Finding the hidden "mouse" skills in every team member
It’s too bad everyone isn’t just like us, isn’t it? Wouldn’t the world be a better place?
Of course not.
But our behaviors often suggest that we do hang on to this belief. We are far more likely to recognize the skills and talents of others if those skills and talents are much like ours. Here’s a lesson from Aesop, who I’ve used twice before to help with our lessons. It is the well-known story of The Lion and the Mouse.
A Lion asleep in his lair was waked up by a Mouse running over his face. Losing his temper he seized it with his paw and was about to kill it. The Mouse, terrified, piteously entreated him to spare its life. “Please let me know,” it cried, “and one day I will repay you for your kindness.” The idea of so insignificant a creature ever being able to do anything for him amused the Lion so much that he laughed aloud, and good-humouredly let it go. But the Mouse’s chance came, after all. One day the Lion got entangled in a net which had been spread for game by some hunters, and the Mouse heard and recognized his roars of anger and ran to the spot. Without more ado it set to work to gnaw the ropes with its teeth, and succeeded before long in setting the Lion free. “There!” said the Mouse, “you laughed at me when I promised I would repay you: but now you see, even a Mouse can help a Lion.”
People are often surprised when we accidentally find out about the skills of other people. Like the mouse, these are often hidden and unappreciated, until surfaced and needed. We find the accounts receivable person who is also a great kaizen facilitator, or the call center rep who is a great artist and designer, or the truck driver who is a great salesperson. We’re surprised because we aren’t expecting those hidden skills and talents to be there.
What would it be like if we assumed that everyone had hidden skills and talents that were underutilized? Would we behave differently? I think so. We might see you:
- Ask people about their interests, hobbies, and even skills more regularly
- Be more aggressive about putting people into roles that they might need to stretch into
- Do more cross-training, not just of how to do the task, but of the skills necessary to make it really work
- Surround ourselves with people that are LESS like us, instead of a lot like us, because they bring skills that we don’t necessarily have
What would you do if you lived the belief that everyone had some hidden and underutilized talents, just like the mouse?