It’s all about the Belly

By: Emma Warren

Date: 30 March 2010

I love my job and what I do and as a result I spend lots of my life seeing and hearing things and then being unable to stop myself relating them to being a good leader and what makes organisations work. I guess if I was a musician I’d always have songs in my head!

A few days ago we were doing a long journey in the car and we put story CDs on in the car for our young sons to listen to - and so, for the first time in ages, I heard Aesop’s Fables. Initially I wasn’t really tuned in and then I heard this one and BANG my mind was back in work mode again:

The Belly and the Members Fable - An Aesop’s Fable
One fine day it occurred to the Members of the Body that they were doing all the work and the Belly was having all the food. So they held a meeting, and after a long discussion, decided to strike work till the Belly consented to take its proper share of the work. So for a day or two, the Hands refused to take the food, the Mouth refused to receive it, and the Teeth had no work to do. But after a day or two the Members began to find that they themselves were not in a very active condition: the Hands could hardly move, and the Mouth was all parched and dry, while the Legs were unable to support the rest. So thus they found that even the Belly in its dull quiet way was doing necessary work for the Body, and that all must work together or the Body will go to pieces.

As I listened, it occurred to me that we so often feel that we are the ones who are doing all the work, whether it be at work or at home – and we forget that there are other people in the team who are doing their bit too, but in a quiet, often overlooked way.

I regularly facilitate in situations where someone is convinced that the other departments or individuals aren’t pulling their weight – and I get them to understand and/or work in each other’s departments and also encourage them to make sure their own house is in order before they start casting around to give criticism. These approaches get good results, but I think I’m going to add this fable into my toolkit as it underlines the point very succinctly and is a great model for good organisational design. I probably need to pin it on the fridge at home too!

Emma Warren, Portfolio Directors

This post originally appeared on Emma Warren's blog

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