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23 Apr 2012

Toxic Soil Analogy: Good Ideas Planted on Bad Relationships

Imagine soil so toxic that nothing will grow. No matter how good our seeds, our farming techniques and the weather are; nothing will grow. The same thing happens when we try to promote great ideas with bad relationships: they fail.

Bad relationships often twart the best ideas.

We often think wrongly that logic, reason and education can solve bad relationships.

That’s why relationships are more important than vision, culture more important than strategy. Vision and strategy can’t grow in bad relationships. This analogy also frames leadership as an affect influencing the hearts and minds of members, requiring the ability to tap both aspects of an interpersonal relationship: emotional and rational.

While this analogy’s point seems obvious, we are biased toward reason; thus, when problems arise, we tend to believe presenting new ideas, educating on the facts or reasoning better will solve them. That they will overcome or worse, solve bad relationships.

It’s not unusual for me to have to restate this analogy several times in order to get people to focus on plans containing tip to improve relationships or to manage conflict. In other words, our tendency is to just find better seeds, use better farming techniques or hope for better weather rather than address the soil.

This happens because no matter how good our ideas are, people will tend to decide that they’re bad if they don’t like or trust us. Our facts won’t change things either because people tend to believe perceptions over facts. People will naturally find reasons to discount our logic and facts with bad relationships.

When we combine all of this with the fact that a diverse workforce improves business, there is great stress on traditional management styles typically unsuited to nurturing the right positive feelings that can dramatically improve performance. By framing problems with this analogy, I increase my success in introducing relational solutions, which are often seen as too “fuzzy” or “soft.” Perhaps it will help you too.


7 Responses

  1. wow. synchronicity again. I have a BAD HABIT of stubbornly trying to grow on stony soil.

    my new vision needs to include cooperative relationships in my career choices. I had arrived at this sure conclusion just YESTERDAY and here you have written exactly this.

    home run, Mike

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  3. Because I garden, the toxic soil analogy really makes sense to me. But sometimes there is soil that cannot be fixed. It’s been nuked and the toxicity has a 3 billion year half life. Sometimes you have to move to a new field to grow your ideas.

    1. Mike Lehr

      You’re certainly right about that, Kathryn. You do need to determine when it’s time to move onward. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it.

    1. Mike Lehr

      You’re right, Matt. Sometimes the soil you must work with isn’t worth it, and it does depend on the type of plants you plant. I appreciate you stopping by for a visit and comment. Enjoy your day! ~Mike

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