Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Chicken or Duck?

Growing up, I remember my Mom always saying there are two kinds of people.  The two kinds varied and changed, depending on the day, the weather, her day, and her weather.  "Dona," she'd say, "there are two kinds of people..."  Good and bad.  Nice and mean.  Honest and thief.  People you trust, people you never trust.  Lovers and heart-breakers.  Friends and enemies.  I could go on and on, but the first two sums it all up.  Good and bad.  I heard this from her a lot, because I have this inate internal thing about me that believes people are basically good; consequently, my good nature always got me a fast ticket to disappointment city, first stop heart break hotel, right there on lonely street.

So, what's that to do with my title, chicken or duck?  Everything.

See, (just so you know, this is going to be one of those 'reflecting back to my college days' entries...because a lot happened to me in college and I'm going to tell you about it) one day in my Human Resource Management class, the prof started out the lecture with a question.

As he leaned on the lecturn, and with a straight face, he said, "Chicken or duck.  Which are you?"

Given the demographics of this particular college campus, his statement and query were followed by blank stares, giggles, and a few contemplative looks (guess which one I was).  Pausing just long enough for the students to absorb exactly what he said, he then explained.  There are two kinds of people.  Oh boy, I've heard this one before, but Mom never used fowl to prove her point.

This should be interesting.

Leadership and teamwork was the subject of the lecture on that day.  He had my rapt attention.  I wanted to know where he was going with this.  He didn't disappoint me.

Ever look up in the sky and see ducks flying overhead?  What do you see?  A flying V, right?  Now, if you watch them long enough, you would see thatafter a time, the lead duck will drop back to either end and another duck will fly up and take the place of the leader.  Sometime later, that duck will drop back and another will move up to take its place.  Why do they do this?  Simple physics.  Being in the lead takes the most energy.  While at the front of the V the lead duck is breaking trail for its flock-mates, much like a front-running bicycle racer allows teammates to decrease wind resistance by drafting directly behind.  When the lead duck gets tired, it gives a signal and another takes its place at the tip of the V.  They work together to accomplish a goal, whether flying south for the winter, or north for the summer.  By sharing the duties of leadership during flight, the flock covers more miles in a day than if one duck remained the leader throughout the duration of the journey, in which case the flock would have to ground itself to allow the leader to rest, thereby losing valuable flight time.

Then there are chickens.  Ever watch a bunch of chickens?  Do you know what chickens do?  They peck.  Peck, peck, peck.  They peck  at the ground, they peck at their food.  They peck at each other.  If one chicken is weakened, by sickness or injury, the rest of the chickens will gang up on the weak chicken and peck it.  These chickens will continue to peck at their weakened pen mate, never stopping, until it finally dies.  Then the remaining chickens go back to pecking at the ground, or their food.  That's what chickens do. 

Quite a contrast, isn't it?  Survival of the fittest?  Natural selection?  Maybe.

After delivering this comparison to the class, the prof paused once again, to allow the daily lesson to sink into the room full of open minds.  To me, his lecture made complete and total sense.  It really put things into perspective.  Immediately I related the imparting of his wisdom to my own life experiences.  It was easy to do.  I've met a lot chickens in my life, but I've met a lot more ducks.  And even though the ducks outnumber the chickens, those pecking chickens always leave a scar...a memory mark.  Something to remind me.

I work with an individual who is a chicken, no doubt about it.  This person can spot a weakness a mile away, then hone in on it, and splay it wide open for all to see.  This person points, and struts, and postures, always calling attention to the weakness in other people, for reasons I can not even begin to fathom.  I've seen it many times.  I've been the target many times as well.  

I've read all the proactive literature out there, and I fully believe in Covey's 7 Habits.  I've applied them in my dealings with this person, with some success; at first it will smooth things out between us but sooner or later something goes wrong and I'm back to where I started.  It goes round and round.  It gets old, really, really fast.  And I'm getting worn down and worn out.  I don't have time for this folly, nor do I have the inclination to deal with it any more.  So I spoke to my boss about it this morning, as I have done several times before.  Stress is not conducive to productivity, and unfortunately it seems everyone at work is stressed out.  Everyone.  For many reasons, but basically wars cost money, so agencies are cutting their program budgets.  On Friday we lost a contract that pays 16% of my salary and benefits.  We just learned another major program may be cut as well.  There goes another 13%.  I don't have time to deal with a chicken right now because I have to focus all my energy on following the leader so I can be there when she gets tired and needs to rest.  I am a duck.  And that's what ducks do, we work together to solve problems and achieve results.

Is it possible for a chicken to become a duck?  Maybe.  I sure hope so because this world needs more ducks and less chickens.

Chicken or duck.  Which are you?


I opened my 'For Giving Souls' Calendar today, and this was the message for today.  How appropriate...
~~Put on your girly pants and hold on to your britches...this too shall pass, and you'll be better on the other side for it.~~


robinngabster said...

I'm a duck, cause even when the weather turns bad I don't turn and run for cover in the rain...I fluff my feathers and waddle in that big water puddle knowing it is what the Lord has given me...rain or shine, look for the silver linning. At least that is what I like to believe. As far as your chicken...I say introduce them to Col. Sanders and let the deep fryer decide their fate! LOL  Hang in there girl...

pixiedustnme said...

oooh - good analogy!

delela1 said...

You two!!!  I knew you'd be there for me.  Thank you Robin for the laugh.  Col. Sander's...perfect!  And Kelly, I'm glad to hear you say that.  After I hit save, I thought to myself, Have I taken complete leave of my senses?  You both put a smile back on my face today.  Thank you!
xoxoxo Dona

cathyterv said...

QUACK  -  guess that makes me a duck. I don't understand the chickens of the world, but I sure do watch out for them!


grofsand said...

Imagine if Colonel Sanders would have opted for a duck in his recipe...KFD?   Never would have made it!

  Chickens? Ducks?.....The worse of feathered fowl is their cousin the Osterich..whose head remains buried in the sand!
Peace   Marc :)

dcmeyer420 said...

I just saw people with placards at a KFC. One sign says, "KFC tortures chicken." Maybe we can send the chickens of the world at the KFC torture chambers... That will teach 'em...  

ryanagi said...

I remember this analogy from college too! I wish I remembered which class I was in. Must be a universal college professor tidbit. LOL

boiseladie said...

Love the quote from your "For Giving Souls"....  too funny, and cute!