Monkey S***

One day early in his career, Peter Guber, the young studio head at Columbia Pictures, was talking with Jack Warner, the legendary founder and chairman of Warner Bros.

During a lull in the conversation, Jack asked him casually, “How are things going for you at the studio?”  He seemed genuinely interested, Peter writes in his wonderful book, Tell to Win.

He found himself venting: “It’s like a tidal wave.  People just keep coming into my office with one problem after the other.  It never ends.”

Warner paused for a moment and replied, “Let me tell you a story…”  

This week we are exploring where to find raw material for the stories we tell to prompt people to heed our call to action.    

Metaphors and analogies are some of the best source material.

“Don’t be confused,” Jack said.  “You’re only renting that office.  You don’t own it. 

“It’s a zoo.  You’re the zookeeper, and every single person that comes in the office comes with a monkey.  That monkey is their problem.  They’re trying to leave it with you.  

“Your job is to discover where the monkey is.  They’ll hide it, or dress it up, but remember you’re the zookeeper.  You’ve got to keep the place clean.  So make sure when you walk them to the door, they’ve got the monkey by the hand.  Don’t let them leave without it.  Don’t let them come back until it’s trained and they have solutions to their problem.  Otherwise at the end of the day, you’ve had an office full of screaming, jumping animals and monkey s*** all over the floor.”

Then Jack Warner said, “Think of that visually.  Make them all take their monkey problems away and come back with a solution.”

Peter writes: “After that, I noticed visitors to my office would invariably wait until the last possible second to reveal the monkey…  But if I watched and waited, the real problem would come popping out.  Then I would hand it right back to the person who was trying to foist it off on me.  

“Warner’s metaphor became a valuable managerial tool, and I told it forward many times in my career.”

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Reflection: Think about a current business challenge.  Is there a story involving a metaphor or analogy I can share to move people to take action?

Action:  Tell it.

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