Yesterday morning, I was outside, enjoying the sunshine whilst on a coaching call. I had perched myself atop one of the low retaining walls when suddenly, I felt a sharp, stabbing pain in my big toe. I looked down to see a black ant with a distinctive green ‘bum’. No wonder my toe hurt! I’d been bitten by a green ant.
Although I had discovered the culprit for my now-burning toe, I had to take responsibility for the fact that I had planted my foot on or near a nest. When I looked closer, scurrying around my nemesis were her fellow sisters. Although it was unintentional, I had invaded her territory and she was only doing what a green ant does, defending her colony against predators and protecting her territory.
I had no right to get ‘ant-si’.
I have always found ants to be amazing creatures. Sometimes I’ll only see one ant, perhaps scouting out food or some way of getting into my kitchen! On other occasions I’ll see a line of them carrying food, presumably back to their nests. To this day I’m amazed at how easily they seem to carry pieces of food which are enormous in comparison to their size.
Also, thanks to the ants, we always know when it’s going to rain. In what I suspect is an attempt to keep the water out, our resident ants will build a mound up to 15cm high around the mouth of their nests. When the mounds appear, the rain isn’t far behind.
When I take a look at these remarkable creatures, I am reminded of the valuable lessons we, who sometimes overly value our individuality and independence, can learn when we band together with others to work for the common good of all.
1. Lead others to achieve a common goal
Ants are the very definition of social. In fact, ants cannot and do not survive as individuals. They know instinctively that they are a part of a whole. In fact, the colony’s survival is the goal of each individual ant.
This is a crucial lesson for us as leaders of or within a business. As an owner of a business we have created a ‘colony’ which meets specific needs in the marketplace. Our business provides us an opportunity to use the talents, skills and knowledge we have gained over the years. It also provides us the opportunity to create the lifestyle we want for the people we love the most.
To achieve this though, we cannot and will not do it on our own. We need to surround ourselves with the right people who’ll willingly work to achieve the goals of the business because it’s in their best interests
to do so. As a leader in business, our role is to create that sense of belonging, so all who are a part of it feel and know they are an important part of the whole, working towards a common goal.
2. Know your role and empower others to play their part
When you see ants all over the ground, you might not view these insects as very orderly, but their society sure is. Ants have a caste system where responsibilities are divided. Each colony has a queen, worker ants and ants involved in reproducing the next generation. Every ant knows their role in the colony and adheres to performing their tasks. Each ant works selflessly, for the common good, not to protect themselves as an individual.
Likewise if we want ‘order’ in our business, then the individual roles that are needed for the ‘colony’ to function effectively and efficiently, must be clearly documented and articulated. The outcomes of each function need to be clearly identified. Every activity we do to source our ‘colony’ from recruitment, through to onboarding, managing performance and to termination, must be known by every individual.
When this level of clarity is achieved in the business, just like the ants, each person will play their part in working towards your colony’s common good – meeting the needs of all its stakeholders, including you, your clients and the other members of your ‘colony’.
Is your ‘colony’ a testament to effectiveness and efficiency, with everyone working together to achieve a common goal? Or is it more like more like the nest I stepped on where there’s visible confusion and people lashing out in order to protect themselves? If your ‘colony’ is more agitated than effective, Rob and I are here to support you in turning it around. We’ve assisted dozens of clients bring order to the chaos and have their people work more profitably and more effectively than they ever thought possible.
If you’d like to know more about how we can help you achieve a business that works for you (rather than the other way around), reach out. We partner with business owners just like you to achieve the lifestyle which finally rewards them and their families for years of effort.
P.S – By the way, my big toe is still smarting – those green ants pack a punch
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