Everyone knows about the story of the tortoise and the hare. What most people don’t know is that the there are several valuable lessons on teamwork to be learnt from the story…
Long time ago, there was a tortoise and a hare who had an argument about who the faster runner was. They finally decided to take on one another on a race.
As the race started, the hare sprinted ahead briskly for some time. Realizing that it will take some time for the tortoise to catch up with him, he decided to seek shelter from the sun under a tree before continuing the race. As he sat under the tree, he gradually fell asleep. The tortoise, crawling at a steady pace, eventually overtook him and won the race. The hare woke up and realized that his complacency cost him the trophy.
The moral of the story is that the determined, hardworking and steady paced people will eventually overtake the fast but complacent. We are all familiar with this story.
Someone recently added a continuation to this age old tale. It goes like this:
The hare realized that he was over confident, complacent and took things too easily. He decided to have a re-match with the tortoise. The tortoise accepted his challenge.
This time, the hare ran with all his might and didn’t stop until he crossed the finish line.
The moral of the story? Fast and consistent will always beat the slow and steady.
But the story doesn’t end here.
This time, it was the tortoise that did the soul searching and he realized that if the hare didn’t stop, there is no way he will beat him. He thought hard and decided on a different course and he challenged the hare to another re-match. The hare, of course, agreed.
With the lessons learnt from his previous failure in mind, the hare kept on running once the race started and didn’t stop until the route leads him to the bank of a river. He was taken by surprise and he did not know what to do, since he could not swim. There were no bridges in sight and no one to ask for directions. As he was cracking his head, thinking of ways to cross the river, the tortoise strolled slowly along, dived into the river, swam across it and ultimately, finished the race before the hare.
The moral of the story? Know your strengths and take on your competitors in areas of your core competency.
The story still hasn’t ended.
With the hare and the tortoise spending so much time together racing, they have become rather good friends, they have also developed mutual respect for one another as they realized that they are both different and they have different strengths. They decided to race again, but this time, as a team.
As the race started, the hare carried the tortoise and they sped to the river bank. There, they switched positions and the tortoise ferried the hare across the river. On the opposite bank, the hare again carried the tortoise and they crossed the finishing line together. They completed the race in a record time that both of them can never achieve if they were to do it alone. They also felt a greater sense of satisfaction than they’d felt earlier.
The moral of the story? It’s good to be individually brilliant and to have strong core competencies but unless you’re able to work in a team and harness each other’s core competencies, you’ll always perform below par because there will always be situations at which you’ll do poorly and someone else does well.
Teamwork is mainly about situational leadership, letting the person with the relevant core competency for a situation take leadership. Being supportive team members is necessary for a team to advance.
There are more lessons on teamwork to be learned from this story. Note that neither the hare nor the tortoise gave up after failures. The hare decided to work harder and put in more effort after his failure. The tortoise changed his strategy because he was already working as hard as he could, but was not doing as well as he wished.
Imagine how long it will take the hare to learn how to swim! Or for the tortoise to learn to run fast. In this day and age when the environment changes at lightning speed, we have to learnt to work with people who have strengths in areas that we do not have.
It is the same in business, if we can collaborate with people who are experts in areas that we are not familiar with, we will realize that our market suddenly becomes bigger.