The Elephant and the Brown Fur Seals (An Elephant Tale)

The Elephant decides it’s time to start a new employee recognition program by doing this he can personally recognize the staff. He calls this program the Frequent Incentive for Staff Happiness or F.I.S.H. His HR Director quickly puts it in place and has F.I.S.H certificates printed up allowing him to hand them out. Each time he notices an employee going over and above he will hand them a certificate, which enrolls them in a drawing to be held at the monthly company meeting for a prize. An avid practitioner of management by wandering around, the Elephant fills his pockets with F.I.S.H. daily.

One day he walks down to the marketing department to find the marketing executive occupied in a meeting. “Shucks,” he said, “I had this great idea I wanted to bounce off her.” He looked around and noticed the brown fur seals. “Well I may as well tell you guys then,” and he explains the ideas to the seals as they gather around him. “Great idea!” “Fantastic,” they bark and slap their flippers together in applause. And in appreciation the Elephant gives each of them a F.I.S.H.

The next day when the Elephant steps out of his office, the brown fur seals are waiting for him. This time he heads down to distribution. When he gets to the distribution executive’s office, his aide stops them and apologizes but says the executive is out working on a major problem with one of their shippers. “Oh yeah. I heard about that.” replied the Elephant. “What problem?” asked the seals. A practitioner of open management, the Elephant is happy to comply. “Hey! I’ve got an idea!” exclaimed one of the seals. “What about this?” chimes in another. And one by one each of the seals offers their ideas on how they would solve the shipping problem (even though none of them have any experience in distribution). “Those are great ideas!” exclaimed the Elephant. And asked the aide to write them down and be sure to give them to the executive when he gets back. And the Elephant awards more F.I.S.H to the brown fur seals.

It becomes commonplace to see the brown fur seals following the Elephant up and down the halls of the workplace, engaging the Elephant, offering suggestions, and in general doing whatever they could to get another F.I.SH. And they were very successful. After a while no one remembered what the brown fur seals where supposed to be doing in the first place. But apparently no one missed it very much.

At the company meeting the Elephant announces, to no one’s surprise, that one of the brown fur seals won the drawing to lukewarm applause. After all, the seals did receive the vast majority of the F.I.S.H. awarded that month.

Soon it is time for company’s annual strategy planning meetings. As the executives walk into the conference room, to their surprise, there sit the three brown fur seals. “I asked them to attend the meeting,” explained the Elephant. “We’ve spent so much time together this year, and discussed so many ideas, they know exactly how I think and will be able to help us.”

The day after New Year’s is when the Elephant’s company returns to regular work hours after the holidays. This time the halls were more crowded than usual as the Elephant returned to his management by wandering around. Not only were the brown fur seals sharp on his heels, but so were each of the Elephant’s direct reports, each one flapping and barking and doing whatever they needed to get the next F.I.S.H.

The F.I.S.H. are in good hands. Wonder who is minding the company?



Your behavior influences the behavior of those around you

more than formal organization or process.

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