Thoughts on Being Accountable from Shanon Sims
Shanon Sims ranches with his family in McFadden, Wyoming. I’ve long admired their operation for pushing the limits of what is possible. They are leaders in grazing, and leaders in running a family ranching business. I’ve also come to know Shanon as a gifted instructor. He is passionate about helping others, humble, and a lifelong learner. All qualities that make him perfect for becoming a Ranching for Profit Instructor. Shanon and his wife Melinda (a fully qualified RFP instructor before Shanon was) will be team teaching the Ranching for Profit School in Kennewick, WA this September and many more to come in the future.
As many of you already know, I’ve recently accepted a new challenge: becoming a Ranching for Profit instructor. What an exciting and fulfilling opportunity, but, WOW, what a challenge! I’ve been told I’m a gifted speaker and bring great energy when I’m in front of a room. Ranching for Profit is not, however, a Junior Livestock Sale, a tour group, or a producer group breakout session. There is way more to teaching than just presenting and I’m learning how to do that on the fly. Remember in the RFP school when the instructor told us that learning to use the tools was a lot like learning to drive? Yep. I’m grinding a lot of gears. Lucky for me I’ve got Dallas Mount or John Locke in the back to clean up my mess.
At the Billings RFP school I got to teach “A New Paradigm,” where we compare our new, shifted paradigms, to the neighbors’ old accepted paradigms. We’ve recently had some pushback on the neighbor aspect and as I picked up the marker, I had a lightbulb moment. I’d use “that” neighbor. Small adjustment, not a big deal, right? Did I mention that Dallas was in the back of the room? Yep. I changed a piece of the curriculum in front of the owner of RMC without discussing it with him first. As that realization hit me, coupled with the anxiety of learning to teach, a little bit of adrenaline leaked out into my bloodstream. I moved into the new paradigm, my wits a little less than 100%. Immediately I managed to confuse stocking rate with stock density, which propelled me into full fight or flight mode (mostly flight). Realizing that I wasn’t going to salvage that piece without looking like a fool I pressed on, ignoring the problem entirely and leaving a couple of blank spaces in my wake. As I moved through the next nine paradigms, I got my feet under me and even had a little fun! I wrapped up, thinking I’d faked it well enough to save face and Dallas could clean up my mess, then I heard a voice from the back of the room. “What about those two blanks?” I probably can’t use the language that went through my head here, so I’ll paraphrase. “Well darn. Somebody noticed. And pointed it out. How nice. Bless him.” That one question left me with one option, and I resigned myself to my fate; admit I’d screwed up, that they were paying good money for an inept instructor from a town that doesn’t even have its own zip code.
So, I admitted I screwed up and explained what I should’ve done. Silence. I moved forward with the discussion, realizing that these guys were extremely forgiving but still expecting at least a few rotten tomatoes to come my direction. Still nothing. I finally got the courage to look up and found everybody catching up in their green books. Not a single raised eyebrow, let alone scowl!
What would’ve happened if that one guy hadn’t held me accountable? If we had just gone on and left the blank spaces? The class probably already had a better understanding (obviously) of stocking rate vs. stock density than I did. There’d have been essentially nothing lost for them. That’s not even the point of the exercise. But I would still be operating under the paradigm that I have to perfectly deliver information, information that I have a perfect understanding of, to be an effective RFP instructor. I would probably continue to let small mistakes hinder my ability to convey information and ask great questions, struggling to stay afloat in a pool of unreasonable expectations of my own making. When that individual held me accountable to my responsibility, I alone was the beneficiary.
How often do we do this in our businesses? In our own lives? When things get uncomfortable, we just push on to the next item? Something easier and more familiar. Something we know we can accomplish. Nobody in the room is asking “what about those blank spaces” so it is easy to forget the hard stuff or sweep it under the rug. If we’re lucky we may even have healthy, productive businesses/ lives but, how great will our businesses/lives be if we share our goals, our mission, our vision, our values with people we trust, let them see the blank spaces, and let them hold us accountable? Can that help us to unlock our full potential?