Below is a parable of an elderly lady and a cracked pot. The story shows us that what one person perceives as a flaw may be seen as a strength by someone else. Flaws in one situation may be strength in another. The question then becomes as a leader how do you handle flaws in yourself and those who work for you?
When evaluating someone do you focus on their flaws and push them to “fix” them? Can you recognize that what is a flaw in one situation could be a key to success in another situation? If so, do you give the person the opportunity to use that “flawed” characteristic in a positive way. As a leader you may be very visionary but poor at details, so it’s important for you to create the vision and have people around you who can develop and execute a detailed plan to get there. Your flaw is a problem only if you do not take the time to address it.
You may have someone working for you in a position that requires them to work independently on a computer based system with little interaction with others, but the person is highly social and needs interaction. This is a bad fit for the person and the position. Constantly pushing them to isolate themselves to get work done is only going to be effective in short spurts, so look for ways that can you adapt their role to get the most out of them. They will be more productive and your world gets easier as well.
Embrace difference in the people on your team. Look for the hidden strength inside each flaw within yourself and your team.
Cracked Pot Parable
There was an elderly woman who had the responsibility of gathering water for her family each day. Because the family lived in a very remote and dry region, she had to walk far to get the water. She could only carry two pots at a time and so, needed to make the trip every day.
The elderly woman did not have the means for new materials. As a result, only one pot was in perfect working order. The other pot had a crack running half way down the side. The first was the envy of the latter. Making matters worse, the whole one often belittled the other, critiquing it of lacking performance:
“You are a sorry excuse for a pot! Every day you lose half your water. I will give you a poor performance review. You’re not even meeting half of your objectives and you are draining our resources. You need to be replaced.”
Of course, these negative remarks wore on the cracked pot. Over time, the poor pot began to believe the negative feedback about itself. Until, one day, the cracked pot nearly gave up and apologized to the elderly woman, asking to be replaced:
“My lady, I am so sorry for failing you! Every day, we walk to and from the well and I cannot hold on to all the water you place in me. I am a poor performer. You must be awfully disappointed in me. Please, replace me with another, newer model, so you can be more successful!”
Upon hearing this, the lady gasped. She now realized the cracked pot did not fully understand its role:
“But, cracked pot, you provide so many benefits to me and our family that you do not realize! Haven’t you noticed all the flowers and vegetables growing up on your side of the path? I knew you dripped water and so I planted seeds along your side of our path. Your water nurtured those plants and vegetables. I picked the flowers to make our home beautiful and the vegetables to feed our family. The other pot may seem more complete, but I would have to stop and tip it every time I wanted to give the plants a drink. In contrast, water flows from you perfectly – at a consistent and steady pace.”
The cracked pot was so excited at hearing this, it never again doubted itself. It ignored the negative commentary cast by it’s peer and continued to feed the plants and vegetables every day.
Photo from iStockphoto.com