Q: “Why does a dog wag its tail?”
A: “Because the dog is smarter than the tail. If the tail were smarter, the tail would wag the dog.”
The notion of “the tail wagging the dog” is an expression that has been around for 150 years, alluding to the idea of something small and seemingly inconsequential controlling a much larger, more important or powerful body.
Although the expression is more commonly used in reference to political distraction and subterfuge tactics, the fact is that in today’s digital world of “nothing is ever deleted or forgotten,” we all have to be almost obsessively careful about what we post or say in public.
A single off-hand remark or clumsily stated comment in the wrong context that gets posted online can require massive amounts of damage control to everything from personal reputations to elections to stock markets… and those are some seriously big dogs!
The office “grapevine” or “rumor mill” is a dangerous place for hearsay to turn into gossip and widespread panic. As leaders, the moment we get wind of such a storm brewing, it’s essential to face it head on.
As Mike Massaro, CEO of Flywire global payment network, said in this week's episode of Speaking to Influence, “If you don't set the narrative, the narrative is going to be set for you.”
The person who sets the narrative controls the wagging, and thus the outcome.
Mike shares an incredible story about a time when FlyWire was in discussions to acquire another company, and word leaked in that organization about the possibility of acquisition, creating panic among its employees.
Not wanting to trigger a mass exodus of employees or find himself with an angry mob of a workforce, Mike went against much conventional wisdom and most advice he received, got on a plane and flew out to address the entire organization in person.
Mike offers tons of stories and insights regarding:
- the importance of resourcefulness and a willingness to learn, especially in fast-paced industries
- the challenges of transitioning from a private to a public company in a volatile economy
- the significance of considering all aspects of a potential business transaction,
- How to treat employees with respect during a company acquisition,
- And of course, how to establish a leadership narrative.
Setting the right, consistent narrative does wonders for instilling faith in your organization.
And that’s true whether it’s a secular or faith-based institution alike. Which is exactly what I had the pleasure of discussing with Jim Friend this week on his podcast, “Advancing our Church.”
I’ve worked with many religious organizations, from speaking at national Jewish philanthropy conferences to running public speaking workshops for seminarians and beyond, and it’s beautiful to contribute to the goal shared by all: doing good in the world by teaching people to love one another.
Jim and I dive into:
- The value of storytelling, even in the form of parables
- The importance of using accessible language and knowing your audience
- How to motivate and mobilize a board
- Do’s and don’ts for inspirational lectoring
- And, per our theme today, strategies for crisis communication, in order to avoid letting the tail wag the dog
Regardless of your own personal faith traditions or beliefs, you’ll be surprised at how relevant, helpful, and even fun our conversation is! Tune in… and wag your tail.