Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Influencing Others-Are You Carving a Rock or Building a Cathedral?

In this last of my blog series on influencing others I want to cover the category of creating a broader frame.  Creating a broader frame is all about creating a line of sight between individual work and an organizational end or purpose.  I've used the following example for many years...so many years I cannot remember to whom I should attribute it and an initial Google search didn't reveal a source either.  All of that to say, this story isn't original to me and if I could attribute it properly, I would.

The story is told of two stone-masons working side by side in medieval Europe.  A visitor approached and asked one, "What are you doing?"  The mason's surly answer was "I'm carving this rock into a square block.  What's it look like I'm doing?"  The visitor moved on to another mason a short distance away.  He asked the second mason, "What are you doing?"  The second mason responded "I'm creating an important building block of what will one day be a magnificent cathedral that will serve as a beacon of hope and spirituality to tens of thousands of people for generations to come".

Two men performing exactly the same task.  Which one is more likely to do a good job?  Which one is more likely to pay attention to detail?  Which one is more likely to give his discretionary effort?  I think the answer is obvious.

Often these broader frames are captured as vision statements or purpose statements.  I've been part of some exercises where we spent a ridiculous amount of time "wordsmithing"....making sure every little word was exactly right on these statements.   Most of that is wasted effort.  They have to be more than a description of all the work being done.   It's also not important that they perfectly describe a photograph of a future state.  They've got to be more than an updated version of "I'm carving this rock into a square block."  They do need to motivate, inspire to excellence and call on the best of what every staff member has to give.  That's how a leader influences the action.

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