We are continuing with the series from David Noonan’s book “Aesop & the CEO and the powerful business/management principles from Aesop’s ancient fables.
As the fable goes:
A rooster was perched on a branch of a very high tree, crowing loudly. His powerful exclamations were heard throughout the forest and caught the attention of a hungry fox who was out and about looking for a prey.
The fox saw how high the bird was positioned and thought of a sly way to bring the rooster down for his meal.
“Excuse me, my dear proud Rooster,” he gently spoke, “Have you not heard of the universal treaty and proclamation of harmony that is now set before all beasts and birds and every creature in our forest. We are no longer to hunt or prey nor ravish one another, but we are to live together in peace, harmony, and love. Do come down, Rooster, and we shall speak more on this matter of such great importance.”
Now, the rooster, who knew that the fox was known for his sly wit, said nothing, but looked out in the distance, as if he were seeing something.
“At what are you looking so intently?” asked the fox.
“I see a pack of wild dogs,” said the rooster, “I do believe they’re coming our way, Mr. Fox.”
“Oh, I must go,” said the fox.
“Please do not go yet, Mr. Fox,” said the rooster, “I was just on my way down. We will wait on the dogs and discuss this new time of peace with all.”
“No, no,” said the fox, “I must go. The dogs have not heard of this treaty of peace yet.”
The moral: The worst liars often get tangled in their own lies.
Management Perspective: According to Noonan, managers are constantly inundated with information, some of it accurate, some of it not. The problem becomes one of deciding what to believe. How do you get your information at work? From whom do you get it? Do you trust your sources? Have they ever been wrong? What do you do when somebody gives you information that you find hard to believe or that strikes you as not entirely accurate?
Below are scenarios where wrong information can be disastrous:
Collin Powell faced this same dilemma when he visited Iran. Oren Harari describes what went through Powell’s mind in “The Leadership Secrets of Collin Powell”. Back in 1978, the army ordered Powell to fly to Tehran, the capital of Iran, to access the stability of the Shah’s regime. American agents were picking up rumors that Muslim fundamentalists, incited by the Ayatollah Khomeni planned to oust the Shah. The rumor seemed far-fetched. How could an elderly man living in exile in Paris orchestrate a government overthrow thousands of miles away?
The Shah greeted Powell warmly and made him the guest of honor at several large banquets. Powell attended military parades and air shows where the armed forces proudly displayed state of the art weaponry and aircraft. The Shah assured Powell that the regime was in control and that the general population supported him. If anyone tried to overthrow him, he told Powell, his crack troops, called the “Immortals” would fight to the death for him.
Powell listened to the Shah and the Iranian military leaders but didn’t quite believe them. A voice inside told him something was wasn’t quite right. Powell personally witnessed numerous street skirmishes between police and the fundamentalist groups. Obviously, the Shah wasn’t in complete control. Worse, a U.S. Air Force captained stationed in Tehran told Powell that the Iranian troops were far from battle ready.
Troubled by the conflicting accounts he heard, Powell left Iran unsure of what to believe. Three months later, he learned his instincts were right when fundamentalists took over the country, toppled the Peacock Throne, and sent the Shah into exile. Powell explained, “All our investment came to naught. When the Shah fell, our Iran policy fell with him. “All the billions we had spent there only exacerbated conditions”.
The second example is what happens in organizations where decision makers (Group/divisional heads or even CEOs) encourage people who provide information on activities and individuals. The challenge with this is, people at times provide inaccurate information or even wrong information to be in the good books of the boss. They destroy career of others in the process, organizations lose good and effective employees. Whenever politics is recognized and rewarded as against competence, information is manipulated and exaggerated to benefit from such rewards.
According to Seyi Wright in his book “Choose to Make a Difference” the challenge with the PHD (pull him/her down) syndrome is that; to pull people down you also must come down during the process. From a management perspective going down may not be immediate it could happen in future. Playing politics may take you as far as the boss in question is relevant. The moment there is a change and a new boss demands performance, people who play politics; like the fox run away because there is a hound on the way that demands honesty, integrity and performance.
Like General Powell, listen to your inner mind when it comes to business as well. “The effective leader looks hard at the evidence that’s being presented by the people under his or her command and runs a gut check says Hararri. Effective leaders must ask themselves:
Do I believe what I’m hearing?
Is what I’m hearing relevant to performance?
Is what I’m hearing work related or personality related?
If personality related, does it question the integrity of the person involved?
Do I have a means of double checking or cross checking the information provided? Like the Rooster, what can I use to verify the information?
A leader must be able to distinguish between tell-tale information and information that impacts the organization (positively or negatively) and take necessary action. If an organization keeps losing good employees it is obviously a matter of time before it also goes down.
Business Moral: Trust your instincts and don’t believe everything you hear
Noonan, David. Aesop & the CEO: Powerful Business Insights from Aesop’s Ancient Fables. Nelson Books
Wright, Seyi. Choose to Make a Difference