Failing in business, life: The parable of wet wood

Friday February 28 2020

Sometimes a business receives a new lease of life after some people exit: The general attitude changes and people become more productive.

Sometimes a business receives a new lease of life after some people exit: The general attitude changes and people become more productive. PHOTO | FILE | NMG 

WALE AKINYEMI
By WALE AKINYEMI
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A lot of business failure is due to what I call wet wood. Wet wood as we all know will not burn no matter how much you try to light it. Even if you pour kerosene on it, the flame will light up and once the fuel is burnt up, the fire goes out.

Wet wood consumes time and energy. Imagine all the effort spent trying to get it to burn. Wet wood also affects any dry wood that would ordinarily burn. It drips its wetness onto the dry wood.

Wet wood is simply bad news. Now let us translate the illustration to business and life.

Wet wood can refer to people in your organisation or under your watch who are just there to mark their presence, which is never felt in terms of taking the company forward. Wet wood represents people who you have to remind to do their work, who lack initiative and wait to be told what to do. It represents people who would serve the company better by leaving.

Sometimes a business receives a new lease of life after some people exit: The general attitude changes and people become more productive. All the things that could not be done before suddenly move from possibility to reality. The dry wood that had been doused by the wet wood suddenly begins to burn with little or no effort.

It is not that these wet wood personalities are evil. Einstein taught us that if a fish is judged by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its life thinking it is stupid. It could be that these wet wood personalities are not wired for your environment and so the quicker you let them go the better for everyone. They will come back and thank you one day.

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RIGHT PERSON, WRONG PLACE

A good friend shared the story of how he was relieved of his employment. The boss said to him: “Hey dude, I know you have a very great future.” My friend was happy and braced himself for the good news that was expected to follow.

Then the boss said, “But that great future is not in this company.” My friend was devastated, but now when he looks back he sees that it was one of the catalysts of the great success he enjoys today.

In essence, the fact that someone is wet wood in one environment does not mean they will always be. If, however, history repeats itself in their lives, then there is a bigger problem that they have to deal with.

When people express interest in joining an organisation, when interviewed they say they are ready to learn. They know that this is what you want to hear.

The workplace is a school with learners. No one is going to hire you and pay you to teach you. When you are hired, you will be paid to learn. It is a personal choice. Learning does not need the direct instruction of a teacher. It involves the personal drive of the learner. Learning takes place everywhere.

Have you ever been to a meeting where you get fired up because of what you heard, and you go ahead and implement what you learnt while other people who were at the same meeting have no clue what you are talking about? Or maybe you heard someone say that he read a particular book and his whole life changed and someone else reads the book and nothing happens.

Well, it goes to show that the ability to learn does not come from the outside. It is a function of an internal attitude and mental positioning.

To those who lack internal drive, all the information in the world will make no difference. To those who have it, a little information can make a big difference.

Perhaps the best way to sum it up is a verse in the Bible that says, “To him that has, more shall be added, to him that has not, even that which he thinks he has shall be taken away from him”.

Being wet wood is a choice people make when they refuse to learn. Identify any wet wood around you and remind them that they have a great future — but not with you.

Wale Akinyemi is the chief transformation officer, PowerTalks

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