Aesop’s Fables: Hercules and the Waggoner
Many of you know that I loveÂ Aesop’s FablesÂ to present timeless lessons, and write about how they connect to lessons in the lean journey. This fable is titled:
Hercules and the Waggoner
“A Waggoner was driving his team along a muddy lane with a full load behind them, when the wheels of his waggon sank so deep in the mire that no efforts of his horses could move them. As he stood there, looking helplessly on, and calling loudly at intervals upon Hercules for assistance, the god himself appeared, and said to him, “Put your shoulder to the wheel, man, and goad on your horses, and then you may call on Hercules to assist you. If you won’t lift a finger to help yourself, you can’t expect Hercules or any one else to come to your aid.”
Heaven helps those who help themselves.
Too often we look to others to do the heavy lifting. It might be because they are better positioned or suited for the task, or because we don’t know how to start.
I have many conversations with people that center around the leaders of the organization not doing the right thing. They haven’t built a culture of cooperation. They aren’t working on the right problem. They aren’t creating an atmosphere where lean can thrive. But have we really put our shoulders into it? Have we given it our all?
If the problems that need to be solved require cross-department collaboration and sponsorship from another department and resources, it may be much harder for us to draw these actions together than someone with more authority. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do everything we possibly can before asking for that intervention.
In my coaching conversations, there is a phrase I used quite a bit to get to this point. It is simply this:
What have you tried and what was the result?
And then: what else have you tried? And what else? And what else?
I do this for two purposes. First, I want to help them see if they are calling for help before or after they have exhausted their efforts. And second, I want them to be better at self-analysis of their actions and the results.
Imagine what would happen if we all put our shoulder wheel and pushed. We would move more than wagons; we would move organizations.
Reflection Question: How do you make sure you’ve put in your effort before asking for help? And how do you help others with the same behavior?
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