Many (ten?) years ago I attended gatherings at which the “cloven fruit” game was played. The game involved putting cloves into an orange and then passing the orange around a group. The person who go the orange could either pull a clove out by their teeth, indicating they wanted to kiss the person who gave them the orange, or pull a clove out by their fingers, indicating a pass. Needless to say, the former, kissing, was the preferred method. This was a pretty fun game, but their was an element that made it less fun to a number of participants. The problem was that a core group of participants had favorites, and the orange seemed to go around in circles amongst these favorites. Every once in a while it break this orbit, but basically the smooching was restricted to the same ten or so people. I was in the outsider group, as much as I enjoy some good kissing. Strike one for favorites!
Fast forward to this year. I was listening to a book on tape about moving up from existing executive positions. The author talked about the personalities and habits that kept good leaders from getting better. One of the executive sins was to play favorites. This was a downfall because it sowed ill will amongst the non-favorites and potentially set up a smaller pool of talented reports to draw from. Strike two for favorites!
Now I am working on my own strike three. I do a lot of dance photography, and I've found myself favoring some dancers over others. I am playing favorites! I don't exclusively photography my favorites. I take pictures of all dancers, but given a choice between one of my favorites and another, well, I go for the favorite. This is an interesting learning opportunity! Pondering the situation allows me to draw lessons from my strike one and two favorite examples.
Why do I favor some dancers? The answer is easy. I find them to be attractive and/or they deliver really good photos on a consistent basis. I enjoy taking pictures of them and they deliver good product. I believe this was the same reason the cloven fruit passed between the same people. Outsiders were an unknown quality, and push come to shove, the participants wanted some good kissing. I can relate to that in my dance photography. A bad thing? Perhaps not, but that is where the second strike comes in.
I believe the business advice is applicable here. Playing favorites with a small group can sow ill will amongst others, and truthfully, make one blind to “new talent”. I think I do OK here, but I could do better. I am always on the look out for dancers that can drive great pics, but perhaps I should look that much harder. Focusing on the known favorite can blind me to the new potential that is as good or better than what I favor now.
Find oneself in behavior that used to bother you can be a learning experience. We have met the enemy and he is us! There may be some good reasons, but for sure, there are some great lessons in the offering!