Posted by jlubans on December 09, 2020

Caption: Who sharpens the axe?

A MOUJIK (a Russian peasant), who was building a hut, got vexed with his Axe. The Axe became disagreeable to him ; the Moujik waxed wroth.
The fact was, he himself hewed abominably; but he lay all the blame on the Axe.
Whatever happened, the Moujik found an excuse for scolding it.
"Good-for-nothing creature!" he cries, one day, "from this time forward I will never use you for anything but squaring stakes. Know that, with my cleverness and industry, and my dexterity to boot, I shall get on very well without you, and will cut with a common knife what another wouldn't be able to hew with an axe."
"It is my lot to work at whatever you lay before me," quietly replied the Axe to the angry rebuke, " and so your will, master, is sacred for me. I am ready to serve you in whatever way you please.
Only reflect now, that you may not have to repent by-and-bye. You may blunt me on useless labour, if you will; but you will certainly never be able to build huts with a knife."

Krylov (1769 – 1844) in this fable has the boss who “hews abominably” blaming the tool or employee for the flawed product.
How often, in myriad ways, do hapless bosses castigate employees for their own shortcomings? It happens.
Of course, the good leader praises the worker when things go well and blames herself – at least in part – for when things go bad.
Now, we know plenty of bosses who blame themselves but that’s done with an imperceptible wink and a nod – a way of saying, “Yes, like President Harry Truman, ‘the buck stops with me’; but, Lord, if only I had some decent staff to get the job done, then you’d really see what I can do.
In the meantime, I do the best I can with the crappy hand I’ve been dealt.”
On the other hand, I’ve noticed one football coach this season who repeatedly – when things don’t always go smoothly for the team - includes himself in the “could do a better job category”. He praises players when they’ve done well and offers specific ways for improvement when improvement is needed.
His calm voice and demeanor remain the same when talking about how he should have called a different play or when he explains why a play failed or when a player made an outstanding contribution to the game. This coach is not one to “hew abominably” and no wonder his teams are champions.

*Source: Krilof and his fables, by Krylov, Ivan Andreevich, 1768-1844; Ralston, William Ralston Shedden, 1828-1889. Tr. London, 1869

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© Copyright all text John Lubans 2020

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