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Why Elephants Make Great Managers

Posted August 23rd, 2012 by Carroll King Schuller

In the animal kingdom, elephants show empathy toward other mammals. Despite their obvious size advantage, elephants, especially females, will not knowingly frighten another mammal’s young.

I saw this first-hand when I visited Africa a few years ago. During the trip, we stopped our Jeep near three elephants – a mother, her baby and a young bull. As we watched the family, the bull threw sand on me every now and then. Each time, his mother put her trunk on his rump as if to say “calm down” – which he did. After we had observed these remarkable animals up close for a while, my young nephew started to cry.  When he did, the mother elephant took the bull and her baby and quietly moved them away from us.

Think about it: This elephant didn’t want to scare a small, two-legged mammal who happened to be my nephew.

And yet we live in a hierarchical society that leaves most of us defensive. What makes some managers believe that aggressively challenging employees will result in anything positive? Many managers would not lift a finger if they saw someone “throwing sand” on another employee.

How do you prevent this in your world?

One way is to emulate someone who creates good feelings in others while still managing effectively. It could be a co-worker, a manager or a friend. Or even an elephant.

With a simple touch, the elephant corrected her young bull’s behavior. You can imitate the quiet techniques of successful people around you to improve your own management and workplace skills.

As an experienced career coach, I love to partner with people who are ready to discover ways to act more like an elephant! To ask questions or to make an appointment for a complimentary initial session, call 804.288.0099.