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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

You Can't Teach a Pig to Sing

It takes two to speak truth - One to speak, and another to hear. -- Henry David Thoreau

We've all heard the expression "You can't teach a pig to sing." Perhaps you never gave it much thought before, but let's look at one possible interpretation. Pigs are intelligent animals but they lack the fundamental physical attributes that would enable them to sing. They can grunt, squeal, and they excel at sniffing out truffles, but you can't teach 'em to sing, no matter how hard you try.

There's a corollary here for the rest of us. Even if we don't waste time trying to teach pigs to sing, we've all been guilty of expending time and energy in trying to convince someone of the folly of a course of action or the shortcomings of a plan being implemented. Often, we find ourselves working with others (either our bosses or direct reports) who are unable to grasp the inevitable consequences that will result because of their actions.

At times like these we have a choice. In the case of a direct report we can generally circumvent their actions and minimize disruption. When we incorporate some retraining and appropriate follow-up it can be a wonderful opportunity for growth and learning.

When it's the CEO, or the Grand High Exalted Pooh bah who can't see the flaw in his plan, our options are limited, but we can still do damage control with our direct reports and others who are negatively impacted. Even though our "marching orders" may drive us into a raging sea, some careful planning on our part can have lifeboats at the ready, and a course pre-plotted to navigate us out of the storm. Think about it.

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Growth is change.
Change can be uncomfortable.
Grow anyway.
Deborah Avery
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© New York Executive Coaching 2008

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