Swimming with the Sharks
My wife gave me a greeting card last year that I
keep on the bulletin board above my desk. It reads: "Whether
you think you can, or think you can't, you're right."
The author of this brilliant bit of insight is none other
than Henry Ford, and his advice is priceless.
Looking at the card helps me keep the sharks at bay. You
know the ones, the nasty little beasties that tell me I'm
not good enough or smart enough or strong enough to go the
I've fed these sharks my whole life, chumming the waters
with negative self-talk, self-deprecation and a reluctance
to put myself in uncomfortable situations like public speaking,
meeting new people and leading meetings.
It's taken most of my adult life to put the sharks in
their proper place. Even now, I still get my fingers nipped
if I'm not careful. But I've discovered that most of the
things that I've been so afraid of really aren't so bad.
I've also learned that everyone else has a few sharks
swimming in their subconscious. You can see the shark fins
at work in the form of employees who are reluctant to take
on new tasks, fail to meet deadlines, don't play well with
others and the like.
Sometimes these sharks nibble around the edges of employees'
self-esteem, doing little damage. Others take big bites
out of an organization's competitiveness, hindering quality
programs, customer service, teamwork, communication and
such. Managers, who themselves sometimes have great whites
swimming in their heads, often spend more time feeding their
employees' sharks than they do promoting the organization's
goals and objectives.
When I was a kid growing up in Florida, sharks were something
to be feared. They were routinely caught and killed for
no other reason than ignorance and fear. I spent many years
trying to kill my sharks, too. It took me some time to realize
that sharks can serve a useful purpose. They keep me on
edge and keep me from becoming too self-confident and, hopefully,
It took me even longer to realize I needed to respect
everyone else's sharks. It's been an especially valuable
lesson as a husband, father and manager. It's helped me
to look beyond an attitude or attendance problem to the
underlying root cause. And even though I don't always know
what shark is causing the problem, just knowing it's there
reminds me to give the other person the benefit of the doubt.
How many instances of workplace violence, employee termination
and work-related stress could be eliminated if more managers
recognized their employees' sharks? How much happier would
employees be with their managers if they understood that
their managers have sharks too?
Dive in and tell me what you think. Have you wrestled
with sharks too, or am I all wet? E-mail me at email@example.com.