We have all heard the story about the pact between the scorpion and the frog. They both needed to get across a body of water and so they made an agreement that the scorpion would ride on the back of the frog. The frog was hesitant, but agreed to the pact because he knew that if the scorpion would sting him they both would perish. So they started on their journey and about halfway through the journey the scorpion stings the frog. As the frog started to drown he asks the scorpion, “Why did you do that? Now we both will perish!” The scorpion replied, “What did you expect, I am a scorpion?”
This is a great story as it teaches that by nature and by its natural character the scorpion only knows to sting. It is so built up in its natural character that it cannot change or help itself. The temptation to sting is just too strong. So no matter how much the frog wanted to believe that the scorpion would not sting him the scorpion did. The frog believed that because the scorpion needed him in order to get across the water safely that even in those circumstances the scorpion would not sting him, yet the scorpion still had to sting.
I have seen this play out many times in business. As leaders we need to and are sometimes challenged to define what is so defined in someone’s character that it cannot be changed. Behavior can be modified, but sometimes an individual has a bad character trait that it is part of who they are. My personal belief is the only thing that can change bad character in an individual is something that is either drastic in their life, or divine. As leaders, we would be hard pressed to be either of those solutions. As a leader we must lead our people, grow and develop those who can grow and develop more, and discern those that are not a fit for our business and our team. Our human nature is to want to see the good in everyone. But our instincts and life lessons have taught us that the perfect world is a work in progress.
Leaders learn and understand that there are very good individuals just not fit for certain businesses and teams. We owe it to those individuals to give them the benefit of our time, patience based upon their efforts, and honest feedback to build their success. Unfortunately not everyone succeeds. But the person I am speaking about is the one that by nature has a bad character flaw that no matter how talented or promising they may be that flaw will always be revealed.
I, like other leaders, have learned from experience that if someone has proven to have a bad character trait that we can spend valuable energy trying to manage around that trait and the scorpion with always sting. I have seen some individuals that have extraordinary talents in key areas and we convince ourselves that we can manage to those talents but that bad character trait still appears. Once again, the scorpion will always sting. I just find it funny actually that in the end I act surprised and the scorpion looks at me and says, “What do you expect, I am scorpion.”