October 2012


As you all know, election day is coming up quickly.  I generally steer clear of political posts because I realize every person has a unique background and life experience that shapes their p0litical perceptions.  Plus there are plenty of political blogs out there and most of them annoy me.   I know that no one is completely wrong and on one is completely right.  I just know that everyone thinks they are completely right (or left).

After each debate, if flipped back and forth between FOX and ABC just to see how different the commentary would be.  It was like there two different debates every night.  Most of you know this, but as a disclaimer my political stance if fiscally conservative and socially moderate.  I have yet to see a viable candidate who mirrors that position. 

I’d like to run a poll to see what you are basing your vote on.  Feel free to comment but please keep it polite.

Olivia lost yet another tooth over the weekend.  I think this makes the fifth one she’s lost and she’s really starting to resemble a jack-o-lantern (or a Waffle House waitress).  You should see her try to eat an apple out of the side of her mouth.  She scrunches up her eyes and contorts her face in manner not unlike a carnivore digging into a carcass on a nature show.

As she always does, she dutifully put the tooth in her little tooth holder next to her bed in anticipation of a visit from the Tooth Fairy.  The next morning she gave me an update on the status of her tooth.

“Well dad, I guess I’ll have to put my tooth out again tonight because the Tooth Fairy forgot to come last night.”

Oops.

I completely forgot.  Fortunately she put her tooth out on a Sunday night.  This gave me the plausible excuse of the Tooth Fairy having Sundays off.  Remarkably she wasn’t upset at all.  She was a little surprised that the Tooth Fairy got a day off, but pretty much shrugged it off.  Now I just have to remember to wait a day if she loses any teeth on a future Sunday because I can be assured that she will remember.

I put her to bed the next night with the tooth next to her thinking I was in the clear when I got this question…

“Didn’t you say the Tooth Fairy had Sunday off?”

“Yes.”

“Well, if the Tooth Fairy comes after midnight, then it was Monday when she didn’t come for my tooth.”

“Go to bed, Olivia.”

She’s only seven and can already out reason me.  I’m in trouble.

I just conducted some training with my company’s leadership team on building high performance teams.  The first topic I covered was the importance of choosing the right people for your team and putting them in roles that maximize their impact.  As I researched the topic of putting people in roles that maximize their impact, I came across the following quote from Albert Einstein:

  “Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Unfortunately, we miss the boat on this one in many workplaces.  Rather than putting the “fish” in a position where it can swim, we try harder to make the fish climb a tree.  We offer it books on tree climbing, send it to a tree climbing seminar, and buy it tree climbing equipment – whatever that may be.  After throwing all of these resources at equipping the fish to climb, we conclude that the fish is an underperformer.

The poor fish feels awful.  It knows what it needs to do, it has been educated on how to do it, and it has tools to make climbing easier, but it still struggles.  Its confidence is shattered.  It starts to believe that it is stupid and this belief is affirmed by a frustrated manager that can’t get what they want out of their associate.  Usually this ends in one of two ways:  either the fish goes on an improvement plan and performs marginally enough to just get by or the fish loses its job.  Either way, we have an unhappy fish and an organization that goes on with an unmet need.

What if the manager took the time to find out what the fish did well and left the tree climbing to the squirrel that is currently working in the swimming department?  I’m taking a little liberty with my example, but this sort of thing happens every day in the workplace – fish are told to climb trees while squirrels are told to swim and both are frustrated because they can’t do their job well.

If you are a manager, you owe it to your team to make sure you have people in the right position to maximize their gifts.  There are few things more rewarding than finding the right job for the right person and just stepping out of the way and letting them work in their element.

But don’t just think of this from a leader’s standpoint.  You may be that fish desperately trying to climb a tree.  This can be very dangerous for talented people who are capable doing numerous things well even if it isn’t what they were made to do.  They can improvise enough to perform at a satisfactory level, so the issue of them being a tree-climbing fish is never really brought to light.  The problem with this is that they will go on being an adequate tree climber when they could have been a masterful swimmer.

Know your giftedness and spend as much time as you possibly can using it. 

So I normally write about something recent in my life then offer some sort of anecdotal moral to the story.  Not this week.  I need your help… desperately.

We hosted a group of young men last week for the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta and it is becoming increasingly obvious that we are going to have our hands full with our four year-old.  For three days leading up to the arrival of our guests, she asked “where’s the boys?”  When they arrived, she started out with modest flirting then moved on to multiple wardrobe changes. 

The morning after our guests’ first night at our home, she woke up at 5:30 in morning, put on a little strappy top and skirt, and woke me up asking “where’s the boys?”  I told her that they were in the basement and to leave them alone because they were still sleeping.  About five seconds later I heard the basement door open and a flirtatious call of “boyyyys, don’t you want to see me?”

She’s four!

I do own a lot of guns, but the intimidation move will only work so long.  And while I have a few good years to instill some disgusting habits, that strategy has its drawbacks.  So… any ideas?

I’m at the Catalyst conference this week so there will be no post today.  Talk to you next week.