Why the Boll Weevil is Enterprise, Alabama’s Hero
…Rather than ensuring the team can recite the vision and mission of the organization, that they actively participate and engage in retreats for team building or that they take yet another training course, it is recommended you start with understanding the teams’ emotional realities. These realities are closest to them as they live and work with them daily. The company’s vision and mission are distant entreaties that are not as immediate and dare I say relevant to their current realities…
The above is an excerpt from a previous post entitled How well do you know your team? I came across a story about Enterprise, Alabama that made me want to raise this topic again. The photo you’re looking at is of the main character of this great story about leadership, change, power of questions and of course Emotional Reality of groups and teams- the character is the small but mighty Boll Weevil.
More than 100 years ago back in 1915, the boll weevil made its way from Mexico into Enterprise, Alabama. There it began its campaign to decimate the state’s primary source of revenue- cotton. The entire agricultural economy of Enterprise Alabama was destroyed by this small agent of change- the boll weevil.
Struck with this small but mighty agent of change- farmers, government officials and fellow decision makers naturally looked for solutions. They tried selective burning. Still the boll weevil persisted. They tried harsh chemicals that killed everything- except the boll weevil. This approach to managing the economic problem facing Enterprise, Alabama went on for more than 2 consecutive years.
While all this was going on, a handful of farmers gathered together and asked some simple yet very powerful questions. These questions are responsible for Enterprise, Alabama remaining on the map today.
The farmers wanted to know:
- Why should we continue planting cotton?
- What other crop could we plant that is resistant to the boll weevil?
- How do we introduce such a crop?
- How could we get more farmers to think differently about current strategies to beat the boll weevil?
Helping others reach their potential requires a leader who is emotionally intelligent. Such a leader is made, not born as demonstrated by the handful of farmers in Enterprise, Alabama. To affect change in their people, we coach leaders how to use 3 steps to identify the Emotional reality of their group. We do this because we know emotionally intelligent leaders build emotionally intelligent organizations. And this begins by understanding the emotional reality of teams and groups.
So, what exactly is emotional reality and why should leaders care about it? I liken the Emotional reality of a group or team to the boll weevil-an agent for change. Emotional Reality as defined by Daniel Goleman in his book, Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, The root of the reality of how groups function often lies with long-established and deeply embedded ground rules or habits that govern the group’s norms.
Back to 1915 Enterprise, Alabama. The emotional reality of the time that governed the behaviours and habits of the farmers was what they have always done- plant cotton. So, when the agent of change- the boll weevil rolled into town- naturally the farmers’ intention was on how to keep doing what they have always done. No one spoke this out loud but their actions spoke loud and clear that this was the agreed to norm.
Fast forward to 2016 and many organizations still fail to first understand the emotional reality of their teams and groups and eventually their organizations, before investing in identifying an ideal vision for the group/organization. Not knowing what people value but desiring them to rally around a vision is akin to the strategies used by early century farmers in Enterprise, Alabama.
Next post: How to use 3 Steps to identify the emotional reality of teams and groups. Plus the results of the boll weevil infestation.
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