Every manager knows that it isn’t easy to get people to bring their best efforts every day. Sometimes it may seem that you’re lucky just to get them to show up for work.
When asked for leadership development tips, I’m not picky where I find them – as long as they work. One of the most unusual, although quite powerful lesson for leaders, comes from this fable by Aesop, “The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg.” Here’s the classic version.
“A man and his wife had the good fortune to possess a goose that laid a golden egg every day. Lucky though they were, they soon began to think they were not getting rich fast enough, and, imagining that the bird must be made of gold inside, they decided to kill it. Then, they thought, they could obtain the whole store of precious metal at once. However, upon cutting the goose open, they found its innards to be like that of any other goose.”
Moral: Greed destroys the source of good.
To make the fable more appropriate for managers, I created a modern, updated “remake”…
“A man and his wife had a farm. They had a flock of geese and made a business bringing the eggs to town each day and selling them. The couple was known locally as “Mom and Pop.”
“Two of the geese were unusually well-tempered and the couple gave them extra affection and food. One day, the two favored geese surprised the couple by laying golden eggs.
“Mom and Pop were so delighted that they praised the two geese lavishly and rewarded them with even more affection and food. All this attention resulted in two more golden eggs the next day.
“The couple began to dream of riches. What if they could get all the geese to lay golden eggs? So they admonished and cajoled the whole flock to follow the example of the two prized geese.
“The next day, no golden eggs were produced. Alarmed, the couple lectured the geese about their duty to perform and warned of reduced rations if they didn’t produce the gold.
“The following day, fewer eggs were produced than ever, and none of them were made of gold. Worried that their future fortune was in jeopardy, the couple stormed through the flock with a broom, shouting at them and threatening them.
“When Mom and Pop went to check for produce the next morning, they saw that all the geese were gone.”
The moral of the story: A mistreated goose will not lay a golden egg. Know the true source of your profit, and nourish it rather than exploiting it.
In other words, this is a huge leadership development tip: Your team members will lay golden eggs for you, but only if they want to. Develop, inspire, empower and encourage your people, because the ultimate source of your success is within them.