Posted by jlubans on April 15, 2021

Caption. Bridger in “Come on, let’s go!” mode.

A CERTAIN Man was setting out on a journey, when, seeing his Dog standing at the door, he cried out to him,
"What are you gaping about?
Get ready to come with me."
The Dog, wagging his tail, said, "I am all right. Master; it is you who have to pack up."

This will be the third time I’ve written about this fable. You can see the 2012 version here
and the 2016 one here.
To set the scene for 2021:
Should I stay or should I go?
I was on tenterhooks, as they say.
Well, as much as a tranquil personality like mine can be.
I had a new boss.
My previous boss - the one who hired me – had been pushed aside by his new boss and the governing board.
Prior to his departure, he told me that there were people on the board who, at the urging of an outside consultant, wanted me gone.
This consultant had engineered my boss’ early retirement.
The board left it up to the new leader to drop the hammer on me.
So, would the new boss give me the boot?
Remarkably, I did not get fired.
Another leader – a less ethical one - in the same situation would likely have pulled the plug to score points.
Instead, the new boss focused on pulling the organization out of its well-worn ruts: “We’ve always done it this way!”
It would be a labor worthy of Hercules.
My ideas for the organization aligned with those of the new boss.
Predictably, these ideas conflicted with my peers stuck in the status quo, namely, that our problem was not stodginess, it was a lack of staff. “All we need is MORE”, they crooned.
One day my boss called me aside and asked if I was up for a challenge.
He told me I was a “bent reed”, bent toward his way of doing things.
In other words, I probably could learn to do things his way.
I would have appreciated a different metaphor, indeed another fable. Instead of alluding to the “Tree and the Reed” he could have used the present fable.
Yes, I was that dog at the door, barking: “I’m ready, let’s get going!'”
Remember, an effective follower like me thinks independently and believes in his or her vision just as much as any effective leader.
While the bent reed allusion didn’t make me feel warm all over, it sure beat being fired!
Subsequently, he asked me to lead and turn around the most recalcitrant departments. Their excessive pride and an inflexible bureaucratic mindset had pretty much painted a target on their backs.
Earlier calls for simplification invariably were met with additional layers of complexity resulting in more bottlenecks, backlogs and alienated clients.
I was not certain I had the expertise to unravel this mess, but, lo and behold, his choosing me proved to be brilliant.
I was no “expert” so I was unafraid to ask the people doing the work for their help.
Nor, as he insightfully surmised, did I have the hubris of my predecessors who believed it was their birth-right to dictate solutions.
So, I took a collaborative approach (it's called letting go) and gave the staff free rein to innovate and to implement long delayed changes. In short, tons of positive results.

*Source: Babrius, Fable 110 translated by Thomas James in Cooper, Frederic Taber, editor (1864-1937), “An argosy of fables; a representative selection from the fable literature of every age and land”. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company. 1921.

If you liked this fable, there’s more! Buy this book and get a hundred workplace relevant fables:

And, don’t forget my book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle is available at Amazon.

© Copyright all text and photo John Lubans 2021

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