for his pay and then went upstairs to cool off and play more video games. All was good, or so I thought. Later my wife came in and asked me if there was anything wrong with me. I said no and wondered why she would ask. She said that the yard did not look the way it normally did after I mowed it and wondered if there was something wrong with me when I had been mowing it. It seemed it was time to actually go out and look at my son’s work product.

6. Hold a brief review at the completion of the project. When the project is done understand what went wrong and what went right. There may be differences of opinion. 
    Whenever a project is presented to you as complete, review it, then review it with the person that presented it to you. I had just assumed he would do the yard the way I did the yard. I had not gone outside to look at the yard because it was hot. If I had wanted to get hot I would have mowed the yard myself. When I did go outside I could see that my son’s objective was not to do the yard the way I would do it or to my standards, but rather to get it done to a level where he could in fact claim that it was indeed (mostly) mowed and that he should be paid.

I had neither properly set the expectations for the job, nor immediately reviewed the final project upon completion. I assumed that since he lived in the same house as me he would have the same pride of ownership and in his work product that I had. Needless to say we did go back outside (in the heat) and note the areas that needed to be edged and trimmed, and in some instances actually mowed since the objective was to mow the entire yard, not just the parts that are only visible from the street.

My son will get the opportunity to mow the yard again next week since I expect the grass to continue to grow. I hope he has learned what is expected of him and is aware of the ef
fort that the expectation will entail if he hopes to delight his management. I have relearned that just because I have done it and know what it takes to deliver a high quality work product, that not everyone else will know how to do it just because they have seen me do it. Management always needs to be clear about their expectation, guidelines, training and reviews.

Now if only these ideas would work with my daughter and her driving habits.


I have been Blogging for a couple of years now. It may have taken me a little while to become comfortable with the creation, format and process associated with creating a posting, but I thought I had it down. I was familiar with how to do it…I thought.


The old saying is “Familiarity breeds contempt”. I don’t think that is the case. For me familiarity seemed to breed a confidence in my capabilities that resulted in a lack of attention to detail.


I wrote my last article (“It’s Not “What””) and did all of the appropriate and required steps in the process to make sure it was posted. I then went out to all of the various and assorted sites where I announce a new article and updated them. I thought I had done everything. Why wouldn’t I? It’s what I have been doing for the last 2 years.


The only difference was that I normally go out to my site to make sure the article is posted and that it is accessible. For some reason, I didn’t do that last time. I must have gotten distracted, or something else came up. In any event, I didn’t go look. I didn’t double check the end result / finished product.


If I had, I would have seen that I had not in fact posted my article. I had left it in the “Pending” file. I did a great job of notifying everyone that there was a new article posted for them to read, but didn’t close the loop of actually putting a new article out there for them to read.


In the process of becoming so comfortable, so familiar with the Blogging process I created both my own problem and a topic for my next article.


It is hard not to put things on “autopilot” when we are doing something that we have done many times in the past. When we are doing something we are familiar with, we have a tendency to not give it our entire attention. The end result is that eventually a mistake gets made in an area where it should not normally occur.


I would not have thought to talk about a continued focus on the basics and standard processes, but then I would have thought that I would not have made such a basic mistake as not making sure that I had in fact posted my last article.


I will check to make sure that this one does in fact get appropriately posted.

It Ain’t Over Til…..

All projects, plans and strategies are implemented with the best of intentions. We get started. We pay attention and we follow up. Then something else happens and we have to work on it. Then another thing occurs, and another, and another. In short business happens, and we lose track of that which we were following.


It is easy to assume, or hope, that someone will step up and make sure that nothing gets dropped. You need to remember that the someone responsible for that is you.


We are in a multi-tasking world, but that does not relieve us of the responsibility of finishing what we start. It does not matter how well a product, project or plan is worked if it is not brought to conclusion. It is the end game, the result that is important and what is ultimately measured. Just as new products, projects and programs get started, old ones must be completed.


Bringing something to completion or closure is a way of measuring progress. Everything else is activity. We have a tendency to sometimes confuse activity with progress. I think Yogi Berra was right. It ain’t over till it’s over, and it falls to the leader to make sure that it is in fact done.