February 10, 2019

The tiger in your office

Detective Duffy looked through the hole in the wall that he had drilled.
And held his breath in disbelief.

The bed in the apartment had been flipped upside down, and shredded through, as if it were paper.
The wallpaper looked like a cat was sharpening its claws.
A large cat.
A very, very large cat.

In fact, 500 pounds of Bengal tiger.
And all 500 of those pounds cooped up in a tiny apartment in Harlem, New York.

No wonder neighbours had complained for a while about very strange noises coming from those rooms.

It wasn’t surprising that the owner eventually ended up in hospital. Then in jail.
Nor was it surprising that the hospital didn’t buy into his story about “Being bitten by my dog”

Of course, Ming The Tiger had been sooooo cute and cuddly when first taken to this cramped home.
And, somehow, the owner had grown accustomed to Ming’s rapidly growing presence.

Rather like Professor Henry Higgins singing (about Eliza Dolittle) in My Fair Lady “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face”.

Habits in business – and life – are like that.

Little cuddly exceptions and imbalances.
Little impositions on others around us: particularly our ever-forgiving team and our family.
Just this once.
Just this once more.

Far too frequently, I meet those who are trapped and mauled by their habits.

Leaders who think that they’ll serve their team and their family better by being in the office “Just this one more Weekend. This 14 hour day. For this special reason.” 
When what everybody needs them to do is to get out of the office, refresh their thinking and make better decisions.

Perhaps the little half-truths to their teams that “won’t hurt anybody.”

Perhaps, the firms consumed by End-of-Tax-Year manic behaviour.
Which was perfectly acceptable when there were just 40 clients.
But highly questionable when there are 400.

And when asked “Why do you continue to do that?”
They say, in different ways, “Because that’s what we do here.”

Then there are the relationships which float along.
With little new to say, once the busyness of raising children has subsided.

In business, we stop ‘The Rhythm of Habit’ by getting leaders and teams far away from their office.
Preferably in a place whose beauty and tranquillity creates a different kind of thinking.

In our family, Wendy and I have learned to stop ‘The Rhythm of Habit’ by having Date Nights.
Every week.

And by using Sundays to rest and worship and think and read and stroll and talk.
Talk about things that really, deeply matter.
Or talk about things that simply swell our hearts and make us laugh.
As well as spending time with beloved family and friends.

I’ve made many mistakes of judgement in my life.
But I’ve learned to recognise a tiger when I see one.

Somewhere, in each of our offices and homes, there’s a cute, cuddly tiger cub.
You might want to think again, the next time you’re about to feed it.