My favorite nickname is ‘Coach’. In addition to kids’ sports I always worked to coach ‘Management Principles’ to my staff members. Living in foreign countries I often did so through stories. So I have one for you.
During the summers of my High School and University years I drove truck for al local moving company. It was good money, I met interesting people and often was given furniture and other unwanted items from the customers I served. One such item was a large fish aquarium.
During my graduate school years the aquarium was my proudest possession and was prominently featured as it was distinct from the hand-me-down furniture in my small one bedroom apartment.
As a poor graduate student I wrestled with the challenges of keeping my prize large Oscar tropical fish fed and healthy. 2-3 times per week I would go to the tropical fish store to buy worms to feed my Oscars. This became expensive and inconvenient. A small plastic container of Meal Worms cost over a $1.00 and lasted only three days.
So I decided to harvest my own Meal Worms and create a sustainable food supply for my Oscars. I got a plastic wash tub, filled it with three kilos of corn meal, added three small containers of meal worms, placed in on the lower shelf of the rack holding the aquarium, shrouded it with a light curtain and resigned to wait 2-3 weeks until the worms did their thing.
One day, several weeks later leaving for class I exited my bedroom entered the living room… and Whaaat!!!
All over the walls, my hand-me-down furniture, and crawling everywhere were hundreds and hundreds of insects. I had no idea what they were or where they came from. Then I saw that dozens more were crawling out from behind the curtain hiding my Meal Worm hatchery.
Where I had intended for my Worms to keep busy happily procreating to create an endless supply of worms for my Oscars, Nature had a different idea.
If I had conducted the simplest research on the life cycle of Meal Worms I could have saved myself many, many days and nights of collecting the unwanted beetles from my apartment.
How has this lesson served me?
My personal Meal Worm Theory of Management slowly matured as I used this lesson to discipline myself and my staff members that before proceeding with any project, large or small, we need to research to determine the likely interests and intentions of all the people associated with the project, internally and externally, as their intentions may be very different from our desired outcome.
Applying the learning from this experience has served me well as a manager and leader in the years since, especially when working in countries where I was not fluent in the local language.
I tell you this story to help you learn from my mistake and experience to keep your projects free of possible unwanted consequences – or beetles.
Although my Oscars loved the Meal Worms they did not care for the adult beetles. Clearing my apartment of the hundreds of beetles is another story.