In sharing the culture of ASN there are many aspects, however one stands out as we walk our path and thrive as the ASN team. It is inspired by an amazing wild animal. This wild one demonstrates some very interesting and beautiful insights that invites us to share knowledge, care for and protect each other, and of paramount importantance, to engage in and share deep connection and compassion for each other.
Wildlife demonstrates remarkable Leadership & Teamwork skills, none more so than the serene elephant. Descended from mammoths, elephants are the largest mammal on the planet but despite their size, they are also considered a symbol of loyalty, wisdom, and unity. So… Welcome to the jungle. Here’s what we can learn from this matriarchal society.
In the wild, when a mama elephant is giving birth, all the other female elephants in the herd back around her in formation. They close ranks so that the delivering mama cannot even be seen in the middle. They stomp and kick up dirt and soil to throw attackers off the scent.
They surround the mama and incoming baby in protection, sending a clear signal to predators that if they want to attack their friend while she is vulnerable, they’ll have to get through 40 tons of female aggression first.
When the baby elephant is delivered, the sister elephants do two things: they kick sand or dirt over the newborn to protect its fragile skin from the sun, and then they all start trumpeting, a female celebration of new life, of sisterhood, of something beautiful being born in a harsh, wild world despite enemies and attackers and predators and odds.
From that point forward, the raising of the young is a family affair as each member does its part to support the calf’s development.
Scientists tell us this: They normally take this formation in only two cases — under attack by predators like lions, or during the birth of a new elephant.
How does this apply to us…
When our teammates are vulnerable, when they are giving birth to new ideas, new opportunities, new experiences, they need their people to surround them so they can create, deliver, heal, recover… so we get in formation. We close ranks and literally have each other’s backs and support each other.
Elephant society is built around the matriarch and female elders. This leadership team is the glue that unifies the herd. How do they do it? Communication... Elephants are excellent communicators, continuously ‘talking’ through vibrations (inaudible to the human ear), as well as “purring” like cats and, of course, the more well-known trumpeting and harrumphing.
The constant reassurance from the matriarch through everything that she does, keeps the individual elephants focused on the task at hand, whether searching for water or protecting the young. She does not lead through fear, she is shining a light on the path for the herd take through the respect and trust that she has earned.
We know that communication is a key element in maintaining and nurturing team connections, to achieve success. Teams that communicate openly and frequently are proven to be more innovative, productive, and effective. No question is silly and no information is not worth sharing so we all can consider how we might choose to make change or solidify standards and best practices that guide us in our work together.
What may be forgotten at times is listening. Listening is a crucial component in communicating, taking the time to listen to leaders and teammates, and truly considering their feedback, concepts and information moves the team and leaders to better problem-solving, as well as the development of an agile team in the long term. In addition, it propels us and our clients into opportunities for awareness and success. By opening ourselves to the possibilities as we move forward and take action that propels our efforts in creating a future that is a win-win for our team and for our clients.
TEAMWORK: Helping a baby elephant
Known for their empathy and cooperation, elephants’ sense when another in the herd needs help and then knows what to do to help. A matriarch values each member of her herd, understands everyone’s value and ensures that everyone else understands it as well.
Each of us are ASN… no one of us is bigger than ASN. It is the sum-total of all of us that supports our efforts as an organization to better the lives of ourselves and our clients.
Elephants also embrace each other’s individuality, they are self-aware. Elephants can recognize themselves in a mirror, a trait only shared with great apes and bottlenose dolphins. Did you know that they can also be left- or right-trunked? The point? It is important to know where your strengths lie. It is also important to know when to use them.
What does this teach us? That embracing our individuality, our unique personalities and abilities can lead us to be better connected... when everyone understands the value of each other. Trust in and respect for each other are key attributes in working together to create a compassionate culture, allowing us to connect with empathy.
- A True Self & Other-Aware Loving Team
Each female in a herd is integral to its success. Elephants have been known to show empathy toward each other, giving hugs and making sympathetic clicking sounds to comfort distressed herd members.
- Highly Sensitive & Intelligent
Elephants are highly sensitive and caring animals, much like humans. If a baby elephant cries, the herd will touch and caress the baby with their trunks to soothe it. They are highly intelligent animals with complex emotions, feelings, compassion and self-awareness.
- Exceptionally Bonded even into Death
The bond between herd members runs so deep that they are known to grieve, bury, and even cry for their deceased loved ones. Like humans, elephants mourn the death of their loved ones. They gently touch and caress the skull of deceased loved ones with their trunks, and they will pause for several minutes of silence in the place where their loved one dies, even several years after their death. An elephant never forgets.
Elephants display empathy. For example, a park warden saw a herd of elephants slow its pace to match that of a female carrying a dead calf.
There have also been reports of elephants trying to save other animals, including one story in which an elephant attempted to save a rhino from drowning in the mud.
Knowledge Now & For the Future
On-the-job training and career development are also evident when you reflect on how elephant herds live. The matriarch teaches other elephants where the best waterholes are, how to protect the herd, and so on. They do not keep this information to themselves, they impart it to others so that the future of the herd is protected. Their elders teach them everything that they need to know about being an elephant.
This reminds us that knowledge is power. Power to be innovative and effective in the long term, but only if it is shared. Everyone is learning every day. Just think of all the lessons we have learned from the coronavirus pandemic and how that has affected us. Listening and sharing these lessons is how our team can learn and connect, futureproofing the organization and planning succession.
Our lesson? It is wise to accept help from others, seek out mentors and advice from people whom we admire, learning new skills and perspectives. Always being open to the new, the different, the possibilities and opportunities for growth.
Elephants may be the largest land animals on earth, but they walk so gently that you barely hear them. They shape their habitat as part of the cycle of the eco-system, leaving as light a footprint as possible on their world.
What does this tell us? A life lesson to walk gracefully through life. As a leader it is not necessarily about being the big ‘I am.’ To explain more eloquently a quote on leadership from Lao Tzu, “a leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
It also tells us that it is essential that we tread as lightly as we can by honoring the wholeness, resourcefulness and intelligence of our clients. To elicit greatness from within them and invite them to problem solve and discover what is best for them vs thinking we know the “answers”… as we don’t. We are responsible for our effect on our clients and on benefitting the wider community. At its base, it is our obligation, that our coaching, our systems, tools and strategies invite client engagement, personal growth, expansion of their gifts & talents, success and trust.
In looking to the future, our talent as ADHD coaches is, more often than not, our competitive advantage by offering the highest quality services as a team without competition. The right people with successful attitudes, personalities, and skills that fit with the values and mission of our entire team creates connectedness and purpose with our focus most always on the client. Elephants do not dominate. They do not lead through fear, rather through respect and share responsibility.
This requires self-awareness, social skills, empathy, and emotional intelligence. Elephants maintain authentic relationships with others in their herd through a close social network of work and play. The herd trusts the matriarch because of these bonds, acting as one unit as they follow her lead.
The same is true in our business. Social intelligence is crucial in teamwork. First, a teammate needs to be self-aware of what they do best and where to improve. They need to be open and honest (no one is perfect), not always having the answers but communicating clearly. They need to understand their teammates, their clients, their business, and respond appropriately.
This authenticity and openness empowers the team, and innovation and opportunity emerge.
There’s nothing better than watching a two-hundred pound newborn elephant playing at a watering hole, splashing around with its family without a care in the world. This is pure fun. It is a small thing, but it counts.
And we all need reminding of this sometimes. Personal well-being is paramount, for yourself and also for your teammates. By creating a place people want to work, feel safe and a place where they can have fun, will reap the rewards in terms of team engagement and productivity. This also spills over and shines in our work with our clients.
Confident and compassionate, elephants serve as an incredible example for those who want to develop and engage better. So next time that nature documentary flashes on your television screen or you are lucky enough to observe an animal in the wild, ask yourself what you can learn. You never know…
Adapted by Twila from an article by:
Joanna Swash Moneypenny: Group CEO