Get Dinner or Be Dinner

What does your work group have in common with the zebras of the African plains? Aside from the fact that you both may sport racing stripes as your normal attire, there's much to be learned when it comes to protecting your company and your job.

The business world is a highly competitive place. For companies who go toe to toe in their quest for the almighty dollar, it's literally a life or death struggle.

Those of us who work for these competitors should care a great deal about this, since companies who go out of business have an annoying tendency of taking your paycheck with them. Curiously, however, even though logic indicates that we would care passionately about anything that could affect our income, very few people care about the massive, clash of the titans struggle going on between their employer and the competition. But then, human nature often presents itself as one of the greatest mysteries of the world.

Out on the mean streets of the African plains, where lions are hungry and zebras are dinner, the importance of being an effective competitor is taken much more seriously. But then, you'd probably expect that, at least from the zebras. Anyone who sports racing stripes as their daily attire is a force to be reckoned with. In fact, not content with the strategic defense tactics of yelling, "Lion!" and running like crazy, these four legged Ferraris got together one night over drinks and decided that there had to be a better way.

In the business world, your competitors attack you relentlessly and would like nothing better than to see your out of action so that they can take over your turf. Buying out your crippled company and selling off the resources is the modern day equivalent of gnawing on the bones.

The zebras, who like their bones just where they are, thank you very much, concluded that the best way to avoid becoming a mid morning snack was to turn the tables on the food chain and conquer the lions, thus dominating the plains and gaining the right to stay up late and play all the really fun zebra games without having to constantly look over their shoulders.

They decided that the way to do this was to make a pact and pursue excellence, both as a group and with each individual zebra becoming the best it could be. And so, late at night, by candlelight so as not to tip off the competition, the zebras gathered to pump iron, do stampede drills, and study strategy. They knew the lions were overconfident. This could be used against them.

One morning, a lone zebra nibbled aimlessly on a bit of grass as a passing lion sensed opportunity and leapt into action. Before he was halfway to his prey, a pack of zebras stampeded over the top of the hill that had been their cover. It wasn't pretty. Hoof prints and flying fur were everywhere. Several other lions, seeing the trouble, jumped in to help but the zebras were ready for them. From behind a group of trees, two more packs of zebras stampeded out and encircled the lions. Outflanked and outgunned, the lions never had a chance.

After months of similar encounters, the lions finally raised the white flag and became vegetarians. The zebras, ever the gracious victors, wished the lions health and prosperity, shared a few grazing tips with them, and ultimately banished them from the plains.

Competition, when directed at your company's adversaries, can actually be quite invigorating, especially when you win. Once you realize that you have a very personal stake in the fate of your company, you can help stave off the predators who would love to have your employer for dinner. Foster a sense of conquest in all the people you work with, directing their energies away from internal struggles and toward your common enemy.

Like the zebras, once you realize that any adversary can be overcome through strategy, teamwork and the pursuit of excellence, you'll become a powerful force for change within your company. Best of all, you won't have to worry about those unsightly teeth marks on your ankles.

Tech And Leadership Articles