07.08 20170

Thanks for the Fish

I was talking to a colleague the other day about the science fiction novel entitled “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish.” The book is a part of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series written by Douglas Adams.   The colleague was explaining that the title is a message left by the dolphins when they departed Planet Earth before it was destroyed to build a hyperspace bypass.   He was telling me that in the novel the dolphins were sent to the earth to warn the earth about its impending destruction; however, humans did not try to understand the dolphins’ communication because the humans thought that the dolphins were inferior beings only meant for entertainment. Instead of listening to the dolphins’ message, humans rewarded the dolphins with fish each time they did a trick. As the enemy invaders came to destroy the earth, the dolphins left because they were unable to fulfill their purpose. Since humans refused to listen to the dolphins, all the dolphins could say as they left and the earth, along with the humans, was being destroyed is “so long and thanks for all the fish.”

So many times people come to our teams with extra-ordinary talents and wisdom, but they are minimalized, marginalized and underutilized to our own detriment. The lack of open dialogue and open minds creates situations where these teammates have to withdraw instead of providing their intended benefit. It is commonly known that people do not leave organizations, but rather they leave leaders. What are the ways that we can create more openness to all that team members have to offer?

The critical success factor is learning to lead with trust. Trust can only be identified in the positive…when it is present, not when it is not present. What does trust feel like?  Trust feels like a person can take risks without fear of extreme negative consequences. Trust feels like when a mistake is made that the person can learn from the mistake and push on towards success with supportive encouragement. Trust feels like information for decisions is widely known because information is freely available and transparent.

Both the individual and the group benefit from trusting environments. Individuals do not have to choose between themselves and the others with whom they are working. Sharing among the group is commonplace because there is no fear that information shared will boomerang back to the individual.

My research regarding leadership trust indicated that movement towards creating environments of trust includes…

  • promoting face to face conversations among all levels within an organization
  • improving timely and efficient communication regarding decisions
  • acknowledging each employee for contributions made toward the success of the organization regardless of the level in the organization
  • creating space for each employee to have a voice to raise concerns and promote improvement ideas
  • sharing information freely through training
  • engaging people outside the normal work environment and getting to know them personally
  • being open because openness is a two way street; you cannot receive what you do not give
  • respecting confidences shared to ensure personal and group safety
  • maintaining relationships of reciprocal learning; knowing that you must learn from your employees as much as they will learn from you


To make the most of your most valuable asset – your organization’s people, you must be open to them. Openness takes time… it requires organic growth and must be authentic.

Leave a Comment

If you would like to share your thoughts about my post, leave a comment. The email will not be published.