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"The Rubber Chicken"

This morning, Anne Miner and I were looking for a copy of “Succeeding in Spite of Everything!”, a book that Anne co-wrote with Sandra Yancey, Lisa Nichols, Marcia Wieder, and others.


While scanning the bookshelf, I noticed a distraught looking rubber chicken.

“What’s the rubber chicken for?” I asked. Anne laughed as she took it down off the shelf and squeezed out a honk (not a sound I have ever heard a chicken make!).


“Oh, Edna, let me tell you the story!”


Anne told me about taking her business leaders forum on retreat several years ago, where they engaged in an improv session. The leader of the session used a rubber chicken to indicate when the participant was off-track. No one wanted to get "the rubber chicken."


The group enjoyed the humour and suggested to Anne that she could use the chicken during their regular forum meetings. Anne smiled and nodded, and she didn’t object, although she thought, “Not in this lifetime!”


When wrapping up the session, the improv leader generously gifted Anne the rubber chicken as a thank you, and a remembrance of the day. Of course, Anne graciously accepted and secretly named the gift "Nancy the chicken."


Despite her aversion to the idea, Anne tucked Nancy, the chicken, into the next forum meeting's basket of materials. When the group gathered, they agreed that anyone who exceeded the allotted 5-minutes for their update would get “the rubber chicken.”


Although the group was usually pretty good at keeping their updates within 5-minutes, this time, everyone went overtime! It seemed that they all wanted to get “the rubber chicken”! Every time she had to make Nancy the chicken honk, Anne cringed, but the group enjoyed the experience. Rather than a deterrent for going over their time allotment, the chicken was rewarding the undesirable behaviour!


Anne reviewed the previous meeting at the next meeting; everyone went overtime, and everyone got rewarded with “the rubber chicken.” She proposed changing the rules for this meeting; only those who took less than 5-minutes for their update would get “the rubber chicken” award (complete with Nancy honk)!


Every member managed to deliver their update in less than 5 minutes, which meant that, once again, Anne had to squeeze Nancy the chicken for every single member. The silver lining was the adherence to the schedule so that the meeting could wrap up on time!


When Anne arrived for the third meeting with Nancy the chicken, the group revealed that the best part of the rubber chicken experience was watching Anne’s face. Their enjoyment and their laughter were a direct result of watching the proper, formal, professional Anne Miner cringe as she squeezed the rubber chicken and made it honk like a goose!


They also acknowledged the lesson about consequences; before you apply either a reward or deterrent, you need to understand:


1. Whether the audience sees the consequence (e.g., getting “the rubber chicken”) as a reward or as a deterrent.


2. Whether the consequence itself (e.g., “the rubber chicken”) or an artifact of the consequence (e.g., Anne Miner’s cringe) is the real reward.


In the meantime, Nancy, the honking rubber chicken, was retired to the bookshelf, where she remains to this day as a reminder to Anne not to take herself so seriously!

1 comentario


Janette Wittwer
Janette Wittwer
29 oct 2020

Oh my, I was almost in tears, as I visualized your face from beginning to the end of the story. I am not surprised that is why they did it. Oh thank you for the chuckle, and yes you did make two very valid points at the end.

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