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  • Writer's pictureHamish Mackenzie

Too much dung, not enough beetle

Are you focused on your work at the expense of the reason you're doing it?

Last spring I was in a boutique hotel in a beautiful backwater of Andalucía in Southern Spain with my parents as they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Most days we took a stroll around the surrounding hills for an hour or so and it was on one of these walks that I came across a dung beetle.

For the uninitiated, there are three main types of dung beetle, known respectively as tunnellers, dwellers and rollers. The tunnellers like to bury their dung, the dwellers simply live in it and the rollers push a ball of it around with them wherever they go. What I had found on the footpath was a roller, which uses its perfectly formed dung ball as a source of food and/or as a breeding chamber for the next generation of poo pushers.

All of which, believe it or not, got me thinking about how some executives deal with their day-to-day workloads. If we were to try to classify the tunnellers, dwellers and rollers of the management world, we could say that:

  • the tunnellers are the control freaks, looking to hoard as much power and responsibility as they can

  • the dwellers are the workaholics who spend way too much time in an operational quagmire

  • and the rollers are the restless, all-action types to whom being in permanent motion is the point, regardless of the direction they are heading in.

Clearly, none of these working styles is optimal – there is too much focus on what is being done, and not enough on the reason for doing it. And getting caught up in the short-term details and politics of daily business is not a recipe for long-term success.

So, I have a question for you (and even if you don’t like it, I can at least claim to be the first person ever to have asked you this): Decide whether your tendency is to be a tunneller, a dweller or a roller! Then, think about how you could change your current way of working, so that your day is less about the quality of the “dung”, and more about becoming a smarter “beetle”.


Copyright Hamish Mackenzie 2019


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