If you throw a frog into a boiling pot of water, the frog will fight for all of his life to get out. If, however, you put the frog into a pot of cold water then gradually increase the heat, the frog will adjust to his environment. Eventually, the warm water will zap him of his strength and when he finally figures that out he is too weak to fight.
Leadership Fable: The Crab
Put a crab in a bucket and he’ll try to get a claw on the edge of the bucket and pull himself out. If you put two crabs in a bucket, however, they will fight against each other. Once one crab has secured a hold on the lip of the bucket, the other crab will pull the first crab back down. Neither crab will escape.
Leadership Fable: The Monkey
Researchers put six monkeys into a cage with a ladder and a bunch of bananas at the top. Each time a monkey began to climb the ladder, all the monkeys were sprayed with cold water. Eventually, the monkeys refused to climb the ladder. One monkey was removed and replaced with another monkey who had never undergone the cold water spray. When the new monkey tried to climb the ladder, the five original monkeys began to beat on him–thus keeping him from climbing the ladder. The original monkeys were conditioned–by the cold water spray–to not climb the ladder. All six original monkeys were eventually replaced by new monkeys that never experienced the cold water spray. Yet, the monkeys would not climb the ladder to get the bananas and would stop those that tried. They didn’t even know why. They were conditioned by the group to a specific response.
Which Leadership Fable Applies to Your Organization?
Employees that are not engaged, or worse, actively disengaged, are like the frog in the pot of water. They lose a sense of purpose. Negative employees that put others down and criticize ideas are like the crabs in the bucket. They make escape for themselves and others impossible. Management that condones a specific behavior by passive acceptance are akin to the monkeys. Poor processes are reinforced and production suffers. They say, “Because we’ve always done it this way,” far too often.
Look deeply within your organization and ask how these fables apply to you.
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