“First stop is Rabbit’s house, in a manner of speaking, Operations, his kingdom. A kingdom that is ruled largely by the pocket watch that is as much a part of Rabbit as his ears”, Penguin announced to Alice. The two walked until they came to Rabbit’s domain. Without so much as a knock on the door as Penguin did not want to pre-announce Alice’s visit to cause Rabbit to be on his best behavior, Penguin signaled Alice to open the door of Rabbit’s world. She pulled the wooden door open and the two quickly floated in without giving Rabbit a chance to catch his breath.
“Oh, oh, this simply won’t do! What are you doing here? No, no, can’t you see you are going to interrupt my flow of paperwork and that can not be! I am on a strict time-table. You are confusing me! You are not welcome here! Who invited you? You are in my domain. I don’t remember sending an invitation for you to join me in my office. No, no! You do not belong here! Go away!” Rabbit barely took a breath between each statement and was quite breathless when he was done with his diatribe.
“Rabbit”, explained Penguin simply, “Alice is the founder of this company. She is the majority owner. She doesn’t need an invitation to come visit you anytime she likes. In fact, she has an open invitation”.
“Well, that’s simply not fair. That’s not fair.” Rabbit blurted. He couldn’t take the time to determine whether it was fair or it wasn’t fair, that would take too much time away from this precious schedule. Frankly, fairness didn’t matter to him: only time did.”
Excerpt from Wonderland Odyssey: Turning Leadership on its Hat
A year or so ago, when I was reading Alice in Wonderland, I was struck by how much the characters reminded me of people I had met back in the days when I worked for a major corporation. Frankly, some of the comparisons were none too complimentary to the humans who came to mind. Specifically, there was one woman who was always scurrying around, rushing from place to place. There was simply no way that she could trust her important mission to the telephone. Oh, no! Only a personal appearance would satisfy her need for perfection. All this rushing around left no time for chit chat, heck, she barely had time for lunch. The poor thing always seemed to be working overtime, and on quite a few occasions she had to spend the entire night at her desk trying to keep up with the demands of her job. The only problem was that no one really knew what it was that she was supposed to be accomplishing. Evidently, even her boss didn’t because she was ultimately laid off, her position was eliminated, and no one missed the work she had been doing.
When I read Alice in Wonderland as an adult, I was struck by how similar my former colleague was to the White Rabbit. All that scurrying and self-importance, trying to meet some demand that no one else seems to understand or care about. I was certain that Lewis Carroll had patterned the characters in his book from people he knew in real life.
When Susan and I began comparing notes about Alice in Wonderland, we discovered that both of us had found many examples of typical personalities one can run into in our everyday life disguised as characters in a children’s story. In fact, they present some of the same difficult behaviors that many of our clients encounter.
Once we had this epiphany, it was fun to go through the book and “hire” an assortment of characters for Alice’s company, Leaves of Wonderland – Purveyors of Fine Teas. The first was the time sensitive White Rabbit who was an obvious candidate to fill the position of Production Manager. The Queen of Hearts was perfect in the role of the ruthless Chairman of the Board, while Mad Hatter uses every manipulative trick in the book as the President to wrestle control away from Alice. The Cheshire Cat is one of those illusive characters found in many organizations: no one quite knows what he does, but because he has eyes and ears everywhere, he continues on the payroll. There are other employees in a variety of positions. To read about them, visit the Cast page of the blog.
Alice in Wonderland did not supply us with appropriate candidates to fill several important positions. Consequently, we had to ‘recruit’ Penguin to serve as Alice’s trusted assistant, Beaver who is her mentor and advisor, and Grape Vine to serve as the inept information officer.
Have you encountered people who remind you of characters in a book?