There is a powerful life and business lesson in Aesop’s fable about the goose that laid the golden egg. The fable is the story of a poor farmer who one day discovers in the nest of his pet goose a magnificent golden egg. At first, he thinks it must be some kind of trick but soon discovers that the egg is pure gold! The farmer can’t believe his good fortune. Day after day he rushes to the nest to find one golden egg after another. He becomes fabulously wealthy but soon greed and impatience overtake him. In his impatience he decides to kill the goose and retrieve all the eggs at once only to realize it is empty.
For many this story highlights how businesses, organizations, leaders, managers, teachers and parents understand what it means to be productive. It is also why science was able to determine that the belief in the equation that if you are productive – you will be successful – and ultimately you will be happy was broken and backwards. [See Shawn Achor’s TED talk on The Happiness Advantage]
Let me break it down for you. The goose is the producing asset – your employee, student or child. The golden egg represents the production or output. We always want more, whether it be reports, sales, special projects, homework, results or outcomes but we often fail to take into consideration caring for the goose. When we push harder and harder we risk the fact of completely disregarding their health and so does the person who feels pressured to perform.
This is the phenomenon of doing less with more especially in the business world where we have treated employees as discard-able resources, i.e. human resources. To our detriment and significant mental, emotional and physical costs we are killing the goose. The proof lies in the soaring costs of healthcare from stress and anxiety, negative cultures and lack of engagement, thus severely reducing the production capabilities of the assets that many claim are what they value most. The metaphor here is owning a million-dollar racehorse but keeping it up late at night, feeding it beer and candy.
We need to stop saying that we are addressing our human well-being when we are clearly not! It is time to implement programs that really care for our employees, students and children. We need to treat those we claim to care about in ways that they understand that they are valued more in being who they are rather than what they can do for us!