There’s a fable by the ancient Greek storyteller, Aesop, about the Sun and the Wind that offers a powerful lesson for today’s fleet leaders. It goes something like this.
As the Sun and the Wind were debating over who was the stronger force, the Sun noticed a traveler walking along the road below them, which gave him an idea for how to settle the matter once and for all.
He pointed to the traveler and offered this proposal to the Wind: “Whichever one of us can get that man to take off his jacket will be considered the stronger force.”
The Wind agreed and went first. But as he put his power on full display, something very interesting happened. While the Wind’s strength grew, so did the traveler’s resistance. Instead of getting him to take off his jacket, the Wind’s force caused the man to cling to his jacket even tighter, refusing to let it go, until eventually the Wind gave up.
Then it was the Sun’s turn. He emerged from behind the clouds and quietly focused his heat onto the man. At first, nothing appeared to be happening. But then a drop of sweat trickled down the man’s forehead. And then another and another, until the traveler was sweating profusely. A few seconds later, he willingly took off his coat.
So, what’s the lesson here for fleet? When it comes to working with people, subtle influence is more powerful than direct force.
Think about it. When you propose an initiative that could bring big changes to your organization – whether it’s rightsizing the fleet, deploying telematics or switching maintenance software systems – you inevitably encounter people who don’t want those changes to happen.
That’s because if stakeholders feel like changes are being forced upon them, they’ll respond like the traveler resisting the Wind, clinging tighter to their proverbial jackets, with their minds closed to any opportunities the changes could bring to them – and the organization. And they’ll do everything they can to undermine your efforts.
But when you involve stakeholders from the beginning of the process and, along the way, address their concerns about the uncertainty the changes could bring to their jobs and their lives, you’re leading like the Sun, using the “warmth” of influence to motivate people to work alongside you – not against you – to ensure your change initiative is a success.
Sean M. Lyden