First a quote: “If you want to understand how a lion hunts, don’t go to the zoo. Go to the jungle.” – Jim Stengel, former Global Marketing Manager, Proctor & Gamble
I hope you’re not too disappointed. If you were hoping to learn how a lion hunts this morning, I’m afraid I don’t have much to offer you. I do, however, like Jim Stengel’s quote. I submit there are valuable leadership lessons within that quote from a variety of perspectives.
If as leaders, we are leading a company that has customers, then truly understanding how those customers choose, and use, our products and services is of major importance. Simply watching our customers at the point of sale or talking to them on a sales call is like watching how a lion hunts within a cage at the zoo. Helpful perhaps, but does nothing to help us learn how they hunt in the jungle; which is obviously very different. We must go into our customers’ environments to see what they see, do what they do, and feel what they might feel.
Understanding how to lead our employees is much the same. While taking engagement surveys, and the like, may yield helpful information, it is not nearly as insightful as spending time in their plants, offices and/or stores. We must experience their challenges, feel their stress points, or at a minimum, see their worlds from the inside out. Spending a day in the life of your associates may be a wonderfully insightful investment of time.
I have come to believe one of leadership’s primary responsibilities is to help our teams and associates remove barriers and break down walls. To do that well, we must see those barriers and walls firsthand.
We also can’t inspire our teams or ignite passion around our organizational goals without first doing the hard work of identifying values, purpose, vision, and a reason for being that goes beyond monetary profits alone. None of this is easy. All of it is worthwhile.
If we’re going to lead people through a jungle, we must know what it is truly like to live, work or sell in the jungle. Spending a couple of hours in the zoo may be nice but you won’t learn much about life in the jungle without going to the jungle.
How will you live, or lead, differently or better this coming week?
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”
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- “Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.” – Unknown
- “We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know.” – Carl Rogers
- “We must understand before we judge.” – Unknown
- “You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself.” – John Steinbeck