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As I work with business owners and leaders from all walks, I hear the proclamation that they want to grow their business or organization. The next thing out of their mouths is usually the question, “How do I do it?” This seems like a logical question that has certainly come out of my own mouth over the years. However, recently I’ve started to think that maybe this isn’t the right question to be asking after all. Maybe the question isn’t “How”, but rather “Who is the right person to grow my business?” or “Am I the right person to grow my business?” These are tough questions to swallow. After all, hasn’t this business grown on the back of your hard work? Shouldn’t you be the one to take the business to the next step?

I’m not suggesting that we should necessarily sell our businesses or a stake in them for the sake of growth. Rather, I’m inviting you to take a look at your unique set of gifts and talents as a leader and determine who else you need on your team. What is the best path to grow your business, and who should be in front of your team to make that happen?
As you consider how your own strengths and capabilities will fit into the equation of getting the results you want, I present a fable called “The Animal School” by school superintendent George Reavis. Written in 1940, it is now in the public domain.

Once upon a time, the animals decided that they should do something meaningful to meet the problems of the new world, so they organized a school.

They adopted an activity curriculum of running, climbing, swimming and flying. To make it easier to administer, all of the animals took all of the subjects.

The duck was excellent at swimming. In fact, he was better than his instructor. However, he made only passing marks in flying and was very poor at running. Since he was so slow in running, he had to drop his swimming class and do extra running. This caused his webbed feet to become badly worn, meaning that he dropped to an average mark in swimming. Fortunately, “average” was acceptable, therefore nobody worried about it except the duck.

The rabbit started at the top of the class in running, but developed a nervous twitch in his leg muscles because he had so much makeup work to do in swimming.

The squirrel was excellent in climbing, but he encountered constant frustration in flying class because his teacher insisted that he start from the ground up instead of from the treetop down. He developed cramps from overexertion, so he ended up with a C in climbing and a D in running.

The eagle was a real problem student and was severely disciplined for being a non-conformist. In climbing class, he beat all of the others to the top, but insisted on using his own way of getting there!

Before beginning the next important project or growth initiative in your work, consider the following:

  • The nature of the work that will need to be done
  • The types of “animals” needed for a successful project
  • The type of “animal” you are and how you fit into the work
Jeff Harmon

Jeff Harmon is the president of Brilliance Within Coaching & Consulting which specializes in developing servant leaders while helping them translate their strategies into actionable plans that drive business results. Jeff is the author of “The Anatomy of a Principled Leader.” Jeff has been developing leaders for nearly 20 years and has led the execution of over 100,000 hours of business strategy for information technology, financial services and non-profit organizations.

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