Rocks, Squiggly Things, Questions and Growth

Ever since I read the book Good to Great this quote by former Pitney Bowes Executive Fred Purdue has resonated with me…

“My job is to turn over rocks and look at the squiggly things, even if what you see can scare the h_ll out of you.”

My definition of a squiggly thing is this: Anything that is breaking down people, relationships, organizations, processes, systems and/or results.

 When squiggly things challenge my thinking or behavior I’ve:

  • Been tempted to ignore their existence by defending my opportunities instead of listening to someone who is trying to show me something.
  • Struggled between the temptation to run and hide from the situation and the people involved or to argue and judge.

Fred’s quote gave me a powerful reason to begin turning rocks and the more squiggly things I faced the more I began to realize:

  • That if I was so convinced that I knew the truth, I had no reason to fear another perspective.
  • That I would make wiser decisions and create better results when I learned to engage with and listen to the wisdom of others.

“It is impossible for a leader who is not growing and developing to lead a growing and developing enterprise.”  ~Mike Myatt

Today I relish the adventure, the learning’s and the growth that have resulted from those experiences.

Each time I discover a new squiggly thing, and take the time to learn more about it:

  • My brain and creativity are stimulated.
  • My knowledge and understanding grows.
  • The people I work with are more engaged and empowered.
  • And we are all more equipped to create positive change and to help others.

Some of those rock-flipping experiences have generated thoughts and questions like these:  


Our organization needs help generating revenue.

  • This team has the right information and the right people to turn that failing process that is costing the company hundreds of thousands of dollars, into a revenue generating opportunity for the organization.
  • Yes it would be extra work for us, but it could increase the stability of the organization.
  • Our department would no longer be a cost-center.

I wonder if we should volunteer to take it on?


Is that leader making a conscious choice to not see and not care?


Vision drives behavior.

  • Our department is the connection to the career the students came to school for.
  • What if we involved employers in a strategic plan to increase student grades, attendance, retention and completion?

Could we help to create greater results for the students, the employers and the campus?


What’s driving me right now: Is it Fear or Wisdom?

  • When is it wise to choose trust and when is it wiser to pass?

Do the people and organizations involved in this project realize how difficult they are making things for each other and for their customers?

  • How is it that they’ve been given such an important project and none of them knows the vision?
  • Do they realize that they each spend more time defending their turf than creating results?
  • Have they been a part of the system so long that they don’t realize that they have created an energy vacuum that is zapping energy from each of them and the people they engage with instead of generating energy?

People find huge value in this place and it is the opposite of the place they are from.

  • Are they unable to identify the reasons for the difference?
  • Do they believe they can’t create this kind of change where they are?
  • Do they not care enough to be a part of the solution?

Underneath that emotion, I hear pain. I need to ask more questions and listen more intently.

  • How would I feel if I were experiencing their circumstances?
  • What don’t I understand?
  • How are my beliefs impacting my ability to hear them?

When was the last time you turned a rock,

Faced a squiggly thing,

Asked a lot of questions,

…And then changed something about yourself or the organization you lead?

President, Giana Consulting

Chery Gegelman is an adventurer that loves to learn. …Deep conversations, books, travel, and daily living are all food for growth.

As a speaker, facilitator and workshop leader she creates energizing environments that reflect God’s grace, tear down walls, help people to consider new perspectives, and inspire change.

Chery is the Founder of Giana Consulting and Conversation Safari’s, listed as a Great Leadership Speaker by Inc., writes a recognized leadership blog and has co-authored two leadership books.

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3 thoughts on “Rocks, Squiggly Things, Questions and Growth

  1. Excellent post, Chery!

    I love what you say after discovering a squiggly thing:
    My brain and creativity are stimulated.
    My knowledge and understanding grows.
    The people I work with are more engaged and empowered.
    And we are all more equipped to create positive change and to help others.

    In Patrick Lencioni’s book: The 5 Dysfunctions of A Team, he talks about how to achieve Commitment. He suggests that a team gains commitment by making sure no stone is left unturned. That happens when each team member has the opportunity and feels comfortable enough to share their concerns.

    Thanks Chery for another insightful article!

    • Thank you Terri! I love that you referenced Patrick’s work. I gain insights and find myself nodding in agreement all through his books!

      Very cool that he references turning stones too!