We all have things in our lives that we know we need to handle. But human nature is a funny thing and we get in our own way. All too often it’s the most obvious things that get us: the problems we ought not to be able to ignore in our health, finances, relationships or jobs. Instead, we push dealing with them off into the future. We know they’re there, right, and we’ll get around to it -but of course we don’t.
I came up with the term “gray rhino” to describe obvious dangers that are coming right at us but that we don’t always handle well –and more often, we don’t. The concept originally applied to the kinds of big global policy and business issues I thought about in my day job.
But the truth is that many of the big picture problems that all kinds of leaders face are rooted in the same kinds of quirks of human nature that get in the way of the decisions we make in work and life. Handling the bad boss, losing those extra few pounds, leaving a bad relationship, setting up your 401K portfolio, fixing the roof… We push aside things we don’t want to deal with, or don’t feel we have the power to change, or focus on short-term problems while creating bigger ones down the road.
When my book, THE GRAY RHINO: How to Recognize and Act on the Obvious Dangers We Ignore, was published in April 2016, I was particularly moved by how people immediately applied my ideas to the gray rhinos in their personal lives: relationships, health, jobs, finances. They really related to my story about how that six-month visit to the dentist kept getting pushed out longer and longer, and I ended up having gum surgery.
The more I thought about the personal applications of the gray rhino concept, the more I wanted to help others to use it. I also wanted to make it not just less unpleasant but fun to do a quick check-in on our personal gray rhinos.
So I pulled together a quiz to help people do a quick and fun but thought-provoking evaluation of the gray rhinos in their jobs and daily lives.
It only takes a few minutes to find out what Rhino Readiness profile fits you. Are you a Game Warden, Tourist on Safari, Ostrich (with your head in the sand), Pancake, or Chicken Little? I’ll be writing more about these profiles in coming weeks.
The Game Warden. Game wardens are dedicated to taking care of gray rhinos when they’re still small and manageable. You’re in the regular habit of taking steps that prevent avoidable problems from popping up. Good job! But don’t take it for granted. Sometimes we’re most vulnerable after we’ve successfully faced down a problem so we miss the one behind it.
Tourists on Safari know to look out for problems, but you’re still learning and practicing the skills you need to see them clearly and act on them. My first time on safari in South Africa, I realized it takes some practice to spot many of the animals you’ve come to see. They may be big, but far away, or camouflaged thanks to Mother Nature. And do you know what to do if a rhino (or elephant or buffalo or lion, for that matter) charges at you? Luckily, you have a guide and tracker to help you.
The Ostrich. You know about the problem coming right at you, but you’d rather not deal with it, so you find ways to avoid it. You need to pull your head out of the sand and decide how you’ll act to get out of the way.
If you’re not careful, you’ll end up like The Pancake: flattened by a gray rhino. The Pancake didn’t recognize to the problems you knew were there, or do the simple things that could avoid a lot of trouble down the road.
The Chicken Little. You see so many gray rhinos running around that it’s hard to focus on the most important ones. Take some time to step back and figure out what’s really important and what you can let go, so that you can make sure you get out of the way of the biggest gray rhinos.
Take the quiz to find out how rhino ready you are. What’s your gray rhino readiness profile? What would you like it to be? What easy small changes could you make in your life to make it less likely that you’ll get trampled?
Share the quiz with your networks to compare your score with your friends.