The Grumpy Bear and the Sly Fox

Not so very long ago, in a forest close by, lived a grumpy bear and a sly fox.

The grumpy bear was known to roar loudly when a gentle growl would have been more appropriate.   The grumpy bear was not comfortable at expressing any kind of emotion.   When the grumpy bear felt uncertain, he became even grumpier.  But underneath that grumpy, growly exterior was a big heart filled with love and good intention.

The sly fox on the other hand, was a smooth communicator.  He spoke softly and gently.  His words were chosen with care and always reflected exactly what his listener wanted to hear.  He never growled or challenged anyone and so many animals in the forest eagerly listened to whatever the sly fox had to say.

The sly fox used the grumpy bear’s gruffness and roughness against him.  The sly fox liked nothing better than to poke the fire and fan the flames of dissension.  He would say things like “If the grumpy bear cared about you, he would do this. That’s what I would do” or “The grumpy bear doesn’t understand you like I do”.  Sometimes the sly fox knew things that would help the grumpy bear, but instead of sharing information or offering to help the grumpy bear, the sly fox would go to others in the forest and say “Why isn’t the grumpy bear doing this?”

Of course, the sly fox never actually did anything to help anyone in the forest.  He left the hard work for the grumpy bear. The sly fox whispered, using his smooth, gentle words to turn the other animals against the grumpy bear, making the grumpy bear’s job even harder.   Then the sly fox would grin, rub his paws and skulk away … until the next time.


A lot of us have a grumpy bear or a sly fox in our lives.  We meet them at work, at play and sometimes at home.  The grumpy bear doesn’t realize how words and actions can be misconstrued when other’s perceptions and emotions are not taken into consideration.  Sometimes the grumpy bear speaks poorly from a place of sincerity and positive intention.

The sly fox knows exactly what the other person wants to hear. He or she looks for and feed on insecurities, fears and weaknesses. The sly fox speaks and acts well from a place of deception and negative intention.

With experience comes wisdom and I have learned to look past the exterior to find the intention.  Some people grouse and grumble, then buckle down and act. Others sound positive and supportive,but in reality are only looking to stir the pot. They ditch and run as soon as their real objective, dissension has been achieved.

Give me grumpy and sincere over smooth and sneaky any day.

What’s Behind the Mask?

The mask of invincibility says “I can do anything you throw at me”. The mask of invincibility refuses to acknowledge weakness or error.

Confidence on the other hand, recognizes knowledge, skills and talent. Confidence also recognizes and acknowledges uncertainty, mistakes and vulnerability.

All too often, leaders, especially new or emerging leaders, believe they need to appear invincible in order to inspire trust and confidence.

Four common errors are:

  1. Instead of asking for advice, they hunker down and plow through new learning or challenges on their own. Saying “I don’t know.  Can you help me understand that?” creates connections.  Honesty inspires inspire trust and confidence.  Pretending to know closes opportunities to connect with team members and brings into question honesty.
  2. Other leaders don’t like to share the missteps and gaffes they made on the journey to their present position.  Demonstrating success through trial and error, by getting back up again after failure, is powerful.  Saying “I understand. I once did the same thing” shows compassion and common ground.  That builds confidence and trust much more quickly than a mask of invincibility.
  3. Some leaders feel their position means they cannot let their team see the silly, perhaps slightly goofy side they show their friends and family. Some leaders, sadly, lose that silly, perhaps slightly goofy side, when the mantle of responsibility is dropped on their shoulders.  The ability to laugh, to have fun and take care of business creates connections, which in turn builds relationships, that lead to feelings of confidence and trust.
  4. And last but not least, some leaders feel they have to demonstrate a serious work ethic so that their team members know they also need to work hard.  I’m a firm believer in “practice what you preach” , but when leaders get so caught up doing all the important work they have to do and don’t take time to get to know the important people on the other side of the office door, they once again lose the opportunity to create the connections necessary to inspire feelings of trust and confidence.

Early on in my career, I had a manager who wore Mickey Mouse ties, told some really bad jokes and regularly left his office to walk through the building and talk to the people on his team.  This ability to show his human side did not take away from his ability to lead the team. In fact, it did the direct opposite.  It created a sense of “we’re in this together” and that is never a bad thing.

What are your thoughts on this?


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An Example of Integrity in Action

Integrity.  It’s an easy word to throw around, but not always an easy word to live up to.  Acting with integrity in highly visible moments when actions taken and words spoken are seen and heard by many is highly commendable.  Acting with integrity in seemingly small, inconsequential moments is just as commendable and very often unrecognized.

Desiree Buban is the Front Office Manager at Four Points by Sheraton at the Winnipeg International Airport.  In her role, she is responsible for her team’s customer service and performance standards.  A tool used at the hotel to measure the reservation sales process is the mystery shop and there are incentives and rewards tied to high performance.

Last month, Desiree thought she had found an error in the mystery shop score for one of her guest service agents and she let the administrator of the program know. The unique twist to this is that it wasn’t a case of points being missed; it was a case of points being awarded that she believed shouldn’t have been.

Here’s the reality.  With over 250 mystery shops completed for over 40 hotels each and every month, the chance of that error being caught by the administrator was slim.  Desiree could easily have kept quiet, kept the extra points so that her team could reap the benefit of high scores.  No one would have been the wiser.  Instead, Desiree spoke up.  That’s integrity in action.  That’s leadership.

Do you have an example of integrity in action to share? 


Career Advice I’d Like to Give to My 20-Year Old Self

Do you ever wish you could go back in time and give  yourself a little hint of what’s to come?  Perhaps give yourself a little heads up on key turning points in your life that seem like a simple choice between options but is in reality a pivotal moment?   Wouldn’t it be nice to sit your younger self down and share some of the wisdom you’ve gained over the years.

If I had the chance, below are five things I’d like to tell my younger self.

1. Trust yourself more.  Parents, teachers, friends, supervisors, colleagues … there are so many people willing and eager to give advice, lots and lots of advice on what career path to follow, what jobs to apply for, what jobs to avoid.  This doesn’t mean ignoring the advice; it means weighing that advice against your own dreams, against your gut instinct and against your own personal reality.

2. Create  your own definition of success.  It took me quite a while to figure out that for me, success wasn’t defined by money, a title or an office with a door.  It wasn’t until I hit the magic mid-30’s, that I was able to clearly articulate what success meant to me, and with that knowledge, it became much easier to decide if an opportunity was right for me or not.

3. Manage your time. Oh, I wish I’d learned this one sooner!  The extra stress I put on myself because I put too many things off to the last minute; the opportunities missed because I could always get to it later; the merely “ok” work completed because I’d over-committed my time.

4. Take care of yourself.  I remember the day I broke down in tears on the job over a trivial issue.  It was day 21 without a day off.  I was holding down two jobs and going to school.  Between lack of sleep, grabbing some pretty poor meals on the run and the demands of school and work, I hit the wall.  I knew a change had to be made and I quit one of the jobs.  I wish I could say I learned my lesson then, but it took quite a few more years to figure out that I was doing myself and those around me a favour when I made sure to take care of my mental, emotional and physical health.

5. Being respected is more important than being liked.  I spent too many years trying to be liked.  I agreed with everyone or more honestly, pretended to agree with everyone.  I didn’t stand up for myself; I said “yes” when I should have said “no”; I hid my talents, my knowledge and my skills so that I wouldn’t come across as a know-it-all;  I let others take credit for my hard work. Usually standing strong, being confident, honest and assertive leads to being liked and respected, but if only one is possible, go for respect.

Of course, knowing my younger self, I’m not sure I would have listened to me!

What career advice would you give your 20 year-old self if you had the chance?

The Likeability Factor

Do you want more people to listen to you, to follow you, to believe in you? Try being more likeable.  People are more willing to give their time, their ear and possibly their loyalty to people they like.

Have you noticed some people really don’t give two hoots if people like them?  These people know what they want, what they believe, what they know, where they are going and don’t see a need to be liked.  Perhaps that is because they see people who place such a heavy emphasis on being liked, they come across as weak and unfocused.

The desire to be liked can be taken to an extreme, but when done with integrity, with heart and with a genuine caring for others, the likeability factor is hugely powerful.

Being likeable does not mean:

  1. Agreeing with everybody or everything.  It is possible to be liked and still have individual ideas, perspectives and beliefs.  It’s perfectly ok to voice differing opinions and to disagree … respectfully. Likeable people recognize that not everyone thinks the same way they do, prioritizes the same way they do or want the same thing they do.
  2. Giving up your expertise. Some people feel they have to hide their expertise in order to be liked; they are concerned they will come across as “know-it-alls” if they share their knowledge.  Likeable people recognize the value their knowledge provides, they freely share their knowledge, skills and expertise, but not in a high-handed way.  Likeable people don’t disagree by saying “You’re wrong and I’m going to tell you why.”  Instead, they ask “Have you thought of this?” Likeable people also recognize and respect the valuable knowledge, skills and expertise others bring to the table.
  3. Focusing entirely on others.  It is not necessary to cater to others needs, goals or desires, at the expense of your own, in order to be liked.  In my opinion, I think that approach backfires.  Sure, you may feel needed, but that is not the same thing as liked or respected.  Likeable people offer and provide assistance where possible.  Likeable people also recognize when they need help and are not too proud to ask for it.

To me, being likeable does mean:

  1. Being true to yourself
  2. Recognizing the right of others to be true to themselves
  3. Sincerity
  4. Honesty
  5. Respect for others

… And sometimes, agreeing to disagree.

What do you think?