Business, boardroom politics and the crabs in the bucket

When you put one crab in a bucket, it will claw and craw its way out and foray into the wild and explore. But when you put a bunch of crabs in a bucket, don’t bother covering the bucket. It won’t successfully when they are in a group, you can travel and come back and you’ll meet all of them together.

This is so because the crabs in a group  is such that no crab even though they are all trying to get out  of the same bucket will  allow any other crab to successfully climb out of that basket. So, if any of it tries to climb out, the others will claw on it to bring it down. This cycle continues for as long as they stay together in that bucket. So in the end, no one goes out.

In life and business circle, there are systems and people with that state of mind; the crab mentality of “if I can’t have it, neither can you”.

The modern day witchcraft has left the shrine to the internet, and down into the boardroom. From cyber bullying to cartels and self-interest based clique that undermines growth. This starts of from ‘’what is in it for me?’’ degenerating into unhealthy politics. This moves from spreading fake news intentionally to hurt another person all in an attempt to reduce that person’s brand equity, self-confidence of others (especially someone known or they personally know) striving to achieve more.  This is mainly out of mediocrity, envy, resentment, spite, conspiracy, or competitive feelings, to halt their progress. Nowhere are the political battle lines more sharply drawn than in the boardrooms of our modern corporations. The battlefields include questions of promotions, nepotism, executive compensation, conflicts of interest, absence of transparency, ineptitude and corruption. Many boards are inadequate for the tasks with which they are charged (which is mainly supposed to be corporate, business and operational development of strategy in that order). But the skirmishes that take place in the boardroom find debilitating replication in the rest of the organization and a trend that eventually destroys everyone in the long run, through its multiplied effect.

We can achieve more from playing down politics to sincerely supporting each other by accepting our differences for a common good. We grow better through a series of levels. There are three levels of growth: dependence, independence and interdependence. Some people are very independent in relationships, others are dependent, and a number of people are co-dependent (which means they put aside their own well-being to maintain a relationship with another). The goal is to use your independence to get more dependent people independent. Then moving everyone else to interdependence just like a real system should. This is because interdependence is a role only Independent people can play. There is a lot in terms of cheering and supporting one another and interdependence we can learn from the Jewish people in America.

The Jewish phenomenon of success is amazing. When you look at the statistics, the Jews make up only 2% of the total U.S. population, yet a whopping 45% of the top 40 of the Forbes 400 richest Americans are Jewish. One-third of all American multi-millionaires are Jewish. The percentage of Jewish households with income greater than $50,000 is double that of non-Jews. 20% of professors at leading universities are Jewish. 40% of partners in leading New York and Washington D.C. law firms are Jewish. 25% of all American Nobel Prize winners are Jewish. The fundamental of this is the ownership mindset transferred through parenting and nurture that grows them into interdependence within themselves.  It’s in the concept of “take care of your own and they will take care of you”.

In close comparison to the Jews is the Chinese and Italians. I once had a chat with an Italian who explained that in their circle, whether it’s the street or the boardroom, as you go higher, it gets colder. As some point, elimination begins. Business becomes kill or be killed. You are constantly in tables of foes who pretend to be friends, if you’re not careful, innovatively competent and well put together, you’d move from the table to the menu, from eating to being eaten. But they run on a delicate balance between friendship and assertiveness. In the words of Al Capone from the Mob, “You can get much further with a kind word and a gun then you can with a kind word alone”. Regardless, the battle is an iron fist in a velvet glove and a reminder to still carry everyone along. That’s a delicate balance for competition.

Healthy competition is key; it brings about the right motivation and innovation which usually propels everyone forward. But when it grows into full fledge jealousy then that’s backward integration into the cave age. In our primitive state, everyone’s DNA has a little bit of jealousy. It’s just an emotion, till you let it control you.

We all have an element of jealousy, some conceal it, some show it, while some have acquired the grace through nature, nurture by upbringing, environment spiritual enlightenment, social and emotional intelligence and mentality to have won that battle of the heart. I believe the source is insecurity. Haters and hating is a two way battle we fight in different ways. When people hate you, it’s because you have something in the hate that they want. It’s usually by someone close in your circle. This because, whoever is close enough to kiss you, is close enough than anyone else to stab you. We all want something, but must we all hate? Personally, my secret recipe to eliminate any trace of jealousy in me is to go out of my way to help, even if it’s to get on my knees to pray for my competitors and consciously celebrate them first in my spirit before I try to draw closer or even mere saying congratulations to them.  The secret to success is to add value to that of others. We have to celebrate ourselves. Your success has nothing to do with my failure. Healthy competition is key; it brings about innovation which usually propels everyone forward.

In this game called jealousy and envy, what we all fail to realize before we hate on each other’s success, is that what we call success is relative. This is same for failure. We are all battling something. If we all threw our problems in a bucket and saw everyone else’s, trust me, we’d grab ours back immediately before it is exchange. People are going through stuff, don’t hate; rather find a way to elevate.  We are all successful in different lights. Some might be excelling more in their family life while others in just their business or bank accounts. The person you envy his or her looks or car might be struggling connecting with his spirituality or finding love with the one she loves or around his own circle unlike you. Stop looking at another man’s success as a hindrance to yours. It’s defective thinking and it hinders progress.

We are all in a race. And like an athletic race, we all can’t be Usain Bolt. And if I kidnap Usain Bolt during the Olympics, doesn’t guarantee that the next person or even I will run 9.8m/s by the finish line. Looking at another man’s success and player hating doesn’t in anyway affect yours. Life is like swimming, you don’t drown when you are thrown in, and you drown when you don’t swim.  You are drowning in a pool is not because another man can swim, it’s simply because you can’t swim. Why don’t you learn how to, or joyfully and humbly draw near to those who can. Our world will be a better place if we stopped snooping and hating, face your work. And for you the hated, don’t be apologetic of being awesome, don’t let someone dim you’re light because it is shining in their eyes, just change focus.

To grow in life, business or the corporate boardroom, you need to keep a healthy Vertical and Horizontal Relationship. Vertical relationships refers to services and loyalty to your boss’s up there and even support to your subordinates down.  And then Horizontal relationship means being of value to your colleagues of similar cadre both at work and off work; those is similar phase of struggles in the wheels of life.  As business men even in Africa, we need to learn to connect more vertically and horizontally without bringing down the ladder on a vertical stand or burning down the bridge on the horizontal. No one has ever gone up by pulling another down. No nation has become rich by bringing down its rich people. What we build can’t last if it’s built with a self-fortress without the backings of the support of an inner circle of equally strong people. Anything otherwise will be easy to shake up. No one really respects you if they don’t think you have a backup.

By American stereotypes inspired by media blacks are largely represented as gangsters in America. However the Chinese, Indians and Italian gangs are actually bloodier than black gangsters (which is even exaggerated in movies and Hip-Hop), however no one touches them because they know if they do, there are people who will fight for them.  It may even become an international issue as they come from a community that is powerful. This is one of the most powerful concept. But let’s be real, there’s no real power without unity and progress. This means finance also. And all these only thrive in a culture of support, progress and interdependence.

You rarely can go far without a strong culture. The new breed of Nigerian entrepreneurs need to form a strong community with an ever stronger culture. This will come in effective to fight external competition in today’s global market place. Also the one that takes creates value networks and reduces societal ills and bad governance. That’s a good use of power play. But it has to be intentionally built. This time one that doesn’t curse the darkness but strikes the light, the one that raises each other up, one that lights all other candles. Every opportunity you have to push people up, do it and do it well, it doesn’t take anything from you, a candle loses nothing from lighting another candle, but some just can’t stand another being lit without realizing that should theirs go off, that candle which yours lighted when it was dark would easily light yours back.

When you look at the Jewish or Chinese phenomenal growth, what you see behind the scene is a strong culture. Everybody actually has a culture. It is defined as a way of life. The truth is, some cultures are more intentional and stronger than others. Culture is not biological, it is social, and this means it is not genetic but acquired through learning and passed through interactions and into generations.

A lot of the things that makes it way to frictions in the corporate world is small mindedness.  Spending your time holding others down or being a circle that does is like drinking a cup of poison and expecting the enemy to die. Small mindedness, unhealthy competition and politics disrupts grace and inner peace before destroying the big picture. And both is needed as the octane to move forward, especially in business.


Eizu Uwaoma

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