Decision making

The Fox Saga

Alice Lewes profile photo

Alice Lewes, Early Years Leadership Consultant

18 March 2017

I have a very large fox residing in my VERY small garden! My flat is mid terrace in Hammersmith so it’s certainly not the traditional habitat of the fox.

Why am I writing about this? One of the courses I have written and deliver is about problem solving and decision making – I certainly have a big problem.

A beautiful fox

Hey, I’m not a problem; I’m a beautiful fox!

Photograph by Katerina Bartosova via Unsplash

What to do about it? My initial approach was do nothing and hope it goes away – how often do we approach our issues in this way? We don’t want to face the reality of the issue, so we bury our head in the sand and try to ignore it.

Ummmm – that really didn’t work – the hole is much bigger and before long he will probably have invited his whole family to live with him!

What did I do next? I asked a few people – they all told me to do different things, block the whole up, cover it with urine, etc.

I don’t belong to a Facebook support group that has been formed to go to others with the same problem for advice – I don’t think there is one!

Next step? I went to ‘Google’ of course, and typed in “How do I get rid of a fox in my garden” (what else would I have done?). I don’t number amongst my acquaintances people who often have a fox problem in their garden.

I got quite a few signposts to different web sites.

The first company I contacted had an interesting approach; their solution was very dramatic. They were going to put sharp shooters in my garden with night goggles and a rifle with a silencer and take the fox out! All for ‘only £600 + vat!’. That sounded a bit drastic, I wasn’t mad about the idea of trying to sleep with people with guns outside my window! Also I only wanted the fox to relocate, I didn’t want it killed.

You did what to my house?

I can’t believe what you did to my house!

Photograph by Gary Bendig via Unsplash

Moving on – I contacted a third company. They gave me two options:

1. They would come and spray my garden with fox repellent three times (and charge me £550 for the privilege). They could not guarantee that it would work, but were hopeful. I had been on the ‘Amazon’ website, typed in “fox repellent’ and sat back. 2 clicks later I had ordered lots of “Scoot’ fox repellent – this might solve the problem. It had cost me £16.99, but I wasn’t sure that it would work, and the fox was getting more and more adventurous. How often do we doubt ourselves when a very simple solution is available? Because it is something that we have no experience with, we are unsure of what to do next – we rely on the ‘EXPERTS’.

2. The other alternative they offered was to trap the fox. They would put bacon and other scraps in a box and that would trap it! This would cost £600. I was worried that the fox would be trapped for days as I might not be there so did not like that option at all!

How often do we try and solve problems like this? We research many different options to try and solve our problem, ask others for advice, and just get very confused! After evaluating the possible solutions, I went for what I thought would be the simplest and easiest option. I thought I’d considered the different options objectively, but really I just wanted the fox to go away. If that meant throwing £550 at the problem, getting them to spray my garden, well it had to be done.

How often do we do this? We just want it fixed, so make a decision based on what seems to be the best solution available to us. I’m not suggesting that this is a bad thing.

Along came Jim – extremely pleasant and friendly and very reassuring. He said that the ‘fox repellent’ he had really worked and that the fox would leave my garden in peace. He took a packet of ‘SCOOT” out of his pocket, added 2.5 litres of water – and that was it!

I told him I had lots of SCOOT myself! He was very sympathetic, told me he felt very sorry for me, but that all his company did was use ‘SCOOT”. It took him 10 mins to spray the periphery of my garden…and that was it! Yes really, I had spent £550 to have someone use the spray that I had bought for £16.99 (for four packets I might add!).

Another colleague of his came along a month later and did the same. After that I have been doing it myself with the solution from the Internet, and a garden sprayer (cost £5.99!).

I was furious with myself. I had paid out an unnecessary £527.02. Why had I made such a bad decision?

But then I reflected on my actions. It was true that at a time when money was tight, the extra £527.02 would have made a big difference, but I didn’t have the knowledge or experience to help me make the right decision. I had done it, and constantly reprimanding myself about it was not being very constructive to my moving on.

Again, how often do we do that? The voice in our head keeps on at us about how silly we were, why did we do that. But if there is no way back, how helpful is it to keep on looking backwards. Much better to learn from our bad decision and make sure it NEVER happens again.

One last important footnote for effective leadership and management. Those of us in positions of authority have to make tough decisions sometimes, and the truth is we can get it wrong. What should we do if this happens?

Very simply, put our hands up and admit that we have made the wrong decision.

I have known managers who continue down the wrong path because they do not want to admit to making a mistake in case they lose ‘face’. The opposite is true. Your team will trust and respect you far more if they see that you are prepared to take responsibility for your actions.

The other big advantage is that you create a culture of trust and honesty, which means that everyone will be more likely to take responsibility for their actions too. Anyone who has every worked somewhere where there is a ‘blame’ culture will know just how toxic that can be, not a good place for children to get their needs met.

I hope no one reading this will have a similar fox problem, but if you do, the solution it “SCOOT”, a garden sprayer and 10 minutes of your time. Make sure that you spray all the periphery of the garden as you are ‘marking’ your own territory! Who knew?

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