Dear CMO:Rats are stubborn, gregarious, and adaptable. They are highly social animals that live in tightly controlled societies. They persevere and even thrive under difficult conditions. And yet rats get a bad rap. Apart from the fact that they’re highly destructive brutes and are almost always cast as antagonists in New Line Cinema features, they’re justifiably admirable animals. Yes, we acknowledge the plague thing, and we’re working on that.

Dropped in water, a rat will swim for days. They are survivors. They seem to know that if they hang on, there’s always a chance that something will change their luck. And they will survive. Wouldn’t you want a team like this working with you, watching your back?

Know how to drown a rat? Cut off its whiskers. A rat is only as macho as the length of its whiskers. Without them, the swagger disappears, and with it, its will to live. Cut off the whiskers and the rat gives up in minutes. And it drowns.

Want to know how to destroy your team’s will to live? Ever wonder how to drain the emotion and passion out of them in a matter of minutes? Want to drown them all? Easy. Cut off their whiskers. We all have them. Treat them with disrespect, ensure they stay well below the level of their contribution, and most importantly, don’t let them believe that their ideas will ever see the light of day. That’s it! Easy.

I’ve been lucky to have worked with some very talented and passionate people in my career and many of them have been good enough to stay in touch. I get about a call a week from old colleagues. I had two last week from former co-workers at company known for drowning its rats, where lifers walked the halls like members of Davey Jones’ crew in Pirates of the Carribean At World’s End. Everyone slowly became part of the ship. A barnacle here, a crab claw there, and pretty soon, you looked like everybody else.

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Key Takeaways:

> Passionate, inspired people are better.

> How you motivate your team is more important than where you lead them. There are many paths to the mountain top. If you can’t get your team engaged and if people feel disenfranchised, you’ve lost.

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I’ve never been one of those who believe that life begins after work. If you’re going to spend seventy hours a week doing something, you should find it at least tolerable. Hopefully, you even like it and the people who do it with you. If you’re responsible for the livelihoods and aspirations of others, this bears some serious introspection. If you’re not inspiring them, you’re ruining them. And probably your own career at the same time, if your boss is paying attention.


Copyright © 2007 Stephen Denny