Be more ant!

Simon Heath shared this the other day…..

I’d been thinking that same day about this very topic. It was something that came up on my Team Coaching course last year where we agreed that this supposedly soft stuff is really the hard stuff.

I have a hypothesis that, eons ago at the beginning of business time, men realised this stuff was hard – because it requires you to accept feedback, to be introspective and vulnerable, to look into yourself, accept your imperfections and still like yourself, and to embrace the real-world truth that you have opportunities to develop. Whether so confident that they really believed themselves perfect, or so enshrined in imposter syndrome that they feared being found out, these business “leaders” put the people stuff in a box over there.

On that box was written “difficult emotional stuff – denigrate at every opportunity”. At that time of course business was a man’s world. It was very easy for the important, high-earning men to demean this people stuff, point and laugh at it, ridicule it for being soft, pink and fluffy, women’s stuff and all the men would nod and agree and quaff their whiskey.  They agreed this stuff was nothing to do with the hard-nosed business world where we command whole armies of people to do our bidding.

And so the story was told and repeated through the generations until today it’s still believed by the majority of business leaders. Ignore the emotions. Focus on the numbers and the product pathway and the sales funnel and the marketing content – these things which give a lovely illusion of being in control. The things that don’t have emotions, the things that can’t give us feedback or highlight our imperfections. But things which of course need people to make them happen – and so, although filtered through a printed document or a new product line, these are things which carry the indelible hallmarks of those human beings who created them: their emotions, their thoughts – with their work done in a way that reflects how they feel about you as a leader. Great leader – I give my all and then some. Not so great – I do the basics, I don’t offer extras, I get by.

And this then made me think of A Bugs Life. When those little ants realised that the story they’d been told all their lives by the grasshoppers – that they were weak, puny and unimportant – was not true and they realised their collective power – there was no stopping them. The grasshoppers didn’t stand a chance!

One day I believe there’ll be enough people who realise they’ve been spun a yarn. They’ll be talking together and recognising that this supposedly soft stuff is really the hard stuff. They’ll realise that together they outnumber the grasshoppers and they’ll transform the face of business forever. I’m looking forward to that day.

Join in!  Be more ant!

P.S. The conversation’s already started.

[Photo credit : https://www.flickr.com/photos/lorenjavier/3620960103]

One thought on “Be more ant!

  1. I think there has been a conspiracy of sorts Helen. Maybe not of the put it in a box type, but of the creation of relationships that were born from subjugation of sorts like the ants you describe in the movie.

    The distance between many leaders and employees is, finally, closing. More so perhaps than any time in industrial history. Nick Isles excellent 2010 book “The Good Work Guide” sets out a lot of this ahead of the current crop of engaged organisations; who either virtuously or on trend, state they value their people and have gone to great lengths to include them more in the way the organisation works.

    Of course there’s a stubbornly plateaued productivity line to look at “up-ticking’ that just won’t budge, a demanding world of customers who know how to leverage social media platforms to shift the power from provider to provided, and a differentiation to find which perplexes analysts; researchers and marketers in tqual measure yet our customer connecting people are exposed to it throughout their working day.

    So as Simon says (!) it’s the hard stuff. As you say, the macho world isn’t actually likely to succeed anymore and as we head from an old to a new way, deniers, antagonists and demagogues are trying to convince us otherwise.

    Peter Senge called it all out in his book the Fifth Discipline: The Mental Models (you’ve covered); team learning (resulting in the “realisation” conversation you mention above); shared vision (increasingly this is showing up as a good AND profitable organisation); personal mastery (knowing yourself and getting better continuously); systems thinking (unlocking that box you describe and building a natural ebb and flow of human-to-human appreciation and help).

    So I think it’s coming. There’s many of us Ants at it. Hopper better watch out or stay on vacation until his chips run out.

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