Some people are like clouds. When they go away, it’s a brighter day. — Anonymous
I have to start this with a disclaimer. I am not a hateful person. I was raised better. So here goes my confession — I hate squirrels. I hate them with a passion. I have on occasions questioned God as to the reason for their miserable existence. But, I digress.
You see, one of my great joys is birding. I have somewhat of a bird sanctuary in my backyard at home. I love the beauty and majesty of the many birds that visit the feeders every day. They are beautiful creatures and it brings me a great deal of satisfaction to feed them and to create space for them in my yard.
But, I hate squirrels.
I hate having to chase them away from the feeders. I hate having the “experts” in the specialty stores recommend buying their guaranteed product that will keep them away. They don’t. Squir-rels are a nuisance of the highest order.
Hang around in leadership long enough and you will run into squirrelly characters. Over the years, I’ve come across plenty. Who are these squirrelly characters you have to contend with in leadership? In what ways are they like the menacing squirrel? Here are a few examples.
They are self-serving
At times in your organization, you will run across people who are self-serving. They make deci-sions based entirely on what’s good for them. Typically, these people have hidden agendas that over time become not so hidden. Then one day you have that aha moment and you realize that everything that they have been doing has only had one benefactor — themselves. Like the squir-rel, they take what they want and leave the rest with no thought to the consequences.
They stick together and sow discord
Negative people tend to attract negative people in the same way positive people attract positive people. It’s one of the reasons why attitude is so important. Left unchecked, this pact of negative influencers can grow like cancer and pull everyone down. This is not to say every organization has this pact within it, but most have at least one. And so long as there is one sympathetic ear then there’s the potential for disruptions in the morale of your organization.
They are indecisive — until they aren’t
Have you ever seen a squirrel try and cross the road? They zig-zag back and forth in either direc-tion until they finally dart across the road before they meet their demise. Sometimes in your or-ganization, you will run across those squirrelly and indecisive leaders who can’t seem to make up their mind. Their ability to lead is hindered by the obvious fact that they don’t know where they are going or why. This, of course, only frustrates the dynamic of the organization due to a lack of leadership skills which makes everyone else want to pull their hair out.
They destroy to get what they want
Over the years, I’ve had more than one bird feeder destroyed by squirrels. It’s just what they do to get to the seed. In every good, efficient, and profitable organization there are a group of dedi-cated and committed people who have the buy-in and determination to bring their vision to life and succeed. And then there are those squirrelly people who are only in it for themselves and what’s good for them. And unfortunately, they will cause more harm than good until they are dealt with.
Sometimes when I see squirrels in my yard, I call for my dog, Shakespeare, and it’s fun to watch him charge through the door with all of the energy his 7-pound Morkie body can muster. The chase is on! But it ends almost as quickly as it begins — the squirrels win again!
But in real life, it’s not as easy, and it’s certainly not amusing. As a leader, you will be surround-ed by people who bring you joy and delight like the birds. They are pleasant to be around and are good team players.
And then you have a few squirrels.
Next week, I will devote this space to how we deal with those squirrelly people and help you see your path forward. Until next week, keep feeding the birds.