Last week while I was moving cattle, I had a calf try to crawl through the feed bunk into a neighboring pen. I adjusted my angle to the calf and encouraged him back to the rest of his herd mates. Part way through the interaction, my cowboy became aware of the situation and starting barking orders at me and “loving Pete”. I chose to ignore him as I had the situation completely under control.
My favorite blonde cowgirl happened to be along that day and later asked me why I just quietly continued to move the calf instead of responding to my cowboy’s criticism. I summed it up in three words, “Pick your battles”.
She looked pretty perplexed with my response so I decided that it was a good time to share a well learned life lesson. I asked her, “Megan, did the calf respond appropriately and do what I asked him to do?” As she nodded her head affirmatively, I pointed out that the goal was accomplished so there was no point in creating drama with my crew.
There are many kinds of leadership – passive, active, verbal, and non-verbal. In regards to cattle handling, I choose to lead by example. Cattle move best in situations where the handler maintains mental composure. As the lead handler in this situation, it was in the calf’s best interest for me to continue to interact calmly. I know my cowboy well (we have worked closely together for 20 years), so I also recognized that ignoring him while completing the task correctly was the best choice.
Sometimes it isn’t about who is right –
It is about completing the job well and doing the best thing for the animal.
Over the last two decades, the words pick your battles have circled through my head tens of thousands of times. Whether it is interacting with my own crew or sitting in a meeting with other folks involved in raising beef, I think that one of the most important lessons is learning when to speak up and when to bite my tongue. I discovered a long time ago that life isn’t about pride and personal affirmation; it’s about doing the right thing to create positive improvement.
- I am anal about cattle care.
- I am passionate about always trying to be better tomorrow than I am today.
- I stubbornly stick to my values even when the right thing isn’t the easy thing.
But, I have come to understand that meaningful change occurs when my idea becomes someone else’s idea. Sometimes the best way to make that happen is to let my actions speak and keep my words where they belong – inside of my mouth…
Megan got awfully quiet at the end of our conversation, and I could tell that she was looking at the situation with my cowboy from a different perspective. Perhaps the next time someone “yanks her chain” and she starts to fight back, she will stop and remember the art of picking your battles 🙂