As frequent readers of my blog and Mega Minutes know, my husband and I live in a house that is managed by two adorable furry felines. And as all good leaders, they often demonstrate valuable lessons in leadership that I can’t resist sharing with all of you 🙂 .
Consider this example about staying focused and managing distractions – when we call the cats, they rarely come. Instead, as my husband says, they “take a message and get back to us later”. You see, our cats have their own agenda and they’re not hurried by external forces (such as us) insisting that they interrupt their day to fit our schedules. So they get back to us … eventually … but at a time that better fits their needs.
Now I write this a little tongue-in-cheek, but it is nevertheless a leadership trait worth bearing in mind. Continue reading →
I have two furry felines in my house and they provide hours of entertainment. As frequent readers of my blog and Mega Minutes know though, they also occasionally offer up lessons in life and leadership. People often say that cats are aloof but I find quite the opposite. My cats are very social animals, perfectly willing to groom each other for hours on end. You might say that it’s because they’re good friends, but I’ve been told by other owners that their cats will groom even mere acquaintances. You see … cats know that with another’s help, they can reach the hard-to-get spots that they couldn’t get to alone.
And therein lies the lesson for successful leadership. As important as it is to be a leader who acts independently in thought, you don’t want it to mean that you should isolate yourself. You need others around you with whom you can build relationships and foster trust. If you invest energy and goodwill into grooming them so that they can look their best, then they’ll do the same for you. And perhaps more importantly, they’ll help you achieve the difficult objectives that you can’t attain on your own. Make it a point to help others be at their best, and you’ll find that the energy is reciprocated.
If you have a furry feline companion in your house, then you know how curious cats are. They investigate every nook and cranny using all their senses – sight, sound, smell, hearing and touch. They squeeze into tiny and seemingly-impossible spaces to explore every inch of their territory. Whether it’s a misplaced toy, an overlooked morsel of food, or just an extra spot to catnap, they prowl for opportunity. They go over old ground repeatedly, each time as if it were new again.
And so should you! You are no doubt an authority in your business or area of expertise, but never lose your sense of inquisitiveness about what you already know so well. Constantly look at your product or service with fresh eyes as if you were exploring it for the very first time. Delve into long-forgotten corners and take on what appears to be unachievable. Always seek out ways to fill your customers’ or internal clients’ shifting needs and look for ways to innovate within and outside your existing constraints and parameters. Monitor what your clients or customers are complaining about as those often represent points of opportunity. Maybe they grumble that it takes too long to get orders filled or perhaps they criticize your warranty process. If you’ve heard complaints about lengthy wait-times or gripes about the lack of acceptable choices, then it may just be time to pay closer attention. No matter what it is, take a second (and a third or fourth) look. Curiosity never killed a cat; in fact, cats thrive on it. And so will you and your business!
Last week, YouTube watchers were horrified to see a chubby middle-aged grey-haired woman stroke a tabby cat on the street, and then after furtively looking around to see if anyone was watching, suddenly grab the animal by the scruff of the neck, throw it into a trash bin, slam the lid closed, and continue on her way. It took another 15 hours for little 4-year old Lola’s owners to find her, and that only when they reviewed the footage from the closed-circuit TV in front of their house. It happens at about the 0:20 mark in the video footage below.
Animal lovers around the world were outraged, and the woman was eventually identified as Mary Bale, a bank worker in Coventry UK. She was initially quoted as saying, “I really don’t see what everyone is getting so excited about – it’s just a cat.” She later apologized to the owners, “this is completely out of character and I certainly did not intend to cause any distress to Lola or her owners.”
Whether or not you believe and accept Mary Bale’s apology, you have to wonder why she acted the way she did. Psychologist Leila Collins suggests, “People who are cruel to animals usually feel a lack of power in their own lives. They may feel helpless, lack authority and want to exercise control over something or someone who cannot retaliate.” Bottom line, the true measure of one’s character is how you behave when others are not watching (or when those around you have less power than you). I have seen far too many people in the workplace who behave one way (better) in front of their superiors and conduct themselves differently (poorly) in front of their peers and subordinates. These people are not leaders. Good leaders treat ALL people (and animals) with respect and professionalism, no matter what their relative status in the organization.
What do you think, both about Mary Bale’s actions, and the parallel to workplace behaviour?
A few days ago, I was trying to develop some material for a new leadership program, but I found myself getting distracted frequently. The phone, incoming email, competing demands and other people kept intruding, and several hours later, I was no further ahead than where I was when I first started. Frustrated, I swung around in my office chair and looked over at the window. And saw one of my cats! For the next 15 minutes, I watched while she stalked a small flying insect with complete concentration. Not even the prospect of play with her furry sister strayed her from her objective. Nothing else existed except the prey she was hunting. Minutes crawled by as she waited for that bug to creep out from under the curtain. She was prepared, she was unswerving, and above all, she demonstrated intense focus. She knew what her priority was, and she was relentless in devoting her energy to her quest. As I contemplated returning to my work, I wondered what could give my cat such enduring single-mindedness, and I realized that I could learn a lesson from my loveable little lioness. My four-legged friend was clear about her goal; she understood what might divert her and could not be persuaded; she applied all her energy to accomplishing her objective. Continue reading →