OPEN THE FILE AND READ THE DOCUMENT. Then respond to the two questions below.
In the world of nature, we can learn a lot about the small sprocket principle from the ant, a small creature. Their highly organized colonies often consist of millions of individual ants, yet they appear to operate as a single entity. They work in teams to move extremely heavy things. They gather food during harvest and store it until the winter months. Without an administrator, they perform specific jobs as workers, soldiers, drones and queens. Yet, when a catastrophe occurs, the ants quickly adapt their duties to overcome the problem.
1. Summarize the characteristics that enable the ant to succeed:
2. Contrast the ant’s initiative and perseverance with our own human laziness. Why do we often fail to persevere? What prevents our “spinning?”
Due Wednesday May 29, 2019
LEADERS ARE THE SMALL SPROCKETS IN EFFECTING CHANGE. WE MUST SPIN DOZENS OF TIMES BEFORE THE BIG GEAR MAKES ONE REVOLUTION. IT’S PART OF THE TERRITORY. SPIN LIKE CRAZY AND EVENTUALLY OTHERS WILL RESPOND.
As a high school student, I rode my bike to school—at least until I got a car. Riding my bike was memorable because I had to ride up a huge hill called “Fletcher Parkway.” It was a solid, three-quarter mile, uphill climb. Every morning, I was sweating by the time I reached the top. Thank Schwinn for ten-speed bikes! Shifting into low gear was my only hope. (As you know, low gears allow a biker to climb hills when there’s no momentum). My trade-off was pedaling like crazy just to move a few feet.
I suppose it’s a little like a car. When you drive, the engine revs between 1,000 and 3,000 RPMs (revolutions per minute), depending on the momentum you have. In other words, a car’s motor spins thousands of revolutions each moment, only to move your tires down the road just one, short mile! It’s a small wheel moving a big wheel—a tiny gear spinning frantically, to move the larger one just a bit. It’s the Law of Leverage… and it illustrates the principle of the Small Sprocket.
Imagine two sprockets. One small one, one big one. It’s the job of the small sprocket to turn the big sprocket. If the small sprocket is half the size of the big one, it must go around twice before the big one completes a full revolution. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Now imagine that small sprocket is 100th the size of the big one. Now it must rotate 100 times in order to make the big sprocket complete a full revolution!
That’s how life is for the leader of an organization. Sometimes things flow smoothly and you don’t feel like you’re working too hard. Then there are times (and these are more common) when you have to work, work, work, work, work—just to feel like the team is progressing at all! You spin and spin and spin in order to accomplish all of your leadership tasks. You keep communicating the vision, but everyone still seems fuzzy on it. You tell them what needs to be done, but they need a reminder. You equip them to recruit a team, but they continue to be a one-man show. You labor and labor… anticipating seeing some result. It can be discouraging. It feels like you’ve moved ahead fifty miles, but the group is moving like an inchworm! How can this be?
Relax. It’s normal. Welcome to leadership. Leaders must spin like a small sprocket to get the larger group to spin just once. It can be tiresome. At first, the labor ratio is often disproportionate. But just wait. Continue spinning. Good news is coming. People will eventually respond to your spinning. And you know what? Once you really get moving and have the group responding positively, that big sprocket starts picking up speed from its own momentum. In time, the group will be spinning you!
You may remember the 2000 movie, Pay It Forward. Based on a true story, Trevor McKinney creates the “pay it forward” idea as a social studies project in school. The breakdown is pretty simple: do something to help someone, then ask them to do the same for three other individuals. Don’t pay the kindness back; pay it forward. The whole movie is about Trevor helping people and trying to inspire them to pay it forward. His project seems to be failing, as Trevor spins and spins… and nobody seems to join his quest to make the world a better place. He is ready to give up.
In the end, Trevor learns that he started a movement. From homeless people to corporate CEOs, his good deeds and their forward momentum reached so many people that they caught the attention of a reporter. The truth is, Trevor had been spinning a long time before he saw any results. In his eyes, the big sprocket hadn’t moved. But in reality, it was actually just picking up momentum. Hearing that his project was successful re-ignited Trevor’s original desire to share kindness in the world. In the movie, there were increased random acts of kindness throughout the region. In real life, however, the movie inspired the creation of the “Pay It Forward” movement. People are paying it forward from Washington to Florida, all the way to Singapore and Australia.
In 1809, a boy named Louie was born in a small town near Paris. His early years consisted of many difficult obstacles. Playing with his father’s tools one day, Louie pierced and destroyed his left eye. Shortly after that, his damaged eye infected the other, causing complete loss of sight in both eyes. While most blind people at the time became beggars, Louie wanted to attend school. So at the age of ten, he enrolled in a school for the blind. Students were taught to read raised letters, but due to the difficult process, only 14 books were available to study. Louie knew there had to be an easier way and set about creating a finger alphabet.
He began creating a system that would allow every blind person to read, write and communicate. Early on, it had little success because the system was too complex for kids to master. But Louie experimented with more simplified systems over the next few months, finally arriving at the ideal “six dot” system. By the time he was fifteen, Louie had developed separate codes for math and music.
Although his creation had improved life for blind people, it didn’t catch on. Sighted people didn’t understand how the dot system could be useful. One teacher even banned children from learning it. Eventually—after years of spinning like crazy—folks realized the benefits of the system. Today, the Braille System has been adapted to almost every known language, from Albanian to Zulu. Against all odds, Louie became an independent man and even went on to become a teacher in his old school.
As a young leader, I remember trying to start new projects in the organization where I was employed. I thought my ideas were great, but few others agreed. After all, I was the new kid on the block and I was young. Fortunately, there were a few of us who began spinning like small sprockets. We knew we couldn’t spin wildly in all directions, so we consistently spun like crazy in one direction. I’d look in the mirror each day and say, “I’m a small sprocket!” Over time, momentum picked up. Management saw that our ideas had potential, and we were given the go ahead to begin implementing some of them. By the time I left that job, we were successful in reaching all of our original goals.
We were small sprockets. As leaders, if we don’t have the courage and determination to keep spinning, things will grind to a halt. Very little will change. In fact, the vision will shrivel and the team will likely suffer. It’s the leader’s job to spin like crazy and fire up the rest of the team. It’s part of the territory of leadership. Fueled by determination, leaders are the engines. We are the small sprockets.