Elephants need space to roam. If some guy named David Attenborough is to be believed about nature stuff, these endangered creatures can have very large migratory ranges. Conserving these creatures is seen as not only good for their well-being but also the well-being of local and global ecosystems. Some African elephants are protected from poachers by being enclosed in large reserves; however, when conditions in the reserve do not provide the herd what it needs to survive, the conservatory becomes a prison which ultimately causes the herd to suffer losses from exposure and starvation.
A person is like an elephant. We sometimes find ourselves trapped within the confines of an organizational box. The box may be well-intentioned, and setup to promote our good and the good of our organization; however, when we change or when our conditions change, it may become a grave threat to personal and professional starvation. We may leave the organization for greener pastures, be let go, or remain in a state of jaded, learned helplessness.
Some conservation workers in Africa got the idea of connecting reserves at key points to enable their elephants to migrate between territories as needed. Fences and roads remained up, yet underpasses provided the creatures a means of solving their environmental problems by migrating to new environments. One such underpass recorded large movements of elephants the very night after the project was finished. One might imagine the desperate creatures were watching and waiting with an understanding that a way was being made for their salvation.
A person is like an elephant. We have great capacity to solve our own problems. We tend to be resilient. If our environment is killing us, we tend to find ways of either changing our current environment to suite our needs or finding a different environment.
Elephants are powerful creatures. Their bodies are strong and their minds are sharp; yet, the old story of tying an infant elephant elephant to a peg is true. When confronted with a constant limitation, they will eventually assume helplessness; however, it is also true that when the creature decides it must break free, it does. Sometimes, this event involves chaos and violence.
A person is like an elephant. Though our passion runs deep and our urge for autonomy, mastery and purpose is a birthright, we too often learn helplessness when consistently we perceive the futility of our efforts. That is, until we become desperate enough to break out. This situation may also involve some form of chaos and violence within the organization.
Consider the obstacles to personnel migration in your organization. What impedes you from changing your role, the substance of your daily work, your schedule, those with whom you work, or what you feel you need for your career. What is hampering your personal growth? What permission must you obtain to function with autonomy? What stands in your way of gaining the mastery you desire? What condition makes finding purpose difficult?
Organizations committed to the health and well-being of their people and of itself must find ways to allow individuals to explore and inhabit different environments. They do not need to destroy traditional boundaries, roles and titles though some have seen great success in doing so. Rather, each person’s needs should be considered thoughtfully. Leaders much choose the courageous and creative path of changing process and tools as the inhabitants of the organization change.
A person, like an elephant may need space to roam.