The Fable of Mostofus: The Blind Shepherd Gets New Work

November 29, 2016

Career Development In Place

shepherdOnce upon a time, there was a blind shepherd, Mostofus, that had mastered knowledge of his flock and his pastures even without benefit of sight. He was so successful that he actually became bored. It was time to move out of the mountains of Oldwork and find greener pastures. So, he decided to sell his flock, take a vacation, and look around in Nework (not New Jersey) for another place to start an even more successful flock.

When he arrived in Nework, the other shepherds briefly welcomed him and found him to be interesting. It seemed a bit odd that someone not-like-them would be interested in starting a flock. But they were busy with their own work and went back to tending their flocks and ignoring Mostofus.

About a week later they heard the sad story of Mostofus and his flock. Not being able to see what was around him, he had mistaken the deep end of the lake for a shallow stream to water his flock. He had fallen in and nearly drowned. Not being able to see, he was petting what he thought was one of his sheep only to find out that it was a wolf that had come to investigate the flock. Not pretty. Finally, the pasture that Mostofus bought turned out to be right next to the land owned by the turf-protecting and suspicious troll, Restofus. They were now in court arguing over boundary lines that Restofus had never marked and Mostofus couldn’t see.shepherdwinter

How many of us have been through the Mostofus experiences when moving to new work and a new team or enterprise. We suffered the same fate of being unable to see how things around us work, what the relationships were about, where the dangers and opportunities were positioned and how to produce value, not just activity. Orientation to the new work was minimal. Other people were too busy or, perhaps, not team-oriented enough to want to fully and rapidly engage us with the team. But of course, they had the time to come back later and hear the stories about how things weren’t going so well.

As a formal or informal leader, you have the ability to give teams insight into how they can work more effectively as individuals, a team and as an aligned part of a bigger organization. As a new employee you have to take the initiative to get yourself oriented to the organization and team, even if your boss isn’t taking the responsibility to do so.

Here are some key categories of information that new employees (and current ones too) need to make sense of their work:

  1. Who are our key customers? Internal and external.
  2. Define the key jobs customers need done by us.
  3. What’s our value proposition?
  4. What are the key activities for my role? This team?
  5. Take time to learn the politics; who decides on goals, key values, has authority or gives it to others
  6. What are the key resources (knowledge, human, physical, financial)
  7. Who are the key partners that are needed for us to do our best work for our customers?
  8. What is our source of revenue or budget?

Not by coincidence, these categories sound like the same issues that a business pays attention to. You or your team are better served by thinking about yourselves as a business than obsessing over disconnected job descriptions that don’t necessarily orient you to your higher purpose; acting as an aligned team. Make these categories the focus of your orientation to new roles or organizations. (Check out Business Model You by Tim Clark. Wiley 2012. I use this book to help my clients develop a personal business model to expedite the reinvention of their careers).

images from unsplash & morguefile

BruceHazenheadshotsmBruce Hazen, MS
Three Questions Consulting
Bruce is a career and management coach working with professionals who are at career crossroads and wanting answers and action strategies for one or more of The Three Career Questions:

1. When is it time to move up?
2. When is it time to move out?
3. When is it time to adapt my style for greater success?


One Comment on “The Fable of Mostofus: The Blind Shepherd Gets New Work”

  1. Tim Clark Says:

    Great fable, Bruce. I like the way you summarized it at the end:

    “You or your team are better served by thinking about yourselves as a business than obsessing over disconnected job descriptions that don’t necessarily orient you to your higher purpose; acting as an aligned team.”


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