The Story of Rock and Sponge


This is a story about two managers, one named Rock and the other named Sponge . Both worked for the same company. Both had a similar job…to turn things around. Whether they knew it or not, they didn’t know everything. Their job was too big for them to do alone, and they needed the help of others (people that worked with them and for them).

Here’s what happened.

Rock was a hard, seasoned pro. He threw weight into a problem and bulldozed through people to ‘make IT so’. “It” was what he thought to be right. He rarely asked questions…he believed he had the solid answers. While others tried to help him, their suggestions bounced right off him like a brick. It was as if his ears were filled with cement. It became clear to others that Rock was strong enough to do things himself. Others stopped weighing in their opinion or help, and went about their own business.

Sponge, on the other hand, put herself in the hands of others to learn from them. She was available to help others with all sorts of jobs, which started to build trust with them and helped her learn something about how things worked around there. She listened as if she had 10,000 little ears all over. She retained and used a lot of what she learned, but she wasn’t a pushover. She also squeezed away facts she did not need to use. What she learned helped her clean others’ problems, as well as her her own. Rock thought she was wasting time. But Sponge thought differently.

After a while, people realized they could throw Sponge into a bucket of problems and she’d clean them up. She soaked up knowledge, shared it and applied it appropriately. She was generous, almost porous, with her ideas and connections. Others wanted to be around someone who was wise, caring, flexible, attentive, well-networked, and made things squeaky clean! Soon, sponge was surrounded by people who were willing to help her get the job done. Yet ironically, she saw herself as someone who worked for them.

Within a couple years Sponge became an executive at the company because she could build a team and get things done. She is often squeezed for time, but is happy to be soaking up the benefits of her approach.

Rock eventually was lifted from management duties, thrown back into the pile, and today is weighed down with heavy work.

How porous are you?

5 Responses

  1. The Adventures of Rock and Sponge

    Decker has a great story about “Rock and Sponge” today – the tale of two managers. Maybe if we all comment, Sam can get someone to turn this into a new “blog comic strip.”…

  2. Dana says:

    How about turning this into a comic strip?! I think it would be cool. All you have to do is pick a couple of managers that fit the profiles, follow them around, and draw funny pictures…. 🙂

  3. David Paull says:

    This is a really good analogy. Something for us all to think about.

  4. Michelle Griffin says:

    I think this is one of the greatest analogy I have ever heard. It gives us something to think about and we can look back and relfect on ourselves and our own lives.

  5. Matt Ferri says:

    In my experience, the story goes a little more like this:
    Two managers named Rock and Sponge worked for the same company. Rock ignored suggestions, plowed through work without much thought, and generally did a poor job. Sponge on the other hand, always listened, helped others, and did everything she could to do her job right. When it came time to do a really tough job, cleaning the toilets, the executives knew Sponge was only one person for the job. She worked tirelessly to keep the toilets clean, and the exectives appeciated their squeaky clean private facilities.
    Then came time for promotion. The executives put a lot of thought into it and came up with a solution. Rock would be promoted. Sure he wasn’t the brightest one around, but he always seemed to be in tip-top shape while Sponge was always covered in shit all the time for some reason. That wasn’t the only factor. Statistics showed that rock’s area (the desk) had only 89% of the bacteria that Sponge’s area had. Sponge just wasn’t keeping up with the bold leadership of Rock. Over time, people learned that Sponge could always be counted to help out when they didn’t feel like doing their job. They learned to ignore Rock because he was an empty suit.
    Sponge eventually contracted a disease and died because she didn’t have medical insurance. Rock lived happily ever after.

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