Pardon Me for Being a Manager: Lessons Learned from THE LITTLE RED HEN
(SLIDE OF LITTLE RED HEN “she found some seeds” image from Harper Collins
Byron Barton version)
There are times when all of us can relate to the Little Red Hen.
She lives in a humble house.
She is a working mother.
But despite our feelings of camaraderie, from the management stand point, little red has a
lot to learn.
We tire of hearing those carping questions of desperation. “ Who will help me? “ she
asks sometimes plaintively sometimes stridently but always to no avail. It’s frankly
How did she get herself in such a bind? Is she, as some have suggested, just a
sanctimonious piece of poultry or a much maligned middle manager in need of some
I think we don’t know the whole story. We only know that when Little red needs help
her hapless co-workers are unwilling to do the job at hand and in fact fly in the face of
There are several steps that red could have and should have taken long before she
planted those first seed that would have made her life a lot easier.
Part of her problem is Little red is not looking at the big picture. Effective management
requires understanding how all those little tasks fit together. Little red isn’t just planting
seeds, harvesting wheat and grinding flour --- little red is making bread. (various images
from text of her planing seeds, cutting wheat , pouring flour)
She needs to get a handle on her big picture , her goals and then find the best people to
do the task at hand and motivate them to do it well. She needs to advertise, interview,
motivate, she needs to delegate, and she needs to manage.
The first most important step is to find the best people to do the task and the way in
which a job is presented is really important. What did this job advertisement look like?
(fake job advertisement with text: Industrious farm animals needed for bakery work.
Skills in planting seeds, threshing and bread baking necessary. Working knowledge of
flour grinding highly desirable. Some weekends hours. Salary commensurate with
experience. Interested parties should contact: Small Hen Inc. Farm Hill Lane, Salisbury
Well, that’s one idea but we don’t really know. We don’t know because I suspect the
little red didn’t think things through. She just went about willy nilly throwing seeds
around with some vague attempt at baking. Not good.
With out clear job expectations animals are not going to cooperate.
(Image of cat pig and duck sleeping in the barn.)
The next big step after posting the job advertisement is to determine: Are pigs, ducks and
cats really the best animals for making bread?
How does one find out?
Interviewing is the key here and asking questions is the key to interviewing. Given Little
red’s propensity for questions you would think she would be better at it than she is.
Trouble is she is asking the WRONG questions.
What questions best reveal what an animal knows about baking? Questions should elicit
responses about experience, interests and abilities. Are pigs capable of planting seeds?
Have ducks baked bread before and if so in what capacity? Does this cat have an interest
Questions need to be asked BEFORE the trouble begins. Little red is not only asking the
WRONG questions she is asking questions at the wrong time.
So Little red’s passive plaintive pleadings are easily unheeded by her less than qualified
Now Little red needs to motivate. Motivation requires some follow through, some
consequence for failure to comply and some positive response for a job well done.
Does anything happen to these lazy animals? Not really. (Image from last page. Sad
animal faces looking in cottage). Is there a promised reward for a job well done?
Without stated consequences or positive feedback Little red gets no action. (Back to barn
image. Snoring or some animation)
Motivation also requires that you know your animals. (Individual images from before as
each animal is mentioned)
What are a pig’s strengths? (Image of pig)
What makes cats feel satisfied? (Image of cat) What do ducks do to relax? (Image of
animals together rowing in the boat)
All-important questions if you want to motivate staff and keep them going.
So her failure to see the big picture, advertise and interview, and motivate her staff leaves
her in a dilemma.
Nothing is getting done. (front piece brown background).
What does she do? She does EVERYTHING herself.
Wrong again little red. Delegation can be your friend even if the process has broken
down to this point.
Giving staff tasks is essential to getting a job done.
“Not I,” is NOT an acceptable answer. A good manager would be on this right away.
Rather than running over to thresh that wheat or grind that flour, Little red would have
made better use of her time by assigning the pig or the duck or the cat to do specific parts
of the task.
Then the story might sound a bit different:
“Ok guys, our next step is threshing this wheat. Who will help me thresh this wheat?”
asked the little red hen. (image of hen with wheat to thresh)
“Not I, “ squealed the pig. “Not I,” quacked the duck. “Not I,” meowed the cat. (image
of them on swing )
“Well since I don’t have volunteers about we make a schedule. Pig, you and I will thresh
together for this first hour since I know how pig likes to jump into things.
Cat and duck will thresh for the next hour. You guys are really good at studying
procedures and how to do things better. After watching Pig and I you guys should be
able to finish the threshing in the next hour.
Then we will reassess the situation and see how much more work we need to do to get the
amount of bread we need. After all, if we don’t get the wheat threshed we will be short
on bread and you guys aren’t going to get any. Right?”
(Image from text I will said the pig ….. )
“Right. Okay” squealed the pig,
“Let’s get started,” the duck.
I’m on break,” meowed the cat. (image moves off screen)
This scenario may not offer as much important repetitive phrasing for preschoolers as the
original version of the story and the original story does lose its pleasing simplicity but I
promise you bread production would increase. (image of little red hen with loaf of bread.
Images multiplies on screen)
Then we would never see the results of little red’s burnout
(image of fake EMPLOYMENT SOUGHT advertisement: Experienced hen seeks
employment opportunity in food production. Extensive baking experience.)
and most importantly little red hen could have her bread and eat it too.
(image of little red hen and her chicks – text “And they did.”)