Another Attempt at Raising Chickens

Another Attempt at Raising Chickens

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I received one hen and four 5-week-old chicks.  We put them in the run (which has been secured to keep the chickens from flying out), and the chicks immediately escaped the run through the chain link fence.  As we ran around the field trying to get the chicks back, I really considered giving up on this whole chicken mama thing.  But with some patience, we were able to get all the chicks and the hen back in the coop.  Then I added chicken wire to the chain link fencing.  

It has been fun to actually see chickens living in my coop.

As my husband pointed out, this (1 day) is the longest any chicken has resided in my coop or run.  Once they get settled in, we will add some more laying chickens and a rooster for safekeeping.  According to my chicken coach, the one remaining chicken who hangs out with my neighbor’s horses and goats may return once she hears the cackle of the rooster. 
 
I’ve really tried not to repeat any of the mistakes I made last time, so that I can finally enjoy having chickens and fresh eggs.  And it has been helpful to review the advice from readers of my earlier posts, read more chicken books and seek out additional knowledge.  While success with the chickens isn’t life or death for me, it is something that I would really like to accomplish.
 
Similarly, I know that many business owners would like to be successful in the ever-changing world of COVID —except in this case, it is life or death.  Businesses are struggling to keep their employees safe and protect the customers while continuing to operate and be profitable.  Many companies, especially manufacturers, have had to start and stop production when they have had COVID cases within the workforce.  One local company has had to stop shipping product for at least one day every two weeks for the past two months.  That is a lot of lost revenue and increased labor costs.  
 
In order to stay on top of all the changes, businesses need to anticipate issues and take proactive steps in order to avoid shutdowns, production delays and customer shortages.  But it is hard to be proactive when you feel you can’t do anything but react.  If the leadership team is clear on the direction of the organization and the path to get there, though, they can prioritize the issues and take steps to resolve them. 
 
If you feel that your organization has become more reactive and less proactive, you can take steps now to regain control. It may feel like you don’t have time, but if you don’t do something different, the reactive cycle will continue to repeat.    
 
The great news is that I can introduce you to some tools that can help you put yourself back in the driver’s seat.  Let’s talk today and I’ll help you regain control over your business.

The Big Chicken Experiment

The Big Chicken Experiment

I saw my former chicken yesterday. She was hanging out with my neighbor’s goats and horses. Seeing her made me reminisce about the times when she would come lay eggs in my beautiful chicken coop. Oh, those were the good ol’ days. 
 
So, those of you who are wondering – it’s true, I have no chickens left. Of the five I started out with, only one is still alive and she has left me for greener pastures. I haven’t found a single egg in any of my nesting boxes since late July. I have no idea what happened, but I went from getting 11 eggs in one week to getting none.

Where did I go wrong?

A question I’ve asked myself frequently over the past five months. I think what happened is that I was so caught up in building my coop that I failed to consider some important details that would have made things much easier and more fruitful. 
 
One of those important details is that chickens can fly, and if you don’t want them to leave, you have to either clip their wings or make it so they can’t fly the coop.
 
I guess you could say that my first try at being a chicken mama was a failure. 
 
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and have decided I need a chicken coach. Think about it: athletes have coaches, business owners have coaches, why shouldn’t an aspiring chicken mama have a coach?
 
Most people are afraid to admit that they need an outside perspective in order to achieve their goals. While many will eventually reach their goals, working with a coach helps achieve those goals faster.
 
That is one of the things I enjoy about working with my clients. I help them reach their goals faster. Whether your goal is to grow your business, work less, make more money, or have more fun at work – I can help you. 
 
You can’t coach yourself from within. Or, in my case, you can’t coach yourself from inside the chicken coop. 
 
If you are trying to reach your business or personal goals, I’d love to help you reach them faster and maybe have a little fun along the way. 
 
I’m ready to achieve my chicken goals. Are you ready to achieve your goals? 
 
If so, let’s find some time to connect. 

Are Your Employees Free Range?

Are Your Employees Free Range?

For the past few weeks, l’ve been writing about employee engagement. Although employee engagement has been on the rise for the past few years, 35% engagement isn’t a number that we should consider success. My last article described a company that judged productivity in terms of availability. While that may make sense for some companies, I’d urge you to find a more compelling measurement for yours.

Not surprisingly, this conversation brought me back to my chickens. Yes, I still have chickens — but I’m not sure how many. As you may recall, after spending the month of April building a beautiful coop for them, we inherited five chickens from a friend. On day one, I learned that chickens can fly much better than I realized. They flew the coop.

They are now free to range wherever they want and will occasionally come back to the coop for food or to lay an egg. I have learned that the Easter egg hunt was born out of the need to find where the hens had chosen to lay their eggs, outside of the established nesting box or boxes.

So, what do chickens and eggs have to do with employee engagement? Read on, my fellow readers.

The purpose of my having chickens is for eggs. Of course, it would be easier for me if I made them stay in their enclosure all day. I’d be able to harvest all my eggs and ensure the hens were safe from predators. However, the eggs wouldn’t be as healthy as when the chickens are free-range.

So there’s a trade-off. If I want them to be free-range, I have to give up control over them. I worry about their safety, and I don’t get to collect all the eggs they are laying. But they forage for berries, bugs, and who knows what else, which produces healthier eggs for me to enjoy.

Giving up control over how our employees do their work can be uncomfortable. But it also gives them the freedom to explore and grow, and they may produce a higher-quality product.

I was listening to a podcast that referenced “The Impact Filter” (Dan Sullivan, The Strategic Coach). This filter provides managers with a tool that outlines an idea, project, or goal and provides the structure to be clear on the purpose, importance, and outcomes before delegating the work to another person. If both parties are clear on those items, the manager is able to delegate the project, and the employee can find the best way to get it done. But if the manager hasn’t done the work up front, he may feel the need to micromanage, or Monday-morning quarterback, neither of which will result in an empowered employee.

So, I challenge you to be clear on what you want your employees to accomplish and let them be free to create the desired outcome. This will lead to engaged and empowered employees.

If you find yourself unsure of how to empower your employees, I can teach you a proven process that will allow you to get the most out of your business.

Is Boring Beautiful?

Is Boring Beautiful?

If you have ever been to Hawaii, you know that everyone (at least those of us on vacation) makes time to watch the sunset. As the sun begins falling, people start making their way to the beach. During our honeymoon over 15 year ago, my husband and I witnessed people blowing into conch shells in honor of the sunset.  

A few years ago, I read that the most beautiful things in life are boring. I remember being very disturbed by that comment. But, upon further reflection, I have to concede it is true. Think about what you consider beautiful in life: a sunset, the mountains, friendships, or even a healthy marriage.

Our lives have been completely transformed since Covid-19. I have spent less time traveling, less time with friends, and a whole lot more time at home. I asked my husband when the shelter-in-place started if we would still like each other when this was over. After mulling it over for a few hours, he said yes. (I’m still curious why it took him so long to answer?!)

For most of us, life (pre-Covid) was full of activities and busyness: work, sports, friends, meetings. But I wonder to what end? Were we running from something? Are we afraid of what we might find when we slow down? Think about it: how many of those activities seem to have lost their importance now that we can’t participate in them?

Whatever the answer, we have been forced to slow down and face a slower daily pace.

I believe this has allowed us to find a new rhythm to life. And without all the distractions, we can now find the beauty in it. Yes, most of us have had to face some challenges, including adjusting to work from home, home/remote learning, or even the loss of our jobs or shuttered businesses. But those things don’t stop the rhythm of life. They simply alter it.

The same can be said for our businesses. A successful business settles into a rhythm that produces a consistent outcome on a daily basis. There is nothing exciting about cars rolling off an assembly line, properties being bought or sold, or metal being poured (although I have to say that for me, watching metal being poured never gets boring). The point is that successful companies have figured out how to produce their product in a consistent way. This approach may be contrary to our society’s habits, as we tend to value the output, and not the discipline behind the output.

The same principle applies to successful people. They have figured out what needs to happen on a consistent basis in order to reach their goals. In his book The War of Art, author Steven Pressfield writes that “we have a right only to our labor, not the fruits of our labor.” We just need to show up and do the work. Since the work is different for everyone and every business, you need to identify what your work is, and then do it consistently, every day.      

If you find that your business or personnel aren’t creating the output you desire, I’d love to help you. Together we can instill a rhythm into your daily practices and put you on the path to creating something beautiful.

The Reward for Pushing Beyond Your “Perceived” Limits

The Reward for Pushing Beyond Your “Perceived” Limits

A few weeks ago, I was lamenting that our plans to climb South Sister in July were cancelled. This is the first summer in six years that l’m not training for some adventure. I’ve completed Hood to Coast and Cycle Oregon, climbed Mt. St. Helens and trained for the Camino Frances. But, due to COVID-19, I found myself adventure-free this summer. I’m sure this fact was on my mind when I was scrolling through Facebook and saw that a good friend of mine was competing in a local “virtual” triathlon. Without hesitation, I agreed to do it with her.  Of course, the fact that I hadn’t swum in over 10 years, biked in nearly two years, or run in six months seemed to have escaped my memory. (I do think the adult libation I was enjoying at the time might have been partly responsible.)

The next morning I realized the foolishness of my idea. I did commit to my friend, but there was another reason I didn’t back out. At the recommendation of another friend and colleague, I started reading Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. While this book has amazing application to business and leadership, the chapter about checking your ego and trying something you might fail at really resonated with me. I know intellectually that in order to reach my full potential, I have to go beyond my comfort zone. But applying this truth in my life isn’t something I embrace at the frequency that I should.  

So, I dug out my running shoes, dusted off my bike, and headed down to the lake with a few butterflies in my stomach. 

It felt so great to swim in the open water. The biking was great until the rain started. But we persevered and finished with a wet 3-mile run.

In the end, I was rewarded by meeting some great people, talking shop with another business owner, and pushing my body in a way I hadn’t done in quite some time.

Trying something at which you might fail doesn’t just apply to sports.  It is also necessary to see growth in your business, your career path or your relationships with others.  In a recent engagement with a mid-market company, the CEO realized that a key employee wasn’t performing at the level required in order to ensure successful implementation of the company’s turnaround plan.  His initial response was to ignore the problem.  But, as the Board pointed out, this approach had gotten the company into the current situation.  So, now, he had to make a choice: fire her, redeploy her or invest in her development.  He chose to invest in the employee and brought me in to coach the key employee.  The end result was a more engaged employee, $125,000 in annualized profitability increase and praise from the Board.  

Another client was in the process of assuming control of the company from her father.  The transition plan had been agreed to by all parties, but when it came to implement the plan, her father refused to follow the plan.  Imagine the stress, on both sides. If this wasn’t handled appropriately, the end result could be the degradation of the father/daughter relationship and instability in the company resulting in reduced business valuation.  I coached the daughter on how to address the situation, encouraging her to find the third solution, that elusive solution that we often overlook.  As we talked, she realized that while the transition plan was solid, her tactics needed to be modified.  She changed her stance, softened her approach and her father responded.  The transition was completed, the company was strengthened and the father/daughter relationship was preserved.

If you find that you are stagnating in business or personally, it may be time to push yourself. This means searching for solutions which don’t initially seem apparent, trying ideas that may seem unreachable or being open to feedback from previously unwelcome sources.  If you aren’t sure where to start, let’s connect.  One thing I’ve learned from my years in sports and business is that accountability is the driving force behind reaching one’s full potential.  

United Together with a Flock Block

United Together with a Flock Block

As you probably know, I inherited five chickens last month, two hens and three chicks. It wasn’t long before they all successfully flew the coop. Since then they have been hanging out together, free-range. But about a week ago, I noticed that they weren’t all together all the time. I’d see four together, sometimes three, and occasionally the Chicken Cam would find one all alone in the run. I wondered why. 

Now, as someone with three sisters, I totally understand that there will be disagreements among women. If you add to that the stress of suddenly being free-range in a new area, perhaps a little tension has developed among “the girls?” I don’t really know if chickens have factions or cliques, but I was advised that I needed a flock block – a cube of grain and supplements that gives the chickens something else to pick at besides each other. 

It is entirely possible that there is some drama brewing in the clan. But the reality is that there is strength in numbers, and it would be in the chickens’ best interest to find a way to coexist.

And in case you’re wondering where I’m going with this: the chickens aren’t the only ones who’d benefit. 

When our “shelter in place” started in March, I found most people scared for their heath, worried about the economy, and concerned for our future. In April, I set a goal to help as many people as possible. This focus allowed me to connect with others on a deeper level, which I will say was one of the “silver linings” of this COVID experience. 

Since then, though, the death of George Floyd and the surrounding protests have highlighted a division in our country. The great news is that the ills of our society are coming to light, but truthfully, we can’t get to the other side without dialogue. In order for us to emerge as a stronger country, we need to listen and hear what everyone is saying, and together we need to work toward a solution. 

I am challenging myself to hear, to be open to better understanding what is wrong with our society, and to be part of the solution. I believe that is what humanity is all about.

At the risk of being corny, I think we can learn from the chickens who need a common “flock block” that they can pick at together.  However, we can do much better than chickens.  We can choose to come together to work towards a better society and a better world.  Collectively, we can create a better future together.  

Fearing or Forging the Path Forward?

Fearing or Forging the Path Forward?

I finished my chicken coop and have just a few details to wrap up before I bring the chickens home to roost (I’ve been waiting my whole life to say that). But surprisingly, behind these details has been some fear, almost paralyzing enough to keep me from finishing the job. Can I handle the added responsibility of caring for chickens? How will my daily routine change? What if I do something that causes a chicken to die?   

I spoke with a good friend who’s a chicken owner, and she reassured me that the benefits of owning chickens far outweigh my fears. Yes, I will have to adapt my daily routine. And chickens do die – sometimes of natural causes. But, in the end, the experience is a lot of fun! 

I wonder how many of us are facing this same kind of fear right now. Fear of not knowing what our post-COVID life might look like. Fear about keeping our families safe. Fear about the future of our businesses.  

I’ve spent time reflecting on some of my fears. And I’ve learned that nothing worthwhile is ever accomplished without some fear and uncertainty.  Have you ever been through an event that caused you to change, either by choice or by circumstance? Did this event bring about a worthwhile outcome?

The Chinese word for change is made up of two symbols – Danger and Opportunity. If we know that our current reality is going to change, then we have a choice to look ahead with a positive mindset. And given the choice, I choose to see this uncertain future as an opportunity for growth.

There are countless examples of how people and businesses are adapting to this new world – distilleries making hand sanitizer, Ford making ventilators, Subway delivering groceries. There are many opportunities for you and your business to pivot toward a new reality. In order to do that, you need to adjust your mindset to see beyond where you are and focus on where you could be.  

If you are struggling to find where you fit in this uncertain future, please reach out to me. Together we can get you and your mindset focused on a future full of opportunity. 

April Showers Bring May Growth

April Showers Bring May Growth

As April comes to a close, I thought I’d share some of what I have learned in the course of the month. This month was so long, it seems I should have a lot of wisdom to impart. But, what I do know is what I have learned this month has allowed me to grow into a stronger version of myself.

  1. We always have an opportunity to develop new skills, whether it’s how to conduct a webinar or how to build a chicken coop.  
  2. Disciplined daily habits are the key to success.  
  3. Teachers are a critical part of our society. They have a skill set that I believe every parent has learned to value. 
  4. The greatest gift of humanity we can give is looking beyond ourselves and caring for people around us. This is especially true when we are struggling internally.
  5. I truly value the connections I have with other individuals. Finding new ways to connect has been challenging but rewarding.
  6. I’m so thankful for the people who have continued to work with the public even during this time. This includes the gas attendants, grocery store workers, nurses, doctors, delivery drivers and all other essential business workers.  
  7. Hearing a different perspective can help me grow and expand.  
  8. The best solution to a problem may end up being your third solution. Don’t give up when you get the first idea – keep brainstorming until you get two more. You may be surprised at how much better your final solution will be if you keep working through a few more options. 
  9. Take time to enjoy every moment. Joy comes from embracing the small things – not just celebrating the big ones.
  10. Don’t let fear hold you back. There are lots of great opportunities waiting if you give yourself permission to fail.

The great news is that the chicken coop is done. I just need to build in some protection for my chickens and then bring them to their new home!

A Lesson on Resilience from a Puppy

A Lesson on Resilience from a Puppy

As you may know, I am in the process of building a chicken coop. This is one of my two goals during the April quarantine. The other goal is to help as many people as possible which has been progressing as well.
 
When I’m out in my woodworking shop, the dogs are typically with me. I have two red fox Labradors: a 6-year-old and an 11-month-old.
 
JacX, our 11-month-old, likes to find things to chew on. Yesterday, it was a piece of scrap wood, which I took away from her. A few minutes later, she found a piece of Styrofoam to chew. I asked her to come and she brought it over to me and without hesitation dropped it in my hand.  After that, she came from the yard with a stick, which she lay down on the patio to chew. I again asked her to bring it to me and I put it out of reach. I then gave her a rawhide and she headed off to chew that. 
 
I think we can take a lesson from JacX. A lot of us have been confined to our houses. First the shops closed, then the restaurants, and now even the parks are closed. Each time, we had to make a choice to find something else to do with our time. The replacement activities may not be our first choice, but we can look at this as an opportunity to find something new to experience. 
 
Our lives will go back to some sort of “normal” eventually. But right now, we need to use this time to develop new skills, explore new interests, or embrace those around us.
 
And if all else fails, we can curl up in the sun and take a nap.