I was gearing up to share another round of my favorite quotes with you this morning when I stumbled across this one and it stopped me in my tracks. This is one of those quotes for me that has power because on first read, it makes you giggle. Then, when you read it again, it makes you think. The third time you read it, it starts to set in that this isn’t funny, it’s profound.
It’s really easy to get sucked into the exercise of pig singing lessons where we invest our efforts, programs, and resources trying to change something (usually someone) who we know will (or can) never change. Hopefully we’ve all learned by now from our personal lives that you have to chose a partner to be with who you can accept as they are. They aren’t going to change. If you date or marry someone who you need to change in order for them to be your ideal mate, you are in the singing pig business. Zero point zero probability of success.
In our workplaces, we do this all the time. We try to motivate the employee who hates the job, or you, or working in general. We try to fix the manager who clearly should have never been put into management and doesn’t really want to be there. We try to convince employees to put the company’s interests before their own. Welcome to the singing pig business: wasting time, annoying the pig.
So, what’s the alternative? First step, wake up to reality. Pigs can’t sing. No matter what you do or how brilliant you might be at teaching singing. You will never be successful at teaching a pig to sing.
Then, decide if you are in the pig business or the singing business. This means figuring out what your purpose is. Taking the example above of the bad manager. Are you committed to great management (singing business)? If so, then that manager needs to immediately put into a different role or moved out of management in another way so that you can put a real manager in his place (or at the very least someone with the potential to be a real manager). Alternatively, maybe you just want to minimize the damage being caused by this bad manager (pig business). So, maybe you add an assistant manager to the team to make up for the managers weaknesses and short-comings as a manager and to protect the people from this bad management. Either way, you are finally able to take some meaningful action. Trying to teach the pig to sing (making the “I don’t have the basic capabilities to manage” manager into a good manager) is a waste of your time, and it isn’t much fun for that manager either.
Instead, invest your time where you have a high probability of success. Help people be more of what they naturally are. Help them build on and become their best selves. Stop trying to make them what they aren’t and will never be. It’s an exercise in futility and it hurt
No more pig singing lessons.