Lessons from the Past 99: Management Lessons from Stories
Many decades ago, I was greatly impressed by Aesop’s Management Fables. I picked out the files recently and I enjoyed them as much as I did at that time. It may seem flippant—but especially in management, the learning is more important than the way you learn. That is why there are lectures, case studies, role plays and games to make people learn the important—and even some of the obvious—lessons!
 
This is a bunch of short stories and lessons to be learnt from these assorted humorous tales to be read in the right spirit, though they may appear to be jocular and devoid of management jargon. 
 
Your Position Defines Your Attitude
 
A crow was sitting on a tree, doing nothing all day. A small rabbit saw the crow and asked, ‘Can I also sit like you and do nothing all day long?’ The crow answered: ‘Sure why not?’ So the rabbit sat on the ground below the crow and rested. All of a sudden, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it. 
 
Lesson: To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be at the top
 
Your Position Depends on Your Performance
 
A turkey was chatting with a bull. ‘I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree,’ sighed the turkey, ‘but I have not got the energy.’ ‘Well, why don’t you nibble at some of my droppings?’ replied the bull. ‘They are packed with nutrients.’ The turkey pecked at a lump of dung and found that it actually gave him enough strength to reach the first branch of the tree. The next day, after eating some more dung, it reached the second branch. Finally, after a fortnight, it was proudly perched on the top of the tree. The turkey was promptly spotted by a farmer who shot the turkey and took it home for dinner.
 
Lesson: Bullshit might get you to the top, but it won’t keep you there
 
Be Smart and Act Smart to Survive
 
A little bird was flying south for the winter. It was so cold that the bird froze and fell to the ground in a large field. While it was lying there, a cow came by and dropped a load of hot steaming dung on it. As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of shit, it began to realise how warm it was. The dung actually thawed it out. It lay there all warm and happy and soon began to sing for joy. A passing cat heard the bird singing and came to investigate. Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird under the pile of cow dung. The cat promptly dug the bird out and ate the bird.
 
Lesson:  Not everyone who drops shit on you is your enemy. Not everyone who pulls you out of the shit is your friend. And when you are warm and happy in your pile of shit, keep your mouth shut!
 
Instant Gratification will Lead You Nowhere
 
A sales executive, a clerk and a manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp. They rub it and a genie comes out. The genie says, ‘I’ll give each of you one wish.’ ‘Me first,’ says the clerk. ‘I want to be in the Bahamas, driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.’ Puff! She’s gone. ‘Me next, me next,’ says the sales exec, ‘I want to be in Hawaii, relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of pina coladas, and the love of my life.’ Puff! He’s gone. ‘Okay, you’re up,’ the genie says to the manager. The manager says, ‘I want those two idiots back in the office after lunch.’
 
Lesson:  Always let your boss have the first say 
 
And the final lesson: Keep finding good and smart ways to enhance your learning – to manage yourself and to manage others. 
 
There is yet another story to show you how to manage yourself! It is the story of a young smart and beautiful lady, who found herself suddenly facing many problems—at her job, with her boyfriend, and with her best friend—all at the same time. She was very depressed. It seemed as if when one problem was solved, a new one arose. Her mother could not fully communicate with her to help her, so she took her daughter to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second, she placed eggs, and in the third, she placed coffee beans. 
 
She let them sit and boil without saying a word. After about 20 minutes, she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them also in a bowl. Then, she ladled the coffee out and placed it in yet another bowl. Turning to her daughter she asked, ‘Tell me, what do you see?’  
 
The daughter saw that the carrots were soft, and said so. Then the mother asked her to break an egg. They found a hard-boiled egg, after pulling off the hard shell. Finally, the daughter was asked to sip the coffee and she smiled as she smelled its rich aroma. It was then that the daughter asked—‘What does it mean, mother?’
 
Her mother explained that though each of these objects faced the same adversity—boiling water—each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting—and came out softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile, its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But after the boiling water, its inside hardened. Most often we are like the carrot, that seems strong but, in times of pain and adversity, we become soft and lose our strength. Or we are like the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat. Do I have a fluid spirit but after a breakup or financial hardship, does my shell look the same, but on the inside I am bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?  Or am I like a coffee bean? The bean changes the hot water—the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and the flavour.
 
What will each one opt to be? 
 
 (Walter Vieira is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of India- FIMC. He was a successful corporate executive for 14 years and then pioneered marketing consulting in India in 1975. As a consultant, he has worked across four continents. He was the first Asian elected Chairman of ICMCI, the world apex body of 45 countries. He is the author of 16 books, a business columnist and has been visiting professor in Marketing in the US, Europe, and Asia for over 40 years. His latest books are ‘Marketing in a Digital/Data World’ with Brian Almeida and ‘Customer Value Starvation Can Kill’ with Gautam Mahajan. He now spends most of his time on NGO work and is presently Chairman, Consumer Education and Research Society, India)
Comments
Beautifully expressed Walter. You have the gift of
1 month ago

Dear Walter,
Dear Walter,
Your words touch our hearts and makes me glow with happiness. Keep me in your posts.
Joe
alokdube60
1 month ago
Nice. Have read some of the stories here and there but didn't know they are from Aesop's.
mendonsavivek
1 month ago
Walter , this piece was PERFECT ,not too long like a maxie dress ,not too short like a mini skirt ,not too tight like a cut sleeve of a body builder and not too loose like a pantaloon without a belt ,which is about to fall off,You covered number of subjects ,PERFECTLY, your style is unique like Behram Contractor - Round About but ,no silly point - A message conveyed is an article well made
Uppili
1 month ago
Superb !
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