Cows and New Gates – The Power of Unspoken Permission
The boss cow has a long line of cows behind her when they head to the barn. The grass wears away and a narrow cow sidewalk hardens under their hooves because they follow the same path year after year.
Cows – like people – are creatures of habit.
Farmers open the gate to let cows in and out of the barn yard. But if you move the gate 10 feet to the left or right, the boss cow stands where the gate used to be. The long line behind her waits.
Farmers literally force boss cows to walk through new gates. But once the leader walks through, the long line begins moving again.
You don’t force every cow through a new gate, just the boss cow.
How leaders give unspoken permission:
Example is permission.
What permissions are you giving with your attitudes, actions, interactions, and expectations?
- Shading the truth is permission for deceit.
- Self-seeking is permission to disadvantage others for personal advantage.
- Pretending to have it all together is permission to manipulate.
- Avoiding tough conversations is permission to focus on meaningless superficiality.
- Defending yourself when you screw up is permission to blame.
- Vulnerability is permission to build fulfilling relationships.
- Seeking the best interest of others is permission to reach high.
- Developing your own skills is permission for people to acknowledge their desire for growth.
- High standards are permission to challenge.
- Compassion is permission to connect.
What if the people around you reflect the unspoken permissions of your example?
When you think of example as permission, what permissions are you giving?
As a leader you are always on stage, it is important to remember nothing said (or not said) or done (or not done) goes unnoticed.
Thanks John. Perhaps this is one reason that being authentic is a real challenge.
Authenticity actually requires a mindset and a focus that understands that “they see and hear everything I do/say”. What unwanted interpretations do my actions and words have? This cow analogy is so strong because we have to think, “cows are so dumb…” and yet, here we are… following or leading the herd. Perhaps, to build on this analogy, one of the “permissions” we need to give is opportunities for others to lead as well.
“Developing your own skills is permission for people to acknowledge their desire for growth.
High standards are permission to challenge. Compassion is permission to connect.” So this grabs my attention because it is how I roll and have rolled for many years. Connection is “easy” when one is working with like-minded, passionate, challenge-seeking people. Those interactions are fulfilling and generally successful and they make the day go by with a smile. Connection is “difficult”, sometimes nonexistent, with those that are not passionate, not interested in working challenges and just seem to be going through the motions. Unfortunately, the difficult connections in my world always are with the “youngins” who just don’t know how or are not interested in being passionate and challenge-seeking. I blame the Dads for bringing up these men and women with no spark. It is so sad. I even ask them, “where’s your passion”, they shrug and say nothing.
What if the people around you reflect the unspoken permissions of your example? Well we would have a perfect world LOL….We could just open gates and they all would follow. (Kidding)
When you think of example as permission, what permissions are you giving? Free range until you crash and burn, surely as leaders we like to believe we align ourselves with capable individuals to do what they do best. When there are issues the cream comes to the top, if not we stir the pot to mix the cream a bit.
I recall a situation in my prior organization where some compliance issues had to be addressed. Some individuals were repeat offenders and being fed up with them, I did not handle the situation in the most leaderful way. I came across far too intense and disrespectful to those whose actions needed correction. Of course, my staff started to treat these individuals in much the same way as I did, causing even more problems. So yes, my example alone gave them permission to hold others in contempt, just as I had. Ouch! Lesson learned!
Dan, I read all your posts, but this one. It really blew me away. I’ll be thinking about it for a while… we have problems in my field (tech research) with abusive weird people (like epstein and joi ito)… luckily folks like weinstein and epstein are being rooted out right now. hopefully the police find their weinstein and epstein.
THANK YOU. Cindy