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The Little Red Hen is a children’s story with a moral and one that provides us with an excellent analogy for good teamwork. Just as the story of The Boy who Cried Wolf teaches us the pitfalls of telling lies, The Little Red Hen teaches us that if you’re not prepared to put in the effort, you cannot possibly expect to reap the rewards.
If your team seem focused on different goals and are unable to work and communicate effectively with one another, then read on…
The story, (for those who have never had the pleasure and I would recommend it), tells the tale of a Little Red Hen who wants to make a loaf of bread. In order to be able to eat the bread, The Little Red Hen knows there are several steps that must first take place, eg; cutting down the wheat, grinding it, carrying it to the mill, etc. At every stage of the process, The Little Red Hen turns to a different one of the farmyard animals for help and, at every stage of the process, her request for help is refused. And so, The Little Red Hen soldiers on alone, until finally her bread is baked and ready to eat. And now the other animals are interested; drawn in by the delicious smell, they all want to eat the bread, but The Little Red Hen tells them they cannot because they did not help to make it.
Lessons for leaders and teams
1. The first lesson is that if you want to reap the rewards, you have to be part of the process. Good teamwork come from teams who support one another, communicate effectively and are comfortable asking each other for help when it’s required.
2. Secondly, by uniting in one goal, a team work more effectively. Had the other animals helped The Little Red Hen, each stage of the process would have been quicker. Not only that, but a combined effort would have allowed the animals to bake more bread and therefore reap even greater rewards. For teams united in their common goals; productivity is higher and results are significantly greater.
3. Thirdly, had the animals all agreed to help, the atmosphere in the farmyard would have been much better. By refusing to help The Little Red Hen, the other animals brought about an atmosphere of anger and mistrust. A team can only be successful if they trust one another and are able to hold themselves and each other to account. Teams that are able to do this, bake bigger, tastier loaves and more of them!
4. So lastly, what would have happened if the first animal that The Little Red Hen approached had agreed to help? Would the other animals have followed suit? Research into team processes, shows us that behaviours exhibited within teams very often have a snowball effect; once one person behaves in a certain way, others will tend to follow. You need to ensure it’s the good behaviours that are snowballing and in so doing, heightening levels of engagement. Create a unified culture by making the first move and leading by example.
So if you’re looking for an innovative approach for your next team meeting, you won’t go far wrong by providing each member with their own copy of The Little Red Hen. You may even want to create a direct analogy with one (or more) of your team’s most important goals. First define what the end goal (the eating of the bread) is and then get your team working together to define each stage of the process and decide who will take accountability for each step. Order in some freshly baked loaves from your local bakery; the taste and smell of the bread will create a greater impact and will help to reinforce your message that good teamwork brings great results.
Good luck – may your loaves be delicious and plentiful!