The Sheep Factor

Then they look up at you as if you need the explanation, “I have a dog at home.” I always smile and say, “Ahhh, that explains it.” But I want to scream, “No kidding? Geez, I just thought you were really smelly and hadn’t bathed in awhile!”

You see the sheep factor at play? You don’t have to say what everybody says. You don’t have to do what everybody does. It is not required that you always do what everyone else has done or will eventually do.

Do you think conversions about using metal frame picnic tables and park benches where traditional all-wooden tables and benches stood for years went without challenge? Of course not.

The “purists” fought tooth and nail to keep the rustic look in their parks, but at some point the logic had to seep through. Wood frames and legs do not last as long as coated metal, no matter how they are treated. So when budgets became tight, compromises were made.

There was a push to go to the long-lasting all-metal units. There was a push to stay all-wood and replace as necessary. The solution was that instead of purely metal or purely wood tables and benches, a combination would serve both sides of the issue.

Wooden planks were used for the tops, seats and legs that could be easily replaced when damaged or rotted. Those were bolted to metal frames and legs.

Instead of replacing whole tables, park managers are now simply replacing one plank at a time. Most of the rustic look is still intact but now much more durable.

Finding simple, functional alternatives is the reason for your job. Create and initiate instead of simply following the “always done” path.

Look, I may seem to be foaming at the mouth here, but this stuff is important, folks. You are professionals and with that, a certain responsibility to lead and not always follow is expected.

Stepping “out of the box” should be a way of life, not something you happen to do at budget meetings every fall. Like all habits, a certain way of life will bleed into your professional realm as well, and you owe your staff and peers more than just the standard answers.

Dig a little deeper. Fight the urge to simply follow along. Challenge what others do and say by simply questioning it through that sieve of values you hold dear.

Author and motivational counselor Jim Rohn once wrote, “You must constantly ask yourself these questions: Who am I around? What are they doing to me? What have they got me reading? What have they got me saying? Where do they have me going? What do they have me thinking? And most importantly, what do they have me becoming? Then ask yourself the big question. Is that okay?”

I’m guessing any one of those categories could always use a little upgrade. Such maintenance could only assure the true professional of a continuously evolving approach to management, life and the priorities by which we measure ourselves.

Ronald D. Ciancutti is the purchasing manager for Cleveland Metroparks, a metropolitan park system that encircles Cuyahoga County and includes more than 20,000 acres of natural land, six golf courses, seven nature centers, a variety of special interest facilities and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Ron can be reached at

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