Which Are You, the Ant or the Grasshopper?
Do you live with the Pain of Regret or the Pain of Discipline?
As I work with people around the world I find that their execution is driven by two key factors- their communication style and whether they are more comfortable living with the pain of regret or the pain of discipline.
Do you remember that old story about the ant and the grasshopper? The ant works all year gathering food (pain of discipline) while the grasshopper mocks him and plays instead. When winter comes and the grasshopper is starved he comes to the ant for help (pain of regret). The ant chose to be disciplined while the grasshopper preferred to live in the here and now and worry about tomorrow when tomorrow came.
In a corporation this causes great problems with how people lead, present, and negotiate. Yet most companies have no idea of how to “motivate” their employees from one side to the next.
If you have read Thomas Friedman’s book The World is Flat you can see how many countries such as China and India are promoting the pain of discipline and are moving ahead in the game. As the world gets flatter the pain of discipline becomes a crucial element in corporations.
So how do you know which side you are on? There is one simple acid test that will tell you which world you dwell in.
If you are surprised by problems that crop up or you give excuses when problems crop up, you prefer to live with the pain of regret.
If you plan for contingencies, execute those plans, AND put consequences for those that don’t follow the plan, than you prefer to live with the pain of discipline.
To be an effective leader you HAVE to live with the pain of discipline. You need to be the one that moves your troops and force them to prepare and plan for things they don’t even know exist right now. In this way, just like the ant you are never surprised by a hard cold winter of slow sales or changing economy.
Which are you the ant or the grasshopper?