Eagles in cages – Release the talent within

Family vacations were the source of many memories. Invariably our vacations took us to the local zoological establishment where we would compare that particular zoo to the many others we visited. On one such trip we were struck by the grandeur of the Golden Eagle. I watched the majestic bird as it stood confined to a small cage, while other birds were in an aviary with more room to fly. I pondered the concept of eagles trapped in cages, which was initially addressed in a poem in my book Eagles in Cages Leadership above the Rim – the poetry of possibility. 

In organizations and families all over the world, are a countless number of individuals who are not working up to their capabilities. They are functioning below expectations. They are as eagles, designed to achieve high altitudes, but are fettered, confined to a prison that restricts their mobility. These magnificent specimens reside in corporations of every size, on teams and in relationships. They sit on their monogrammed perches and make flights at low altitudes and of short duration. The toll on performance, engagement, productivity, personal satisfaction, self -actualization is enormous. Their captivity ensures that they do not;

  • Participate fully with their talents
  • Become fully engaged
  • Have their maximum impact on results
  • Stand out from the crowd by sharing their ideas
  • Take risks due to fear or lack of confidence 

Captivity extracts a psychic and financial penalty. The opportunity costs are staggering; lost wages due to missed promotions, impaired innovation, reduced productivity and other financial consequences. 

The Eagles 

Who are the eagles? They are a diverse group of individuals and teams. They may differ in age, gender, race, culture, level of ability, thinking and learning styles, education, class, religious affiliation, physical and mental capacity, country of residence and origin, and in other dynamics across the human spectrum. 

They are each endowed with talents, skills, abilities in search of opportunities for expression. They are wired to behave distinctively, in our unique way. Their passion is shown in different areas and dream of accomplishing and participating in activities that match their talents. In classrooms around the world children fantasize about beauty, greatness, wealth and the adulation of friends. In factories, the workers on the front line have ideas to improve their work environment, profitability and products. There are managers who wish to display artistic freedom in executing their job description. 

It is important for eagles to accept their role in expressing their abilities. After a speech in Austin, Texas a young lady ran up to me shouting, I am an eagle! I am an eagle!  She came to grips with who she was. This kind of fervor is rarely seen, but internally it must be felt. 

The eagles face numerous restrictions that stunt their growth and impair their development. The eagles respond in various ways; conforming, silently rebelling, optimistically hoping for the best, realistically responding to their setting. Consequently, they go along with the program, suppressing their ideas, spread negative thoughts through the company grapevine, watch the clock, and do just enough to keep their jobs. 

Eagle traits

You determine someone’s talents, strengths, skills, abilities and potential by: 

  • Personality assessments, motivational surveys, talent and strength finder questionnaires
  • Assigning projects and provide feedback
  • Observe the things they excel in on the job
  • Identifying their passion and capitalize on their strengths
  • Challenging them to exceed a higher standard
  • Determining what holds them down and what allows them to soar
  • Trusting them and relinquish some power
  • Delegating authority and give them room to expand
  • Not under estimating their potential

Eagles present with varying talents, abilities, skills and potential. When trained and coached in the proper environment with requisite aptitude, resources and motivation eagles fulfill their purpose and potential. When an eagle’s environment is expanded and their needs are met, they can fly higher and perform as they were born to produce. Dale was a sales representative who got in serious trouble with his girlfriend.  She had a parakeet that he would let out to fly around the apartment. He noticed that the bird always flew at low levels around the apartment. He felt the bird could not fly very high and its wings did not have the strength to fly away. So Dale decided to remove the parakeet from the cage and let it fly outdoors. He cupped the bird in his hands and threw it toward the sky. To his amazement the bird flew like it was shot from a rocket straight up into the air and immediately out of sight. Dale under estimated the potential of a freed bird when given the opportunity of a higher ceiling. 

Eagle cages 

The cages that bind the eagles are rarely of metal. They usually consist of: 

  • A person’s low self-esteem, fear and a desire to stay under the radar
  • Assimilation and peer pressure to stay within limits or expectations
  • A corporate culture that restricts innovation by a rigid set of policies / procedures that discourage risk taking and differentiation
  • Managers with weak leadership, coaching and people development skills
  • Poor reward and recognition systems
  • Poor training or lack of training to restrict skill development
  • An environment that lacks trust, where mistakes are punished

Eagles face personal impediments, barriers from people they know or restrictions from associations where they work-study or volunteer their time. Results are linked to expectations. Low expectations usually lead to low results and high expectations lead to higher results. But your level of ascension will also be affected by your beliefs through you self-image. Maxwell Maltz, MD, a noted plastic surgeon wrote, “The “self-image” is the key to human personality and human behavior. Change the self-image and you change the personality and behavior.” 

Emancipation of Eagles 

There are too many eagles in too many cages. One of the major tasks facing families, individuals, corporations and civic groups is how to get the most out of people. Families have the awesome responsibility to identify talents, create a nurturing environment, instruct the eaglets when they’re young and praise their successes. They have to strengthen them when there are crash landings until they learn to use their wings for maximum effectiveness. 

Leadership in organizations must play a key role in releasing the eagles and encouraging them to reach their potential.  Command and control tactics must give way to empowerment and engagement in order to experience the glorious freedom and results from the beauty of unfettered flight.  There was a video narrated by the late Orson Wells entitled, “To try again and succeed.” It tells the story of a baby eagle and the role of an older and wiser eagle in training, nurturing, challenging and using discipline to enable the young bird to fly. When the young bird is pushed from the nest and falls perilously into the depths, we are elated to see the eaglet emerge, able to fly.  Our role as eagles is to reach our potential, as we help other eagles exercise their purpose and reach their goals and the magnificent release of their talent.

Copyright © 2011 Orlando Ceaser                      www.watchwellinc.com

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