Why rabbits can’t fly, Ishant Sharma can’t bat and Dr. Manmohan Singh can’t sing?

The questions is as simple as it can get and the answer is as plain, because these are not their areas of expertise, these are the things they are not good at, these are not their strengths, these are not things or work they are supposed to do.

So why am I even writing about it? The reason is, the question which was so simple to answer and seems so common sense is extremely hard to understand and implement when it comes to performance reviews in many corporates across the world.

I recently saw a video from Sue Langley which is also an inspiration behind this post. In the video Sue tells the story of a fish, a frog, an eagle, and a rabbit who go to animal school. Monday is swimming, Tuesday is running, Wednesday is jumping, Thursday is flying, and Friday is performance review day. Each animal is told what it is good at and what it needs to improve.

So rabbit that failed miserably at flying and performed poorly in swimming is told that flying and swimming are his development areas, his weaknesses which he needs to concentrate upon. He is also informed about his relative ranking among the team and the bell curve fitting and since he failed miserably at flying and swimming compared to others he gets a poor ranking.

It demotivates the rabbit, he tries hard at swimming and flying and no matter how hard he try he fails each time and that further demotivates him. Also since all his concentration is on improving these weak areas he loses the focus on his strengths that is running and his performance starts slipping there as well.

Most corporate do the same with its employees. We emphasize improving weaknesses instead of encouraging strengths.

I am not saying that we can ignore weaknesses; we might need to lift them to a certain level but I believe we can get best out of someone if we let them play to their strength.

Imagine expecting Ishant Sharma of the Indian cricket team to score a century in each test that he plays and then when he fails to do so, telling him his development area is batting and then comparing his performance in batting to that with Sachin Tendulkar or Rahul Dravid (barring recent performances) and giving him a poor ranking. Does it even sound fair?

Won’t it be better if we encourage him to bowl better and take more wickets instead of pointing out his weakness in batting?  Definitely we can ask him to lift his batting to a certain level where he can face few deliveries and provide some resistance, but it would be hard and unfair to expect a century from him.

What change I would personally like to see is that organizations start encouraging people to use their strengths to overcome their weaknesses, and to give the employees an environment where they can flourish by allowing them to play to their strengths.

Now why Dr. Manmohan Singh can’t sing is still a mystery or is it?

8 thoughts on “Why rabbits can’t fly, Ishant Sharma can’t bat and Dr. Manmohan Singh can’t sing?

    1. Not always Kaustubh! and what generally happens is by trying to become jack of all, the person becomes jack of none and the one trade he knew as master he becomes jack of it.

      But at times it is ok to be jack of all and master of one. Agreed!

  1. Very well said.
    Its an art to find strengths and also using the strengths to get desired goals. And may be that art can be learnt by keeping weakness on bench.

    1. you are right. it is difficult to find one’s strength let alone using them to get desired goals, but then does it mean we put in more efforts in overcoming weakness rather then concentrating on finding the strengths.

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