Many workplace lessons can be learned just by considering
the characters in the Wizard of Oz. Although author L. Frank Baum
said his books were written to please children and generate income
for his family, the richness of Baum’s characters provide us
a wealth of imagery from which we can make workplace comparisons.
Below I’ll make workplace analogies to the story’s main
characters, but let's start with an event near the opening of the
story, the Twister.
The Twister. The analogy is
simple: No matter what business you're in, storms will come and go.
Such storms might be violent upheavals of employee turnover,
tumultuous economic conditions, or some serious event that
endangers the organization in some way. The hope I want to convey
is that although these storms come, they also go. And, with a plan
and a dedication to persevere, an organization can survive
turbulent times. Like most residents of Kansas, the characters in
the Wizard of Oz knew what to do when a storm came along. Likewise,
your organization should have plans for what to do when trouble
comes upon your business.
The Wicked Witch. Think of the
Wicked Witch as the type of person who wants to see you fail.
They’re the bullies ... the power-hungry types who get a kick
out of preventing you from achieving your goals. Like in the movie,
they often amass a group of supporters to do their bidding. Wicked
Witches don’t listen to reason. They’re plotters and
schemers who assume they know the reasons behind everyone’s
actions (and they are usually wrong). Therefore, it’s best to
ignore Wicked Witches as much as possible. They often pick fights,
but dealing with them logically is usually futile. Finding a way
around them is often your best bet, saving outright confrontation
as your last option.
The Wizard. Picture someone in a
position of leadership who hasn’t been trained for the job
and you have the Wizard. Like in the movie, Wizards rely on loud
voices, pompous statements, and smoke and mirrors because they know
they’re not qualified, and they want to intimidate anyone who
might see behind the curtain. When a Wizard’s cover is
finally blown, there’s no need to ride the person out of
town. Instead, help such people learn the true requirements of
their job. Your kindness in this will likely be repaid to you, and
your effort will help the entire team.
The Scarecrow. Some people are
raised by parents who don’t believe in them. I cringe
whenever I hear a parent tell a child that he or she is not good at
something, or worse yet, calling a child stupid. Unfortunately,
children raised with such talk often adopt these statements as true
and carry these beliefs with them into adulthood. Even more sad,
bullies (Wicked Witches) often pick on Scarecrows because they are
seen as easy targets. The Scarecrow believed he didn’t have a
brain, when in fact he had good ideas all along. Our lesson is to
look for where Scarecrows are contributing and point that out to
them. Show them how their ideas are useful and how they save the
organization time, money, and effort. In other words, openly
acknowledge their brain power!
The Tin Man. Imagine someone left
on the outskirts of a team, working alone and never being shown how
his or her work contributes to a bigger picture. Such a person can
easily become a Tin Man; rusted, stuck, and devoid of
“heart”—that is, working without passion. To
revive people who’ve become like the Tin Man you must get
them more involved in team efforts. Include them in planning and
encourage their participation on the team, not just as an
individual. A Tin Man’s passion can be revived!
The Cowardly Lion. People who
could be compared to Cowardly Lions are those afraid to take risks.
Like Scarecrows, they may actually display much of what they claim
they don’t have, but their mindset tends to obscure their
confidence. Therefore, when working with Cowardly Lions, positively
reinforce them whenever they take a risk. Also, show them how
potential rewards can outweigh the risks. You might also include
how inaction can be even more painful than doing nothing at
Dorothy. People like Dorothy are
adept at looking for ways around the obstacles that inevitably
appear. They’re also excellent at gathering a team of people
to help on projects (despite any perceived weaknesses), showing
them how their participation will benefit them, too. Dorothy is the
ultimate team builder. Her “can-do” attitude is
contagious, even in the face of enormous fears and obstacles. From
a workplace perspective, the moral of this story is to plan for the
Twisters, protect yourself against Wicked Witches and help out the
Wizards. Then be like Dorothy and gather up your team, involving
them and encouraging them along the way.