The book, Green Eggs and Ham, written by Dr. Seuss is having a resurgence in a Netflix 13-part cartoon. I had forgotten about the book until I read a review of the Netflix show in the Washington Post. As with all of Dr. Seuss’ books, its lesson for children (and adults) has many interpretations. But first, let me refresh your memory about the story.
In the story, the character Sam-I-Am is so enthused about his food that he wants others to enjoy his ham-and-eggs combo. He continually pesters Guy-I-Am to take a taste test. The friend refuses to try it in an array of rhyming scenarios (“in a box,” “with a fox”), until finally relenting.
Guy-I-Am is a guy who immediately says, “no” to just about anything. He is resistant to any idea that is outside his immediate realm of experience or knowledge. We have all met someone like this!
Sam-I-Am is full of enthusiasm and very set in his belief everyone will want what he has to offer everyone. He is persistent until he gets a “yes.” Bet you know people like that too?
What was it that finally got Guy-I-Am to say, “yes”? There are many interpretations about this story so I’m going to add my spin on it.
Sam-I-Am does an incredible job in staying persistent, finding different ways to get Guy-I-Am to consider where and how he might enjoy eating green eggs and ham. The more he does that, the more Guy-I-Am convinces himself that he doesn’t want nor is willing to try them. The more persistent Sam-I-Am is, the more Guy-I-Am digs his heels in and resists. But the moment comes when Guy-I-Am is so exhausted from resisting that he says, “Sam, if you will let me be, I will try them, you will see.” (pg. 30) He then tries them and finds that he likes green eggs and ham and begins saying all the ways he will eat them. Sam-I-Am never doubted that he could get Guy-I-Am to eat his green eggs and ham. Something in him knew what he had to offer was something that would be beneficial to Guy-I-Am.
What can we learn from this story as leaders?
Sam-I-Am had unwavering confidence in himself and tried every trick in the book to find a way to turn resistance into a “yes.” He didn’t give up nor did he keep saying the same thing. He changed his message, tested out new ways to get Guy-I-Am to consider his offer, and kept the focus on Guy-I-Am. He showed him many ways that his offer could be experienced and how that might impact him. The more Guy-I-Am resisted, the more ways Sam-I-Am came up with new experiences that got Guy-I-Am to consider. Sometimes the first or second “no” doesn’t mean never, rather, it means you haven’t yet found what will turn a “no” into a “yes” for that individual.
There are employees who, until they try something out, will not fully buy in. After tasting the green eggs and ham, Guy-I-Am realized that he likes them. Remember this when you are wanting to create a change or needing buy-in from an employee. Let these employees participate in a beta test and give you feedback. Get them involved in some way so that they are actually participating in (getting first-hand experience) of that which you are asking of them. From someone who is just like this, trust me, it works!