There’s a Little Bit of Penguin
in All of Us
The penguin metaphor we use in our story refers to anyone
who is narrow-minded, tradition-bound, risk-averse, conser-
vative, resistant to new ideas or different perspectives, and
tied to the way he or she has always done things. Penguins
may or may not be managers or executives. Penguins can
be found at any level in an organization. Remember, being a
penguin is a mind-set, an attitude, a characteristic way of
looking at the world.
If we really look carefully and honestly, we’ll probably find a
little bit of penguin in ourselves, too — though we may not
want to admit it. Even the staunchest peacock probably has
a little penguin streak somewhere deep inside. Most of us
have an aspect of our lives in which we too are narrow-
minded, stuck in our ways, resistant to new approaches.
We are creatures of habit, with familiar routines we don’t
want to change.
“I always take this route to work.”
“This is where I always sit at staff meetings.”
“The end of the toilet paper should always go
roll, not under.”
“The drinking glasses in the kitchen cabinet should go
upside down, not right side up. Everyone knows that.”
Quack, quack, quack. Listen to ourselves resisting different
ways of doing things. There really
a little penguin in all of
That’s not a bad thing, it’s a normal thing. What’s important
here is to simply recognize these penguin tendencies when
they show up so that they don’t control you. You want to
be able to let go of your penguin streak when it doesn’t
serve you — when it keeps you from being flexible and
adaptable to change, or when it keeps you from taking
appropriate risks and trying new things. (Consider asking
someone you trust and respect to alert you whenever you
start acting this way.)
What you most want to avoid is having your little penguin
tendencies grow to take over your whole personality. If you
become a total penguin, you become a problem — for your-
self and for others.
How can you tell if you’re becoming a complete penguin?
Listen to yourself speak; check out the list in “Recognizing
the Quack” in Part III on page 128 and see how often you
say those things. Pay attention to how you respond to
other people who have different opinions from yours:
Do you bristle?
Do you automatically resist suggestions that don’t fit with
the way you like to do things?
Do you resent changes that are out of your control?
Do you keep doing things
way, even if someone
shows you a better way?
If you found yourself answering “yes” to more than one of
these questions, you just might be turning into one of
those black-and-white birds. Talks like a penguin, thinks like
a penguin, waddles like a penguin… must be a penguin!
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