Hello from the farm!
Each season we employ 65-75 staff to take care of the maze, fun park, orchards, farm market, bakery, and winery. Inevitably, we end up with rookies.
A rookie is a worker who is new to the job and often new to the workforce. Maple Lawn Farms has always been the local ‘first job’ for high schoolers, and that accelerated as Maize Quest grew its need for staff, so we end up each season with a bunch of rookies.
It can be tempting to pick on the ‘new kids.’ Maybe you had that experience when you were new to a school, sports team, college, or workplace. Titles such as ‘low man on the totem pole,’ ‘noob,’ ‘wet behind the ears,’ and plenty of others of varying degrees of appropriateness welcome rookies to the job.
However, this weekend I watched and listened as our rookies were training and helping guests for the first time. After some initial frustration that things weren’t happening fast enough, I paused and realized that it is good to view life as a rookie.
Here’s why you, too, should be a rookie:
When you are new, you see with fresh eyes. It is human nature to get tired of things we routinely do. Your brain is merely being efficient when it creates a habit that saves time and energy. This habit-forming tendency blinds us to the good and the bad things in our workday.
There’s an idea of the “Comfortable Weed.” This weed grows in the sidewalk slowly over time, and we become blind to its existence because we are ‘comfortable’ with it. Rookies are not comfortable the metaphorical ‘weed,’ or process or placement of trashcans, etc. They see the farm and fun park with fresh eyes.
You can ask dumb questions. Rookies, especially during training, seem to ask ‘dumb’ questions. In addition to viewing things with fresh eyes, they have no Institutional Knowledge. Institutional Knowledge is the group of things known by the collective team, such as processes, location of tools, location of stock items, etc.
More than once, we’ve had someone new ask, “Why are the brooms all the way in the front of the building?” or some similar statement and the answer is: “That’s where the broom rack is.” The dumb question uncovered the inefficiency of storing the brooms farm away from where the brooms are needed!
Learning is the real adventure. I like to approach life as a rookie. You get bored when you know it all, and being a know-it-all irritates the people around you. The real adventure is learning and experimenting!
This year, we’ve had to experiment in all sorts of new ways to conduct our business. Not every experiment is a winner, but you never know until you try. Trying to know-it-all shuts off the creative energy flow needed to move things forward.
Each year someone asks me, “How do you deal working with all these teenagers?” Quite frankly, I love it. Our teen workers are rookies in every sense of the word, many at their very first job. Many perceive the rookie mentality as incompetence. Teens have a terrible reputation for work ethic, but we view teens as a blank slate.
Our job is to teach them what to do, how to do it, and how hard to work. If teens have never had the opportunity to work, how could they possibly know what to do!
Stop trying to know it all. Get out there in work, in sports, in teaching, in parenting, and be a rookie this week. I promise your outlook on the world will improve as you view things through fresh eyes. Be willing to ask a few ‘dumb’ questions and, most importantly, keep moving forward with your life-long learning adventure.
See you soon on the farm,