Darren Hardy writes:
… you know I am a fan of the story of the tortoise and the hare and the lesson it teaches about how hardworking, consistent and steady-paced people (or reptiles) will eventually overtake the fast, talented, experienced but complacent people (or mammals). Someone recently shared with me an adaptation of the story that makes a poignant leadership point. It goes like this…
After getting his hare butt kicked by the tortoise so many times, the hare finally wised up and realized it was because he was being overconfident, unfocused and inconsistent (maybe he read The Compound Effect; hey it’s possible!).
Newly enlightened he decided to make some changes and challenged the tortoise to a rematch. The tortoise accepted his challenge.
This time, the hare ran with all his might and didn’t stop, relentlessly and persistently until he crossed the finish line. This time the hare won!
The moral of the story? If you think focus and consistency is amazing when applied to the slow and steady, imagine what’s possible if applied to the fast and talented.
But the story doesn’t end here…
This time, it was the tortoise that did the soul searching and he realized that if the hare didn’t stop, there is no way he could beat him…. unless! He thought.
He decided on a different course and he challenged the hare to another rematch. The newly emboldened hare, of course, agreed.
With the lessons learnt from his previous failure and his new disciplines in mind, the hare kept on running once the race started and didn’t stop until the route led him to the bank of a river. He was taken by surprise and he did not know what to do, since he could not swim. There were no bridges in sight and no one to ask for directions. As he racked his brain, thinking of ways to cross the river, the tortoise strolled slowly along, dived into the river, swam across it and ultimately, finished the race before the hare.
The moral of the story? Know your strengths and take on your competitors in areas of your core competency.
But that’s not the rest of the story…
With the hare and the tortoise spending so much time together racing, they became rather good friends. They also developed a mutual respect for one another as they realized that they are both different and they have different strengths. They decided to race again, but this time, as a team.
As the race started, the hare carried the tortoise and they sped to the riverbank. There, they switched positions and the tortoise ferried the hare across the river. On the opposite bank, the hare again carried the tortoise and they crossed the finishing line together.
They completed the race in a record time that both of them could never achieve if they were to do it alone. They also felt a greater sense of satisfaction than they’d felt earlier.
The moral of the story? It’s good to be individually brilliant and to have strong core competencies but unless you’re able to work in a TEAM and harness each other’s core competencies, you’ll always perform below par because there will always be situations at which you’ll do poorly where someone else does well.
Teamwork is mainly about situational leadership, letting the person with the relevant core competency for a situation take leadership. And being supportive team members is necessary for a team to advance.
There are more lessons on teamwork to be learned from this story…
Note that the hare nor the tortoise gave up after failures. The hare decided to work harder and put in more effort after his failure. The tortoise changed his strategy because he was already working as hard as he could, but was not doing as well as he wished.
Imagine how long it will take the hare to learn how to swim! Or for the tortoise to learn to run fast. In this day and age when the environment changes at lightning speed, we have to learn to work with people who have strengths in areas that we do not.
It is the same in business, if we can collaborate with people who are experts in areas that we are not familiar with, we will realize that our market and opportunities suddenly becomes bigger.