What are Mockingjays and why are they critical to your success as a company?

One of the hottest new movies on the market is Mockingjay Part I, part of the stunningly successful Hunger Game Series. I am intrigued with Katniss Everdine, the lead character in the movie. Katniss is an individual who never wanted the spotlight but reluctantly became the leader of the rebels who fight valiantly against President Snow and his incredibly cruel and oppressive government.

When Ms. Everdine wears a pin with the symbol of the mockingjay on it in the 74th Hunger Games, President Snow and the Capitol are incensed as it represents a direct knock on them due to the mistake they made in the first place—allowing the mockingjay to exist. Thus, Katniss becomes “The Mockingjay” and leads the rebels in their fight for survival.

Suzanne Collins, writer of the Hunger Games series of books, once described the particular role of the mockingjays. “Now the thing about the mockingjays is that they were never meant to be created. They were not a part of the Capitol’s design. So here’s this creature…that through the will of survival exists.”

Of course, the mockingjay is not a bird that actually exists in real life. It is a fictional bird that was created, as the book describes, through the inadvertent crossbreeding of the male Jabberjays (fictional) and female mockingbirds (real birds). Mockingjays are known as being survivors, able to live in almost any environment.

It got me to thinking about the mockingjays we have in our companies.

We all have seen them,
We are all aware they exist,
And we are blessed by their incredible contributions.

As I have watched various episodes of The Hunger Games, I have noticed the following characteristics of mockingjays:

1. They are determined.

2. Their first thought is for the welfare of others.

3. They live in the shadows.

4. They are outstanding performers.

5. They are the first to heap praise on others.

6. They did not cry out for the spotlight.

7. They rise to the occasion every time—powerfully and meaningfully.

But how do we identify, reward and retain them? In other words, the mockingjays are not the most classically trained as some in the company but somehow they survive and serve their fellow employees in a terrific way.

The mockingjays remind me of a description that the noted actor once used to encourage great work in TV and film:

Work very, very hard and always be prepared; never give up; and once you get the job, give them more than they ever expected—Shine!

I love our mockingjays at HireVue and the 3d-View.com, two companies where I am serving as the Chairman of the Board.

They are the very ones that deserve the promotions, the stock options, the pat on the back, and the continuous recognition.

Christopher Reeve once said:

“I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. They are the real heroes, and so are the families and friends who have stood by them.”

I believe that quote aptly describes the mockingjays in all of our companies. I encourage all managers to look for their mockingjays and make sure they get the recognition and rewards they deserve!

One scene summarizes my thoughts perfectly. Cinna, Katniss’ stylist, turns to Ms. Everdine and says:

“I’m not allowed to bet, but if I could I’d bet on you.”

Katniss humbly replies: “Thank You.”

That’s the way I feel about mockingjays.


Posted in Posted in How to Build A Network, Lessons Learned, Up Principles, What I Learned From  |  8 Comments

8 thoughts on “What are Mockingjays and why are they critical to your success as a company?”

  1. Inspired post, David. Adam Grant’s 2014 book GIVE AND TAKE shares the results of his academic work on reciprocity in business that uncovered 3 kinds of people: givers, takers, and matchers. Givers are the most successful overall. Obviously, the mockinjays you describe are givers, and establishing a giving culture has attracted hard workers and innovators to your companies!

  2. There are many Katnisses’ or giver’s as mentioned in today’s business world- with prosperity comes choices Try to picture and think about both the grace and the reality of seeing how fast a mockingbird ‘s wings can fly when watched in slow motion.
    Small ideas, ventures, start up businesses , who are humble, and determined are the KMB ‘s (Kantniss Mockingbirds for short )..the business and entrepreneurial sector- they have many ideas that when are put to the test will produce their true colors , and bring out the best regardless of past trials or adversity’s. Courage, hardworking, and a positive attitude are keys to all the kmb’s in progress.. Sometimes giving comes in the form of service before your business is launched , from empathy, sincerity , generosity , and s humble attitude that allows you to learn from the best mentors’
    -Llike Katniss preparing their whole lives for their ultimate challenge .. When the time is right . The kmb’s of tomorrow will come out of the shadows and present themselves in true grace, respect , and humility with their good works so untraceable/ yet abundant enough that they are almost transparent , as a kmb’s wings — not to be more worried about making a profit in business , knowing money is not always the root of happiness ..But discovering what you do with it can make the difference between a Mocking bird and a Woodpecker — who isn’t humble, and is a loud non graceful , nuisance to society which quickly receives its acknowledgement and is than viewed as obnoxious –the difference between the two sets apart the Kmb’s from the “Woody Woodpeckers “. It’s up to you when you do receive success to make the decision ? Which persona are you ? How does your business bring you joy, and pay it forward ? Just a thought. What type of bird do you want to model your business after ? I think we all realize the analogy , and hopefully will apply it.

  3. Great analysis. With my interest in resiliency, I find the mockinjay a great example of growing through challenge. Katniss is constantly looking for different ways to solve the challenge (adaptability). She is not afraid to take action and learn from it (agility), There are fleeting moments of humor (laugh ability) and lastly, she is responding to a calling that is not about her but about the larger group (alignment). Love it. I wish I had thought about using her as an example in my just released book, YOUR RESILIENCY GPS,

  4. I haven’t seen the movie so I’ll trust you to have drawn the analogies accurately. As I read your description of the mockingjays in companies I realize both that I’ve long been a mockingjay and that you are spot on. I don’t say that out of non-mockingjay ego but, rather, because I’ve had the benefit of working with some other awesome mockingjays over the years. You know some of them pretty well as Novell had its share.

    It is easy to overlook the mockingjay. I agree they deserve the stock, the promotions and the recognition. A great manager (who needs to be at least part mockingjay) will notice the contribution and make sure these things happen. The mockingjay’s soul needs feeding even if they don’t make their need as visible as others.

    I hope a lot of leaders and up and coming managers read the heart of what you’ve written here in those 7 characteristics and the need to see and recognize those who may run under the radar but contribute immensely. With or without the comparisons to the movie role, they are important.

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