The Power of Workplace Proverbs

Proverbial wisdom has been a feature of human culture throughout recorded history. People just seem wired to generate short, insightful observations about the nature of their shared life. Often these have a practical purpose. In fact, the Book of Proverbs was originally a kind of instruction manual about how to raise good children and move up the social ladder in ancient times. These days, many of the management and self-help books we encounter in our bookstore browsing are modern versions of that tradition. Even Stephen Covey’s famous “Seven Habits” are simply expanded proverbs for folks in our turbulent times.

Over the years, I’ve been fascinated by proverbs from different cultures, and often used them in workshops or leadership coaching. The best ones pack an incredible amount of insightful information into a few words. And they really get us thinking about life’s complexities in today’s organizations, moving along the path toward deeper understanding. In this column, I’d like to share three, which really resonate with me when it comes to workplace issues.

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WRITTEN BY
Dr. Sandy Cotton
Rev. Dr. Sandy Cotton is a professor of leadership and organizational change in the School of Business at Queen’s University. He is also an ordained deacon of the Anglican Church of Canada.