I have two young kids and they are obsessed with the movie Moana. I have seen this movie many times now and find myself singing the songs in my head frequently…they’re very catchy! Anyway…it’s a great Disney story of the strong willed Moana, daughter of the village chief of a Polynesian tribe (note – there is a whole other blog post on gender diversity and positive role models around this story, rather than the traditional ‘princess’ stories). When her island is in trouble Moana sets sail in search for Maui, demigod of the land and sea to save the day. To save her people Moana needs to find and restore a small stone, the mystical heart of the island goddess Te Fiti….stay with me…yes I know I’m starting to go a little ‘unicorn’ but hang in there, this is going somewhere.
Some important lessons come out of this story. The first is Moana had grown up under the assumption that her people had always lived in the village on the island, living off the land. Another side note, because my kids are obsessed with Moana, we had to go buy a whole coconut…in the middle of winter…who knows how to open a whole coconut? Anyway, back to the story…Moana is shocked to find that in fact, the village and her people had a long history of being voyagers moving from island to island and were skilled sailors. Moana’s father the chief refuses to let Moana near the water or to explore sailing as he lost his best friend when younger and sailing out past the reef. Moana is to be the next village chief but is struggling with the expectations of the role as she sees it.
How often do we assume and accept the status quo as being unquestionable because everything we have ever seen or heard solidifies and cements that view?
How often do we take the time to think about those underlying assumptions and to challenge them?
How often do ‘chiefs’ attempt to close down discussions because of a well founded fear?
Second lesson, the demigod Maui stole the ‘heart of Te Fiti’ (the small stone) with a positive intent, however he had no idea that he had unleashed Te Ka, a lava demon of earth and fire. That’s quite a large unintended consequence! Often, I have entered into a situation with a positive intent and I have observed others enter with a positive intent only to see the proverbial ‘Te Ka’ being unleashed.
How often do we consider the unintended consequences, both positive and negative, before we act?
If you don’t want me to ruin the story for you please stop reading now….
Ok, so it turns out that when the goddess Te Fiti had her heart stolen (by the naughty demigod Maui) she turned into the the lava demon Te Ka. The story continues with Moana courageously voyaging across the sea (with the help of her demigod sidekick Maui) to retrieve the heart (small stone). Inspired by her ability to complete this journey, Moana realises that Te Ka is in fact Te Fiti who was corrupted without her heart. Moana walks through the ocean alone (with the waves magically parted in true Disney style) towards Te Ka. Moana sings a song to Te Ka to help her remember who she really is (note that Te Ka is still spitting fire and brimstone) and then Moana compassionately places the heart back into Te Ka, turning her back into the life giving goddess Te Fiti.
How often do we truly see the good in people, even if at times it’s hard to find?
How often do we take risks to help others be the best they can be and help them meet their needs?
How often do we find true alignment in our purpose and take the necessary steps courageously toward that purpose?
It’s a great uplifting story and a bit of fun for the kids (and big kids) with great music, however it’s not real life which doesn’t always end the same way.
How do we consider some of these very simple lessons and concepts and seek to apply them at work?
- Take the time to truly understand your context and history. Let’s not assume that the way things are now is the way they have always been. What direction are you currently heading in? Is that the path you want to take? We can learn from the past and create a new future.
- Consider how to create a transparent, open environment to support debate. How often do we consider the governance structures and workplace culture that we have in place? Does our organisational design meet our needs? Or are we simply avoiding having the tough conversations that need to take place.
- Create a process to explore and understand what needs are not being met.Those could be the needs of your customers, your staff, your suppliers or even yourself. Look beyond what is immediately observable to understand how and why something is the way it is. Knowing ‘what is’ provides the basis to move forward.
- Build a toolkit to facilitate, intervene and create. Things don’t have to be the way that they are. The power of choice allows us all to exercise our free will to make things better. This might include skills or strengths you (or your team or your organisation) hadn’t even realised you had (e.g. Moana’s sailing, singing, grit and compassion). How do you identify what capabilities you need now and in the future? How do you go about building them?
- Take risk to make things better. What’s the worst that can happen? How might we increase our compassion and empathy during this process? Staying with the status quo (in Moana’s case Te Ka) is often outweighed by the benefits of a possible future (Te Fiti with her restored heart), if we allow ourselves to see that positive future. How do we ensure that we and others can see that adjacent possible future?
Thinking about how to align all aspects of our organisations (including governance, strategy, leadership, culture and business development) will help us to transform from the proverbial Te Ka into the beautiful Te Fiti…and if you’re already a Te Fiti, to stay one!
Nick founded and leads Chrysalis Advisory, providing Governance, Strategy, Leadership, Culture and Business Development Advisory
If you would like to have a talk about how Chrysalis can support you gain organisational alignment please get in touch.