I have many wonderful memories of living and working on our 60-acre farm at Malaga, Ohio. Dad always said he bought that farm to keep his three boys busy. And busy he did keep us. He had us putting up hay, hoeing long rows of corn, and tending to a variety of livestock. Many of my early lessons about life were realized there.
However, we didn't always have the necessary equipment full-time farmers had. By the time I was 10, Dad finally bought a used John Deere tractor. It was so old that we had to start it with a crank in the front. This maneuver scared me because once the tractor started, you had to quickly pull it out or you faced a whirling weapon close to your face. Like most farm boys, I learned to drive on that old John Deere. Years later, this tractor almost killed Dad and Jack when Dad tipped it over. Luckily, nobody was hurt in the accident and the tractor only received a dent on its nose.
One important piece of equipment we needed was a manure spreader. Each morning and evening during milking time, one or both of the cows relieved themselves while locked in the stanchion. Using a shovel, we slid the manure down the trough and out a door in the back. In the spring after the pile had grown to about seven feet high, we hooked a trailer to the tractor, backed it up to the pile, and loaded it by pitch forks.
Dad drove the tractor while Joe and I standing in the trailer each pierced a forkful of manure and shook it over the trailer's edge to disperse it somewhat evenly. If you had the misfortune to perform this task on a windy day, a powerful gust tended to blow some of the unwanted material back into your face - not a pleasant experience. A quick bath was required after each such event. We undressed in the barn and soaked our soiled clothes in a tub of water.
Eventually, Dad also bought a used manure spreader. The new equipment allowed the job to be done faster with none of the extremely unpleasant outcomes of our previous process. I remember the day we purchased the manure spreader as being a joyful one for my brothers and me.
In most organizations, there are, tough, tedious, nasty, or dangerous jobs that still have to be done. Technology and the proper equipment can make these jobs less unpleasant or safer. Leaders need to seek ways to make all jobs more satisfying or they will have to deal with high turnover during good economic times. If improving the task is not possible, the least desirable job should be rotated among all employees. Leaders who take their turn in this rotation can gain a great deal of respect from all employees by doing so.
R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray's new book, "Tons of Stone above my head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons," visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.