Once upon a time, there was a man who strayed from his own country into the world known as the Land of Fools. He soon saw a number of people fleeing in terror from a field where they had been trying to reap wheat. “There is a monster in that field!” they told him. He looked and saw that it was nothing more than a watermelon. He quickly called out to them, “Fools!” “Can you not see that this is a harmless plant that can do you no harm?” Tilting his head in disgust, he turned and left these “natives” who could not distinguish between a “monster” and a simple vegetable.
Soon, another man made his way to the Land of Fools, where he too soon encountered a number of people fleeing in terror from a field where they had been trying to reap wheat. “There is a monster in that field,” they told him. He too looked and saw that it was nothing more than a watermelon. So, trying to be helpful, he offered to kill the “monster” for them. Taking out his knife, he cut the melon from its stalk and proceeded to slice and eat it. To his amazement, the people became more terrified of him than they had been of the “monster.” They instantly drove him away with pitchforks crying, “He will kill us and eat us next, unless we get rid of him!”
It so happened that a week later another man strayed into the Land of Fools. Again, he saw people fleeing in terror from a field where they had been trying to reap wheat. But this time, instead of ridiculing them for their lack of understanding he paused to learn and listen what it was they were really afraid of. Instead of offering to help them “kill” the “monster,” he chose to tiptoe away from it with them, gaining their confidence and trust in the process. Instead of offering them a quick fix solution, he invested the time with the people and taught them, little by little, the basic facts that would enable them not only to abandon their fear of watermelons, but eventually helped them see how they could cultivate them for themselves and their fellow villagers.
As leaders, we each have three watermelon hunters within us. The first two watermelon hunters represent those times when we are quick to judge, slow to listen and too impatient to invest the time to help others learn from the experience at hand. But we can also conduct ourselves as the third watermelon hunter and choose to withhold judgment and act with the people instead of for the people. When we guard ourselves from rushing in to solve the problem at hand, we create a space where mutual growth and understanding can occur.
Remember, people often reap the greatest harvest in their lives when they are allowed to address their fears in a space void of insult, criticism or ridicule. Choose to be an encourager, not an intimidator and see how things in your sphere of influence can blossom and grow.
John E. Michel is a widely recognized expert in culture, strategy & individual and organizational change. An accomplished unconventional leader and proven status quo buster, he has successfully led several multi-billion dollar transformation efforts and his award-winning work has been featured in a wide variety of articles and journals, including the Harvard Business Review. John enjoys helping people learn to walk differently in the world so they can become the best version of themselves possible and is married to the most patient person on the planet. Together, they are blessed with two amazing sons. You are encouraged to learn more about John at his website, www.MedicoreMe.com