I’m honored to share the following article is from my colleague and Red Cape Revolution fan Bonnie Daneker. As CEO of Write Along With You, a literary consultancy and media management firm, Bonnie has certainly had her share of experiences working with the lion-like–and the pussycats–among us. Recently she faced a real-life lion (meet little Nairobi, above), and it reminded her of the things to do when we meet the Nairobis in our office and worklife. You can find out more about Bonnie here.
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The Size of the Lion
Photos by Larry Mingledorff
This Father’s Day, we had a chance-of-a-lifetime experience playing with somebody else’s kid: a five-month-old lion cub.
At the St. Augustine Wild Reserve, we were introduced to the exotic wolves, cats, and birds in the loving care of the sanctuary workers. For an extra contribution to the good cause, they offered us the opportunity to interact a little closer with the youngest of their clan.
After a full tour of the facility and an introduction to the other cats, it was time to meet the cub, named Nairobi. On the way to his chain link cage, his trainer, a seasoned large predatory cat handler, educated us with some chilling instruction as we prepared to enter:
“Children under 18 are no longer allowed to interact with Nairobi, as he is big enough to consider them a food source. Nairobi’s latest ‘play behavior’ is using his paws to grab you and rock you off-balance. You are never to turn your backs to him, as he would consider that an invitation to push you forward to the ground. And the last piece: arm yourself with ammunition (in the form of stuffed animals and throw pillows) to swat him away from gnawing any exposed place vulnerable to severe blood loss.”
(And I chose to do this, you wonder?)
Well, little Nairobi had grown since the picture on the website was taken, but he was still precious: he seemed eager to investigate the toys we brought and the smells we carried —until we came into his cage. Then we were all on guard.
I instantly remembered what Darwin said about the survival of the fittest. This cub’s paws were bigger than my hands, and already I knew I had to be careful in handling this one. Although a fraction of the size of his neighbor cats, he was much stronger than I thought; but I was a little more thoughtful about our interaction, with the trainer’s words fresh in my mind.
When I finally did get the courage to interact with him, we came to an understanding. This was his territory and he would defend it as a hunter. I wouldn’t threaten him or be a meal, just pet him and give him toys. It worked, but after a while, I could tell we had the fun we were going to have: he was agitated and we were getting restless. It was time to take a break from each other, so we left the cage.
I couldn’t help thinking this happens to us sometimes in the workplace.
So, when you’re faced with a metaphoric lion cub at work (whether you asked for it or not), here are some suggestions:
First observe. Get an understanding of the landscape.
Find a mentor; a more seasoned guide to give you advice on what to do and listen.
Evaluate your perspective of the lion. Is it the King of the Jungle but still a pussy cat? Or does it look like a kitty but ATTACK like a lion? Looks can be deceiving. How does this person want to be handled?
Evaluate your view of yourself. What’s the size of the lion inside you? You may have heard it another way: “It’s not the size of the dog that matters, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” What tools and superpowers do you have to address any size challenge? We all can draw on experiences, observations, communication, planning, trial and error.
Learn any unspoken rules about the environment, like strengths and weaknesses of your co-workers. What contributions can you offer? What things are you better at, and what are they better at? Together you can make a more fruitful experience.
Come to an understanding with the cub. What do each of you want while working together?
Keep the temperature on the interaction. It may start getting “a little warm in the kitchen,” and you may be wise to make a move before something gets too hot to handle.
And finally, if you see you need to make a change, know that there’s usually a good time and place to make it.
So when you’re interacting with lions, think about the suggestions above to better manage them.
YOUR TURN: How do you manage your lions? Tell us about it in the Comments below, or share your ideas on our Facebook page.
Bonnie Daneker is CEO of Write Along With You, the literary consultancy of choice for professionals wishing to publish and extend their non-fiction content. We work in multiple channels such as interactive books, mobile apps, gaming, video and merchandising. Our core interests are business, biography, and health & wellness, but we evaluate materials from all genres. If you want to write a book or extend your existing book, visit our website at www.writealongwithyou.com.