Daisy is a cow.
She just got a new field.
Daisy is excited and a little anxious about this new field.
On the first day, Daisy’s anxiety caused her to stick pretty much to the middle of the field.
Emily, the farmer, left her alone to find her own way.
A few days later, Daisy realized that the grass immediately around her was eaten away and the ground was getting muddy. This increased her anxiety, and she started to worry that she wasn’t being a good cow. She wondered how big the field was, but was afraid to move for fear of making a mistake or upsetting the farmer.
Farmer Emily had been looking over at Daisy’s field and noticed the ground was getting muddy around her. Emily wondered why Daisy wasn’t moving from the same spot. People had told her Daisy was a good cow, so Emily decided to leave her alone to figure it out. Emily went back to the hay field.
At the end of the first week, Daisy had run out of grass in the middle of the field was starting to look thin and gaunt. Farmer Emily was starting to get frustrated that Daisy wasn’t moving and therefore not eating. Emily thought about saying something, but then got busy fixing the tractor.
Daisy started to cry. She didn’t know what to do. She was hungry, scared and standing in a big muddy puddle.
As Daisy was crying, a large bird soared above her head. Daisy noticed the shadow and then saw the bird land just in front of her.
“Are you okay?” asked the bird.
“I will be, I’m sure,” sniffled Daisy.
“Why are you not moving from that one spot?” the bird wondered.
“I don’t know how big the field is, and I’m too scared to move,” Daisy whimpered.
“Have you asked the farmer?” inquired the bird.
Daisy thought about this.
A bit later the bird was in a neighboring field and happened to see the farmer, Emily. The bird hopped over and said, “Excuse me, are you the farmer who runs the field over there?”
“Yes” said Emily, “the one with the cow that won’t move!”
“Have you asked her why she’s not moving?” asked the bird.
Emily thought about this.
Later that day, Emily approached the field and saw Daisy still standing in the same spot. “Are you okay?” she said
“I’m hungry and embarrassed. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how big the field is and I’m scared,” moaned Daisy through tears and sniffles.
“I’m sorry you’re so upset. Your field goes all the way to the fence, I want you to use the whole thing. There is nothing in the field to fear. In fact, if you get to the fence and you still want more, we can talk about making the field bigger,” said Emily
Daisy sheepishly responded, “I didn’t want to bother you by asking. I thought you might be mad!”
“And I kept wondering why you weren’t moving and didn’t want you to feel like I was micromanaging you,” replied Emily with a reddening face. “You always can feel free to come and talk to me if you have concerns or issues – or even if you see some better opportunities in another field. I will check in with you regularly to see if I need to be doing anything differently to help you. Thanks for having this conversation!”
“Thank you,” replied Daisy with relief. “Please let let me know if I am getting too close to the fence, or doing anything you don’t like.”
“I will,” said Emily. “I promise to let you know if you are about to cross the line. And you need to keep pushing the boundaries of the fence. I want you to have the biggest field you can cope with!”
A shadow crossed the ground, and the bird smiled.
Three morals of this story:
1. Leaders need to have multiple, open conversations with their people about boundaries and expectations and opportunities.
2. It’s the leader’s and the direct report’s responsibility to keep communication lines open.
3. We need to listen to others (like birds) who give feedback from a different perspective.
Have a delightful delegation story? Share it in a comment or tell us all about it.
Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash.
Love this! A great fable to illustrate some great points!
David, this is great! And very timely for me as our company just received the results of a company-wide, individual, in-person employee engagement survey. This information is one of the eye-opening points that was discovered! I will definitely be sharing this story!
Thanks Erin, let me know how we can help with your eye-openers