By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an idea on using children’s books to ignite creative thinking. Reading time: 4:06
The butcher paper covering the exquisitely polished executive conference room table seemed out of place as the 11 vice presidents filed into the palatial mahogany and marble executive suite for their regular meeting with the company president.
The president called the meeting to order and immediately started passing out large purple crayons.
The president sat back in his chair and stroked his crayon as if it were a fine cigar. He cradled his cigar/crayon as if it were a treasure to behold.
Then with all the showmanship he could muster –and with a poker face –he waved that crayon as if it were a mini magic wand and said:
“There’s power in this crayon, power that we can use to draw greater profitability and productively into our company,” the president deadpanned to his skeptical executives. “The power to create our own business climate no matter how lousy the economy.”
The executives were sure the president had snapped under all the bottom line pressure. They were incredulous, their body language clearly telling the president just how ridiculous and irrelevant he was behaving. But the president ignored the tension in the room. Instead he began talking about his childhood. Now the executives knew he had lost it.
The president remembered his mother reading him a book about a guy named Harold who would take his purple crayon and draw himself an apple tree or an apple pie when he was hungry, or a mountain when he wanted to see higher. And when he fell off a cliff, he simply drew himself a hot air balloon and landed safely.
The president said it was more than 40 years since his mother first read him Crockett Johnson’s book Harold and the Purple Crayon. But the lessons in that book sparked a sense of initiative, imagination and ingenuity that helped him create a profitable company over the last six years as president.
But in the last six months, a worldwide economic downturn was taking it toll on their company’s bottom line. Their business world looked bleak—like that blank sheet of paper—sprawled over the conference room table.
The president began coloring that large sheet of butcher paper. He invited others to join him in “creating our new world of profitability” at this strategic planning session.
Facing the Scary Dragon
Sure the economy was scaring even the most seasoned executives, he allowed. The president admitted he was scared. He was feeling like Harold felt in that book when he came face to face with a scary dragon.
“Harold was so frightened that his hand shook,” the president demonstrated, skidding his crayon over the butcher paper with a shaky hand that left a jagged purple line, much like the waves of an ocean.
“But Harold simply took that purple crayon – the same purple crayon that you are holding right now,” the president said in a no-nonsense, get-down-to-business tone.
“He looked at those jagged lines like so many waves crushing in on him, jagged lines that look much like our profitability chart right now —plenty of ups and downs, mostly downs– and Harold quickly drew a boat and put a sail on it.”
Then the president, resolute and resilient, got up from the table and said:
“Let’s get busy building our sailboat this morning.
We have all the tools we need in our hands, in ourselves.”
The smirks on the face of the executives turned to grins. They got it. They got the meaning of the purple crayon and butcher block paper.
The purple crayon metaphor and the childhood memories drove home to those executives that this president was destined to see the company through these hard times with his sense of ingenuity and resourcefulness. And the purple crayon reminded him of just how resourceful his company and its executive are.
Search your children’s library for powerful metaphorical weapons. Parlay your purple crayon. Make your mark.
And color your bottom line–anything but red.
Read a children’s book to keep your leadership skills in mint condition.
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