Are you playing to your strength?
I read a book like two years ago but the lessons have not left me. Most of us might have read the book – George Orwell’s Animal Farm – but I would like to share one of the lessons that came to mind again this morning. In case you have not read it, search for the book online or visit your local bookstore. Ensure that you buy a copy for yourself. The lessons therein are worth more than the price of the book. The summary of the book is that a farmer had to retire and the animals took over the management of the farm. The pigs took over the place, the humans were out and the animals were running the show.
The animals employed the best consultants, had the latest technology and a business plan that would have had any venture capital firm drooling to get a slice of the action but the farm failed. Are you surprised? Well, let me recap a typical board room meeting scenario. There twelve pigs around the table resting their trotters on walnuts. The CEO now spoke, “Now turn to the next item on the agenda – Advertising. Will somebody tell me why, after a whole year, we still have not got the sign that advertises the farm fixed to the top of the big tree?”
Head of Marketing shuffles uneasily in his seat, “Sir, the sign has been ready for over a year. I have begged maintenance several times to get it fixed to the tree but they keep coming with excuses. The Head of Operations already has his answer ready and delivers it with resolve. “It is not that we have not tried. But every time we try to get the Turkey to climb the tree with a fixinf line, he falls off. Just last week we got him halfway up but then he got his claws caught in the bark and practically broke his neck. We have had him part-way up that tree everyday for a whole year. ”
Head of Animal Resources and Training chips in. “I have had that Turkey on more tree-climbing courses and seminars than you can imagine. But we believe he just lacks motivation. I hate to say it to a colleague but he just does not seem to have it“. The company secretary – Owl, the only non-trotter in the meeting – decides to speak out: “Sir, forgive my interrupting , but could I say something just this once“. All the eyes turned on him. “If you must,” said the CEO. “Sir, why not send the Squirrel up with the line? Everyone knows Turkey is not good at that.”
The CEO yelled at the secretary, “this board believes in achievement. We are a no-limits organisation. The Turkey will climb that tree. Now get out!“. Owl closed the boardroom quietly behind him and, head hung low, made his way across the farmyard. And the result? The problem never got solved. Most of us are faced with this same scenario now whether you are the CEO of a company or you are the employee. We have had situations where we wanted to do something and people told us that we would never make it in that line. They even tell us that nobody has succeeded doing that before. We are constantly dogged with people who want us to be just like them or in companies, by managers who say, “this is the way we have always done and that is the way you have to do it“. It may even be that our parents have pressurised us to take the career that they themselves would have loved to pursue. The problem is that it is their dream and not ours.
If you have never had the time to consider what your natural strengths are, I bet you this is the best time for you to do. The starting point to playing to your strengths is knowing what they are. What is it that you are good at? What are those things that you can do with little or no supervision? Take out a sheet of paper now and write them down. Just allow them to flow. Write down everything that comes to mind and identify the most important ones to you. Then focus on developing yourself along these strengths. Remember, you may succeed at doing something that you are not really good at but you will succeed faster by playing to your strength.