Monday, December 31, 2012

Strength Management

Strength Management

           As we enter a New Year it is often a good idea to review the way we manage our business, our staff, our teams as well as ourselves.   In doing so it may be a good idea to take an inventory of the strengths within each of those entities.   We are all born with a certain set of talents.  Talents that often are referred to as strengths.   Some of us are simply better at some things than others.  Our personalities as well as physical attributes play specific roles in developing those talents.

          Recently, I was privileged, as a few of you, to listen to an excellent presentation by Chris Keating, District Sales Manager with Toro Company.  Some of the following material came, with permission, from his presentation.   This information is provided as food for thought and to help you begin thinking about the strengths you have and those of your company.
Let the Rabbits Run
           Imagine there is a meadow.  In that meadow there is a duck, a fish, an eagle, an owl, a squirrel and a rabbit.  They decide they want to have a school so they can be smart, just like people. With the help of some grown-up animals, they come up with a curriculum they believe will make a well-rounded animal:  running, swimming, tree climbing, jumping, and flying.
          On the first day of school, little br’er rabbit combed his  ears and went hopping off to his running class.There he was a star.  He ran to the top of the hill and back as fast as he could go, and oh, did it feel good.  He said to himself, “I can’t believe it.  At school, I get to do what I do best.”  
The instructor said, “Rabbit, you really have talent for running.  You have great muscles in you rear legs. With some training, you will get more out of each hop.” The rabbit said, “I love school.  I get to do what I like to do and get to learn to do it better.”
           The next class was swimming.  When the rabbit smelled  the chlorine, he said, “Wait, wait!  Rabbits don’t like to swim.”  The instructor said, “Well, you may not like it now, but five years from now you’ll know it was a good thing for you.
            In the tree-climbing class, a tree trunk was set at a 30º angle so that all the animals had a chance to succeed.  The little rabbit tried so hard he hurt his leg.
            In jumping class the rabbit got along just fine; in flying class he had a problem.  So the teacher gave him a psychological test and discovered he belonged In remedial flying. In remedial flying class, the rabbit has to practice jumping off a cliff.  They told him if he’d just work hard enough he could succeed.  
           The next morning he went to swimming class and the instructor said, “Today we jump into the water.”  “Wait, wait.  I talked to my parents about swimming.  They didn’t learn to swim.  We don’t like to get wet. I’d like to drop this course.”  The instructor said, “You can’t drop it.” “The drop-and-add period is over.  At this point you have a choice: either you jump in or you flunk.” The rabbit jumped in.  He panicked!  He went down once.  He went down twice.  Bubbles came up.  The instructor saw he was drowning and pulled him out.  The other animals had never seen anything quite as funny as this wet rabbit who looked more like a rat without a tail.  So, they chirped and jumped and barked and laughed at the rabbit.  The rabbit was more humiliated than he had ever been in his life.  He wanted desperately to get out of class that day.  He was glad when it was over.
             He thought that he would head home, and his parents would understand and help him.  When he arrived, he said to his parents, “I don’t like school.  I just want to be free.” “If the rabbits are going to get ahead, you have to get a diploma.” The rabbit said, “I don’t want a diploma.” The parents said, “You are going to get a diploma whether you like it or not.” They argued and finally the parents made the rabbit go to bed.  In the morning the rabbit headed off to school with a slow hop.  Then he remembered that the principal had said that any time he had a problem to remember that the counselor’s door is always open.  
              When he arrived at school, he hopped up in the chair by the counselor and said, “I don’t like school.” And the counselor said, “Mmmm, tell me about it.” So the rabbit did.  
             The counselor said, “Rabbit, I hear you.  I hear you saying that you don’t like school because you don’t like swimming.  I think I have diagnosed that correctly.” “Rabbit, I’ll tell you what we’ll do.  You’re doing just fine in running.  I don’t know why you need to work on running.  What you need to work on is swimming.  I’ll arrange it so you don’t have to go to running anymore and you can take two periods of swimming.”  When the rabbit heard that, he just threw-up!  
       As the rabbit hopped out of the counselor’s office, he looked up and saw an old friend, Wise Old Owl, who cocked his head and said, “Br’er rabbit, life doesn’t have to be that way.  We could have schools and businesses where people are allowed to concentrate on what they do well.”
Br’er rabbit was inspired.  He thought that when he graduated he could start up a business where the rabbits would do nothing but run, the squirrels could just climb trees, and the fish could just swim.  As he disappeared into the meadow, he sighed softly, “Oh, what a great place that would be.” 

             So how does this reflect on your company, staff, or personal life?    Are you a rabbit or a fish?  No this question has nothing to do with characters from Chinese Zodiac but with your strengths or those of your business.    When we can focus on our strengths instead of our weaknesses we can develop successful and lives which translate into successful, efficient businesses.  The moral of this story is that everyone needs to be in the place they belong and using their talents or strengths efficiently to be successful.  Rabbits don't swim and fish can't run!

            Unfortunately, many of us spend a lot of time trying focus on our weaknesses and those of our teams instead of letting the “rabbits run” and the “fish swim” we spend excessive time trying to cross-train everyone.   “Trying to succeed in an area in which you are weak will lead to a negative self-concept.  When we focus on a weakness, it takes on a life of its own, and begins to smother our strengths.”   This low self-esteem, whether it is with individuals on our teams or within ourselves leads to low morale within the entire organization and spreads like wild fire.  Having the wrong people in positions they really aren't talented for is never effective.  Low morale within an organization is not productive and results in higher cost of doing business and often failure.

       As you make your New Year’s resolutions be sure to stop and look at your personal strengths, those of your staff members, as well as those of your company.  Where can you focus your energy and be most productive?  If you have a small company it may mean out sourcing or sub-contracting those tasks that you are weak in.  If you have a larger company it could mean restructuring the organization so that the right people are doing what they do best.    And yes it could mean encouraging individuals that have strengths that don't fit your organization to move on to positions where their strengths can be used more effectively.

For more information contact your local Cooperative Extension Center and ask for the Commercial Horticulture Agent.