I don’t recall how this Native American fable ended up in my database:
A native brave came upon an eagle’s egg which had somehow fallen unbroken from an eagle’s nest. Unable to find the nest, the brave put the egg in the nest of a prairie chicken where it was hatched by the brooding mother hen. The fledgling eagle, with its proverbial strong eyes, saw the world for the first time. Looking at the other prairie chickens, he did what they did. He crawled and scratched at the earth, pecked here and there for stray grains and husks, now and then rising in a flutter a few feet above the earth and then descending again. He accepted and imitated the daily routine of the earthbound prairie chickens. And he spent most of his life this way.
Then, as the story continues, one day an eagle flew over the brood of prairie chickens. The now aging eagle, who still thought he was a prairie chicken, looked up in awed admiration as the great bird soared through the skies. “What is that?” he gasped in astonishment. One of the old prairie chickens replied, “I have seen one before. That is the eagle, the proudest, strongest and most magnificent of all the birds. But don’t you ever dream that you could be like that. You’re like the rest of us and we are prairie chickens.” So, shackled by this belief, the eagle lived and died thinking he was a prairie chicken.
As I blogged in My Fair Lady Shows the Power of Expectations, this story wonderfully illustrates the powerful forces of perception and expectations that shape our reality. These expectations can be self-perceptions — boundaries we set to limit ourselves. Or they can be set by supervisors, managers, and executives as outlined in The Fish Tank Factor article and short quiz. Collective expectations create very powerful cultural norms that can become Unconscious and Underlying Beliefs Undermine Culture Change Efforts.
May you soar with the eagles! And help raise the expectations of your team members.