Almost once a week, sometimes more, I have to admonish my clients for engaging in activities that are not efficient. I tell them they are “running after rabbits”. At some time or another, we are all culpable of this behavior but sometimes don’t see it until it is too late. As a leadership and strategy coach, it is my duty to point out this kind of behavior to clients. So, why do I use this odd expression?
As I explain in my book, ROKC: Leadership Built on the Return On Key Component, think of yourself as marooned on a desert island populated by rabbits. The first day, as a hungry castaway, your first concern will be to fill your grumbling belly. Probably, you will grab the first club you find and run after the first rabbit you spot. You might even come close to whacking one. However, rabbits are agile creatures, and you will probably not manage to catch it. After a bit you will collapse in frustration, your belly still empty.
Do you see the problem with this scenario?
In the worse case, you burned through a whole bunch of calories and have nothing to show for it. In the best case, you caught a rabbit but the calories the animal provides are FEWER than those you burned chasing after it. In either case, there is a good chance you will not survive very long.
So how did our ancestors survive?
Snares. For millennia, our ancestors captured small game using traps, because they learned – from experience – that making and setting a trap burns far fewer calories than running after the creatures. Thus, the number of calories the animal provides will be MORE than those burned in capturing it. In this way, survival is assured.
Unfortunately, experience and knowledge cannot be genetically passed down from generation to generation. Each generation has to learn this lesson for itself.
The same lesson is true for business: invest your time and energy in activities that produce more value.
When I talk to business leaders about the processes they use to get a return, I am often surprised to see them running after rabbits. So I tell them this story and they “get it”.
Are you or your team running after rabbits or building traps?
Aren’t sure which? Let’s talk.