One crisp, clear day an entrepreneur was driving through the countryside and came upon a farmer toiling in a field. The sight of the farmer’s intent focus on the ground as he worked his way down the field sparked the curiosity of the entrepreneur so he pulled his car over and sauntered up to the fence to watch. The farmer, along with his horse drawn wagon was closely inspecting the dirt as he went along. Every so often, the farmer would push back some dirt and pick up a rock. Some of the rocks were small, no bigger than the size of the farmer’s hand. Others were the size of watermelons and required extra effort to get them in the back of the wagon.
After a few minutes, the farmer noticed the entrepreneur leaning on the fence and walked over. “How’s it going?” said the farmer. “Great” said the entrepreneur. “I couldn’t help but notice you as I drove by and wondered with all the rocks you are picking up if this was a new field.” “No” replied the famer. “Been planting and harvesting this field for a good part of 30 years.” “Incredible.” said the entrepreneur “You would think after all this time all the rocks would be long gone. “Funny thing about that.” replied the farmer. “Every year about this time I come out to this field and find new rocks that need removing before I can plant. In fact, I do the same thing with all the fields on the farm. The first few years, I thought the same as you. But I learned that new rocks seem to find their way into the field every year. I can’t ignore them and I can’t work around them because even the smallest ones are in the way of a great crop.” The entrepreneur shook his head in amazement and said, “I’m really impressed with your dedication and attention to those rocks.” The farmer replied, “It’s just a part of being a farmer I reckon. I have to find the rocks and remove them before I can plant the seed. Otherwise, my crop won’t be as good as I want it to be. I have enough things going against me, like weather and seed costs that I can’t control so I need to pay attention to the things I can. Like these rocks.”
Over the past 4 years I have been privileged to work side-by-side with peers and thought leaders to focus on developing greater vision, alignment, and traction both in my own company as well as helping guide others with theirs. This has been an incredible learning experience as we have shared ideas, best practices, and processes, holding each other accountable along the way.
As I read books from great authors like Pat Lencioni, Jim Collins, Gino Wickman, and others on leading a business, I noticed how these great thought leaders are all within our lifetime. Perhaps it is the power of the internet to know and be known that has opened the floodgates for leadership development. At the same time I wondered why there didn’t appear to be much in the way of thought leaders before our time who shared their experiences outside the occasional quote or biography.
That was until recently. During a time of daily devotions I was studying Philippians 3. As I read through verses 12 to 19 I happened to read them in The Message translation. Wow, what an AHA moment. While I know Paul was speaking towards a relationship with Christ, the parallels with vision, alignment, and traction are astonishing.
I recently ran across this version of Aesop’s fable “The Four Oxen and the Lion”
on a blog post by writer/columnist Charlie Scott and felt it speaks to a core value most companies have, or want to have. Being a “TEAM PLAYER”
. I hope you find some small bit of inspiration from it.
In the days before civilization, out on the prairie there lived four oxen: Frank, Harry, Skip and Greg. These oxen had learned over time that they were safer as a group. Whenever anything that looked dangerous approached, twitches from any one of the oxens’ ears was the signal for all of them to band together and take defensive positions. Their defense was elementary but effective. The four oxen would back their tails together with each ox facing outward. (This may have been the first recorded “I’ve got your back” teamwork.) This configuration allowed the oxen to see in all directions.