The sheep station where I spent my childhood was a three hour drive from the nearest town over dusty unsealed roads. The town had nine hotels and two grocery stores, and we only went there every six weeks or so to stock up on our supplies. Living in such a remote area meant we needed to be self-sufficient and resilient. We had a vegetable garden, sheep and cattle for our meat, and we kept hens for eggs.
Every year, we would order our hens from the city poultry farmers. They were only young, not much more than a year old, and were already considered “burnt out” by the egg farmers. We would order four dozen at a time – for about 20 cents (1 or 2 rand) a chicken!
We would drive the three hours into town and pick them up from the rail depot. They were transported in large cardboard cartons with little air holes cut out. We’d bring them back home, tie the dogs up, and open the boxes.
Out would fall the most bedraggled creatures we had ever seen. They were often featherless, their crests pale and shabby and their claws overgrown. They had spent their entire lives inside a cage in tin sheds under intense 24 hour artificial lighting, and were expected to lay to maximum capacity – sometimes two eggs per day.
They had never seen the sunshine or felt the earth beneath their feet. Some of them even had their beaks removed to prevent them from pecking their eggs. We let them out into the yard to learn how to be chooks – to pick at the green weeds, scratch for worms and bugs, and cluck at each other. After only a couple of weeks, their crests became a deeper, healthier red, their feathers grew back, and they even “walked taller”.
The most amazing thing was that they started to lay eggs again.
When we create environments that focus on who we are, that allow us to express our values and nourish us, then our natural talents and energy are released. The impossible becomes possible, and results exceed expectations.
By focusing on the who – allowing them to be the best they could be, the “what” came naturally. Of course they would lay eggs – that’s what hens do. So instead of saying “now go off and lay lots of eggs”, we let them rediscover how to be real chickens – and laying eggs was a natural consequence.
How often in workplaces do we ask our people to lay more eggs – turn the lights up, increase performance, keep producing – with the threat of replacement if they slow down? If we focus more on the nurturing of our people, providing the environment that allows them to be the best they can be, then the natural consequence is for them to do whatever it is they do. Trust that if they are healthy, stimulated, encouraged, and believed in, you will have all the eggs you need!
Organisations, governments, and individual consumers pour millions of dollars into working out ways to lay more eggs – bigger, cheaper, faster, quicker, more! We are constantly offered tools and gadgets that are supposed to make our lives better, yet we become involved in a cycle of replacing the unnecessary to do the necessary, and we lose the ability and sometimes even the knowledge of doing things for ourselves. Tools that are supposed designed to “make it easier” have made us less productive, and many people are burnt out, exhausted, tired, sad, depressed. In order to shift the focus from maximizing egg production to cultivating healthy and happy chickens, we have to challenge the assumptions and beliefs that have created our current situations.
It is not about being a better leader, which suggests that you have something “missing”, it is about recognising the qualities that already reside within you, and allowing yourself the courage to peel away the masks and layers to reveal the infinite creative energy of your real Self. The most courageous journey is the “inner journey” of self awareness.
By embracing and expressing the qualities that reside within, we develop comfort with ambiguity, confidence in uncertainty, and a willingness to celebrate diversity.
A leader is a person who serves through being trustworthy, inspirational and passionate. Leadership is not about role, position, salary, or authority. It is an innate quality in everyone, and leaders are at all levels of the community, family, and work place.
We lead how we live, and how we live our life is the way we leave the world.
Welcome to our guest Blogger – Karynne Courts from Values Connection who has donated her time to Blog for you some great lessons.
(Source: Karynne Courts, Values Connection (see www.valuesconnection.com.au for more inspirational stuff or to purchase the book – Journey to the Blue Road … an amazing book by an amazing person!!)