Available in print "Little Red the Complete Story"
along with discussion on audio cassette (click here
to listen to a chapter), this corporate fairy tale tells the original
"who willhelp me story" and then takes the listener to some surprisingly
new places. With the complete cast of wellknown characters, you will gain
insights into human behavior and team building in the workplaces. Through
aseries of problem solving exercises, the author takes our listener down
the path to a happy ending while offering practical resources and methods
available to all businesses.
Excerpts from the Rough Notes October 2000 article:
Editor's note: The author of this story, Jack Allen, is the chief executive officer of CFR, Inc., in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which was named Rough Notes Marketing Agency of the Year in 1994. Jack has long had an interest in management issues related to employee motivation, and in this "corporate fairy tale" he examines some of those issues by rewriting a familiar children's story. CFR utilizes a personality profiling service, discussed at the end of this article, to help ensure a good fit between agency employees and their work assignments. Jack's interest in human motivation extends to children as well, as he volunteers as a classroom assistant in Tulsa area grade schools, helping boost students' progress by appealing to their individual learning styles.
Many of us remember the fairy tale of the little red hen who seemed to struggle with a feeling that the other animals, specifically the dog, the cat and the duck, never seemed to lend a helping hand. As the story goes, Little Red Hen lived on a farm with her five chicks. On this farm there also lived a dog, a cat and a duck.
One spring day Little Red Hen found some seeds and decided to plant them in the field. She spotted the farm dog sleeping soundly and woke him to ask for his help. His response was "not I." So Red and her five chicks planted the seeds themselves.
When the stalks of wheat had grown tall and were ready to be harvested, Little Red and her five chicks took their cart to the field and begin to harvest. She spotted the cat in the field licking her paws and Little Red Hen's famous "Who will help me" question was now asked of the cat.
The cat responded "not I" to Little Red Hen. But her chicks said, "We will help you harvest the wheat."...
We all remember what happens next. The bread is made, it smells great, the dog, the cat and the duck all agree to help Little Red Hen eat the bread; but she, of course, refuses to share the bread with these guys because the dog didn't help her plant the seeds, the cat didn't help her harvest the wheat, the duck didn't help her unload the flour and none of them helped her bake the bread.
The moral is that it really is not fair to expect a reward if you don't help out with the work. This fairy tale has served as a good story to children all over the world to learn about doing their part and the importance of helping with the workload. It can even provide a good lesson for all of us in the workplace as well.
Have you ever thought that maybe there was more to be learned from this fairy tale? Perhaps if we were able to visit with Little Red Hen, the chicks, the dog, the cat and the duck, we could learn a few more lessons about behavior, relationships, expectations, responsibility, cooperation and understanding the importance of teamwork. We might even get a glimpse of what made the farm seem to work so well in spite of this one incident.
Since this is only a fairy tale, I find no reason that you and I can't just go talk to Little Red Hen, the chicks, the dog, the cat and the duck....
How many times have we failed to identify the talent of those around us because we got caught up in our own agenda? Take a good look at your own company and ask yourself if your employees know what is expected of them in their job. Do they have the necessary tools to do their job and do they love what they are doing? Are they using their unique talents in an organization that celebrates their unique abilities?
What if Little Red got what she asked for?
What if the dog, the cat and the duck in the story of the little red hen had done what Red asked them to do? After all, each was competent to perform the requested task.
Imagine that Little Red, as manager, required the animals to perform the various duties she wanted done on the farm ...
What does Little Red get when she ignores her peoples' talents and discourages them from doing what they love? Let's look at the results in our story when Red gets the behaviors she thought she wanted:
1) She lost a strong and loyal dog and now must spend more time and more money on protecting and planting crops.
2) Rodents are taking over much of the remaining crop since the cat left.
3) Two chicks have been killed.
4) One chick left because she was afraid.
5) The two remaining chicks are overworked and unhappy.
6) The duck is still on the farm because he doesn't have anywhere to go, and Red is probably stuck with him on the payroll because she didn't get rid of him at his six-month evaluation. He retired but didn't tell anyone!
7) Little Red, having lost the backbone of her workforce, is so tired and worried about how to staff the farm that she can't cluck out another egg even though the farm depends on her for new young talent.
8.) The bread still isn't made!
Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman in their book, First, Break All The Rules, say that great managers make the difference in great companies. I am convinced that great managers help employees identify their unique talents, place them in a position to use those talents and provide them with the tools to enhance their skills and knowledge.
When you do what you love to do, you usually do it better than almost anyone and you are energized. Doesn't it make sense to give everyone in your organization this opportunity?
Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, believes, "Your competitive advantage is not in your current knowledge; it is in your ability to create new knowledge and change in the future." We must become learning organizations that ask questions, become aware of our unique culture, take reasonable risks, and drive change. We can create this long-term competitive advantage only if people love what they do, do what they love and constantly learn, grow and communicate with each other.
In our agency we've seen many of these barnyard principles at work. We've had a few "ducks out of water," who have been happily relocated to productive ponds within or outside of our agency.
(1) A CFR commercial account manager who needed to be challenged with "bet-you-can't scenarios" and a highly competitive atmosphere transitioned from a process intensive position to work with a highly successful, competitive producer. This resulted in a win-win for the employee, producer, our clients and the organization.
(2) CFR's financial manager, who needed to avoid the status quo and was frustrated by the redundant tasks within the department, transitioned to operations manager where she thrives on deadline-intense situations, flexibility, and innovation.
A better understanding of people's individual strengths and styles can make for a more productive work force. When people are doing what they naturally do well and are doing it in an environment which encourages them to be themselves, energy levels are higher because they are not struggling to work against their grain. There is less stress and strain for the individual. Employees appreciate the fact that CFR celebrates their individual strengths and does not pressure them to change or conform to a standard.
One way to assess people's strength and styles is by using The Kolbe Concept®. It is based on a simple instrument called the Kolbe A IndexTM, a set of questions with several responses. The results are used to classify a person's instinctive behavior into four Action Modes®. All of us demonstrate some instinctive behavior in each of these four modes. The combination of these behavior forms becomes our individual modus operandi (MO)--the way we instinctively take action.
Understanding that everyone has his/her own unique MO has been beneficial in all areas of the agency. We know who will require more research and facts and who will just need the bottom-line information in order to make decisions and move projects along. We know who will provide structure and organization and who our "hands on" people are. When you understand the individual needs of your employees, managers, producers, and co-workers, you get better results. Delegation becomes an easier task, team building is more successful, and identifying the right fit for positions within the agency is much easier. We are able to set people up to succeed, rather than set them up to fail.