Leadership: Remember the Frog and the Scorpion

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I have worked as a team leader for 4 different companies and been a upline in network marketing with organizations with members in the thousands. Thus I have had the opportunity to see all types of people.

What I have found is that you cannot change anyone, you can lead them and help them bring out their potential. But if someone has some innate characteristics, there is nothing you can do to change that.

For example, in my current position I have a gentleman named Miquel who was struggling. He made sales, but nowhere near what was expected. He went through the same training, so what was the problem?

Management wanted to terminate this guy. I asked to work with him for awhile and see if I could help him. Managements response was that he was on my team and nothing seemed to be working. What difference could I make now?

They allowed me some time to work with Miquel. The first thing I did was take him aside and have a private meeting with him. I could see the horror on his face. He thought I was going to fire him. Instead, I asked him what his goals were with this company. Did he see himself as a “lifer” He said he did. He liked this job and wanted to succeed. Then he went on to explain that he was having an issue with some of the strategies and in particular the verbage I was teaching as well as some of the sales training. He found it uncomfortable.

Also I asked him why he never participated in our group sessions when we discussed book, cd and video training assignments. He acknowledged a little sheepishly that he didn’t read the books, listen to the cd’s or watch the dvd videos. He told me he had disdain for the sales trainers that I recommended and honestly didn’t think it would work.  He thought these trainers whose books were rampant in book stores and had websites, sold courses were just charlatans.

I pointed to people like Angelo, a young man also of Spanish descent like Miquel who started off rather humbly and went on to make rapid progress. He was using the material I recommended. I also pointed to myself and indicated that I used the sales and management training espoused by the sales trainer I recommended. I rose from nothing to doing $100,000 in monthly sales and became a team leader. I smiled and said, “It works. But only if you use it.”

I told him that I wanted to work with me provided he would work with me. He was relieved. I thought I called him in to fire him. First, he had to listen to the CDs, watch the DVDs and do the exercises. He already had good product knowledge. He erroneously felt that was all he needed. He agreed to work but was a like reluctant.

So I worked with him and suggested he paraphrase some of the things I taught. He participated in group training sessions. I could tell he was USING the training. We worked over the scripts together. Role played. It was obvious where he was struggling.  We made some changes that he was comfortable with. He did PDR Practed, Drilled and Rehearsed with me and others in training and on his own time. His sales went from under $10,000 a month to over $40,000. He was thrilled and so was management. My superiors wanted to know what I did differently. I simply told them that you can’t change anyone, you can only bring out what is inside. Miquel wanted to improve. He just needed someone to show him how to do it and moreover, show that someone cared.

By direct contrast, I worked as a team leader and with a guy who we will call Sondro. This guy was similar to Miquel. He seemed like a nice guy, sharp, good looking guy and very friendly. He was also struggling and was on managements hit list. I tried to work with this guy, he wouldn’t listen and in another regard, he was trying to get my job. I was on his radar screen and he telegraphed it.

Sondro went on to became a problem employee. He would take unauthorized breaks. He wouldn’t do what I suggested to him instead he was a maverick doing things his way which wasn’t working.

Still I wanted to help this guyl. He had a family and obligations and appeared to have potential. So I kept giving him more opportunities and he agreed to follow my advice and give it a shot, but never did. Instead, he would go back to management and say negative things about me that of course were not true. This guy was the classic scorpion.

One day, after along dialing session around 11am Sondro told me he was going out to buy a hot dog. I looked at my watch and told him that it wasn’t break time and lunch was 2 hours away. He said it was ok, management gave him authorization.

Management came by and asked me where Sondro was. I said he went for a hot dog and was told management approved it. Such was not the case. When Sondro returned, he was hussled to the HR dept office and was promptly terminated. Finally the scoropions tactics had backfired.

Unfortunately, Sondro told management that I approved that he could leave. Of course that was a lie. Sondro the scorpion was trying to sting me. Unlike Miquel, Sondro had certain personality characteristics that were let’s say evil. Nothing I could do or say would change Sondro. Unlike Miquel, he didn’t want help. He wanted to get a position he didn’t deserve by any means necessary. And he wanted to do things his way along with taking excessive breaks. Also like Miquel initially, he Sondro was struggling. I recommend the same books, CDs, DVDs that I recommended to Miquel. Unlike Miquel, Sondro did not change anything. He thought he was already a polished salesperson. A know it all. And he also raved about the fact that he had a house that was completely paid off and that somehow put him at a higher level than anyone else.

When you are green you are growing and when you are ripe you are rotten.”

I first heard this statement over 40 years ago. It is very true. If you think you know it all, you are ripe, unteachable and doomed to failure. When you continue to train, educate yourself and study sales skills you are ripe and continue to grow. Think about it. Imagine a athlete who stops training. Says. “I’m in shape. Don’t need to train anymore.”  How fast will this guy decline? Instantly and permanently unless changes are made. But here is the key factor: A person can only change if they want to and believe they can. If they were brewed like Sondro, think they are doing good enough and know it all, dismiss sales, motivation and personal development training, they are lost.  They are scorpions who never change, never grow and never achieve any meaningful success.

Now on to the story of the frog and the scorpion. I first heard this story told by the late, great Jim Rohn way back in 1987. This was my first run with Herbalife and we all gathered in at the Embassy Suites Hotel Ballroom in Altamonte Springs, FL to listen to Mr. Rohn. Later, along with 30 associates, I had the opportunity to have dinner with Mr. Rohn.

For those not familiar with Jim Rohn, he has been and still is the mentor to tens of thousands of business people. His most famous student is Anthony Robbins who also worked for Jim Rohn. Probably 75% of what Robbins teaches is what he picked up from Jim Rohn. Anyway here is the story of the frog and the scorpion as Jim Rohn told it:

One morning a frog was about to cross over a pond to the other side of the lake. Standing several feet away is a scorpion. The scorpion seeing that the frog is about to swim across the lake shouts;

“Hey Mr. Frog. Can I ask you for a favor?”

The frog looks over, nervously and knows full well that scorpions are the enemy of frogs and responds;

“What could you possibly want with me?”

The Scorpion responds;

“I see you are about to cross over the lake. I too would like to get over to the other side but as you probably know, scorpions can’t swim. Would you be so kind as to allow me to hop on your back and I could cross over with you?”

The frog just laughs and says;

“Are you crazy? Everybody knows that scorpions sting frogs. If I let you on my back, you will sting me and I’ll die?”

The scorpion responds;

“No Mr. Frog. You are not thinking with your little frog brain. If I sting you, yes you will die but then so will I. Why would I do that?”

The frog thinks and says,

“Yeah that makes sense. Scorpions are ruthless but that would be stupid. Ok. Come on over and hop on my back. I’ll carry you with me.”

So the scorpion jumps on the frogs back while the frog swims across the lake. The scorpion is making conversation with the frog and the frog is impressed at what a nice guy this scorpion is. He then apologizes to the scorpion for being so rude to him.

But then as soon as they get half way across the pond, the scorpion stings the frog! The frog is amazed. He can’t believe it.

“Why did you do that to me. I’m going to die but so are you.”

‘Because Mr. Frog, I am a scorpion and scorpions sting frogs. That will never change.”

So the lesson as it applies to leadership is that you can bring out someone’s potential, but you cannot change their inner personalities, unless of course they want to change. Work with people who deserve it, not those who need it. And beware of scorpions and people like Sondro.

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