Most people think of that episode of Friends where Phoebe sings one of her most famous songs. Lately, you may have seen Taylor Swift and Lisa Kudrow sing “Smelly Cat” together on stage. Just Google it.
But not me. That’s not what I think of. Here’s why…
Sent to Room
“Go to your room and wait there till your father gets home!”
That’s what my mom said, so that’s what I did.
A couple of hours earlier, my friends and I were playing in the neighborhood after school. Somehow we managed to get the heavy iron lid off of the sewer. We were fascinated with this whole new underground world, which before that day, was unknown to us. It was deep, dark, and mysterious. We started throwing in leaves and sticks, and watched them drop to the bottom. Eventually we got bored and started to wonder what else we could toss into the sewer.
About that time, a stray cat walked by. As we looked at the cat and then at each other, we didn’t have to say a word. We were all thinking the same thing. And a few seconds later, somehow that cat ended up in that sewer.
OK, I admit it. I tossed the cat into the sewer. (Yes, it landed on its feet.) The cat was fine, but we had no way to get it out. It started meowing and screeching like a bad set of brake pads, and we realized that we had a big problem. So we did what all good second grade boys would do… We ran. Fast. All the way home.
Somehow the news about the cat in the sewer traveled faster than we did—all the way home to my mom. And that’s how I found myself in my room, waiting on my dad, and figuring out my story.
I don’t know how, but I’d always sensed that my dad didn’t like cats. Maybe it’s because I never saw him pet a cat or hold a cat. I just knew dad didn’t like cats.
Confrontation and Truth
Dad walked into my room, sat on the end of my bed, and asked me, “Doug, did you throw a cat into the sewer?”
I answered, “You don’t like cats, do you Dad?”
My dad replied, “Son, that’s not what I asked you,” and he repeated his question. I wasn’t ready to give up yet, so I said, “Hey Dad, it’s just me and you! You don’t really like cats, right?”
This went on for a while, but eventually he got it out of me. And afterwards, he marched me down to that sewer with a ladder, and made me rescue the cat. All my buddies were watching and laughing. Saving that cat from the sewer was probably the most humiliating thing I ever had to do as a kid.
Our Smelly Day
Can you imagine my dad’s day?
He had to discipline me for doing something I thought was OK with him.
Imagine my mom’s day. She was not a “wait till dad gets home” kind of mom.
She usually took care of the discipline, but not this time. She knew he created the problem. She wanted him to solve it and teach him a lesson.
And think about my day. I felt humiliated, because my friends were laughing at me. But more so, I felt betrayed by my dad. I was acting based on what I knew he believed, and then he turned on me. He betrayed me.
Behaviors Follow Beliefs
Think about it. Ultimately, our behaviors follow our beliefs. It’s something we do unconsciously—almost like a reflex. People see how we behave, and use our actions to figure out what we believe.
What do the people around you think you believe – before you say a word?
What do they think you believe about our community, your company, your boss, your leaders, your customers and about employees at all levels?
Because people figure out your beliefs and act on that, not on what you say, not what the company says or what the mission or vision statement states.
Just Like the Smelly Cat
It just plain stinks when leaders’ beliefs don’t match their behaviors. And we can all smell it!
Beliefs and behaviors must be aligned. When your behaviors are not aligned with your beliefs, people know. And bad things happen.
Ask yourself: What are your beliefs? Do you have the right beliefs? Do your behaviors match those beliefs?
Or are you a smelly cat?