I once heard a story about why fisherman off the North coast of Scotland are pleased when they inadvertently catch a catfish on their daily trawl. This may be a myth, it may not be true but it is a story that I have shared many times when I coach senior leaders in delivery of change.
…when fisherman spot a catfish in their nets they are delighted as they know this is going to be a good days fishing…but why? The simple reason is this, when catfish join the rest of the haul in the bowels of the ship headed back to shore unlike their fellow fish they don’t just simply give in after a few futile whips of their tails. No, the mighty catfish firmly and resolutely refuse to give in, to lay down and accept their fate – instead they thrash and they thrash all the way back to shore. They do not give up.
The reason the fisherman are so pleased is simply that in refusing to lay still, the catfish is agitating it’s friends, keeping them moving and keeping them alive. For the fisherman this means one simple truth – fresher fish when they get back to shore.
Whist this tale does not have a happy ending for the catch of the day I believe there are some simple learnings that it can serve anyone who wants to be an agent of change in organisations. Leading change in organisations means that you will be invariably swimming against the organisation’s current as you are changing the status quo, not swimming with it. You will need courage, determination and passion. Above all you will need an ability to attract people towards you, engage them so they trust you and enroll them to change even when the change looks tougher than the comfort of the familiar. Here are some lessons from the catfish to guide you:
- Remember this first, if you don’t feel like a fish out of water then you’re not doing the right work – change requires growth in an organisation and growth comes with growing pains.
- Fish will die if starved of the water they need to breathe, we suffocate if starved of air – make sure you have the support, the resources and the energy to keep going. You can help no one if you don’t first look after yourself.
- It may often feel like you’re thrashing around in the dark but remember one thing – you’re still moving and your energy will keep others going – don’t stop thrashing!
- Catfish are bold and if they could speak would be outspoken (of that I am sure!) – as a change agent you can’t afford to be a shrinking violet, you need to be bold, be courageous and speak out!
- Never give up – there is no failure there is only feedback in any endeavor we pursue – if something doesn’t work try something else, then something else again, keep going and keep learning.
This tale may not be true and this may not be what catfish do, but I like to think that if this is how catfish behave then I’d be proud to call myself a catfish too.
What does your inner catfish think?
Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org