It doesn’t rain it pours, and in a short time several clients felt like they weren’t seeing enough of me, or felt I had become distant from their accounts. In my reality, I had just been concentrating on making sure my team were working as they should be, giving them the ideas, motivation and support they need to achieve results for these clients. Frankly, I was quite hurt at the comments, so I wrote the story below, inspired by Chinese New Year and the stories of Snowflake Books, another client of mine, which is how I know I am a ‘Fire Dragon’.
What was really interesting when I showed this to Snowflake for their interest, was the story they then wrote from the client’s perspective: ‘The Villagers’. I have read many leadership and management books but this really did open my eyes to the client perspective and I am very grateful to them for taking the time to do so.
The Unseen Dragon
There was once a very cold dark village where everyone was suffering, huddling together around small piles of timber trying to light big fires and bring light so they could enjoy life with their families.
“What we need is more wood and bigger fires” said the people. They tried lots of different things to make the fire and bring some light but nothing worked. They paid a pedlar who told them how to make fire, but couldn’t start any flames, they paid a wise old woman but she made fire for other villages but never for them.
In desperation, they asked the Dragon who had made fires for many other people, but they were frightened that they would be tricked again. The Dragon agreed to help them; they wanted fire and light to enjoy their lives and that’s what he would give them.
He looked around and thought ‘I will ask the sun to shine brighter, the forests to give more wood, provide the sparks to light your fires and whisper to the winds to blow gently on the flames to bring warmth and light to your village, because I know what you want is to enjoy your lives, and this is how we will do it.’
As the Dragon quietly left the village he blew gently on the timber piles, lighting each small one. The village wasn’t warm yet but they finally had some light and were excited to be helped by the Dragon.
Back at his cave overlooking the world he called his dragon family to him.
‘Go speak to the sun and tell him about the village and the cold and dark’ he said ‘and if he will not listen tell him different stories about the village and its people until he is interested in you’ and he spent time telling them stories and giving them courage, as they were frightened of being burnt by the sun. Every time they returned defeated he made up new stories for them to tell and gave them the courage to go back and face the sun.
For the second dragon he sent to out to the forests, he said ‘Go and ask the trees to grow more branches and throw down their old ones for the people to use on their fires’. ‘How will we do that when the trees are frightened of dragons as they think we will burn them?’ asked the smaller dragons. ‘Sing and dance for them until they sway to your rhythm and are happy in your company, then they will help you’. And he sang songs for the small dragons and showed them dances that they could do. And every time they returned empty handed he taught them a new dance and made up a new song.
The dragon whispered to the wind himself, to blow gently on the village to help their fires, and carry his dragons safely on their wings to speak to the sun, the forests and to the villages, for it was not just that one village that was cold but many, many villages.
For the final dragons, he searched across the earth for. Special dragons to send to the village itself. These dragons he picked as the best for this task. ‘Go to the village and spend time relighting fires that have died. Show them how to gather the wood and make better fires, and bigger fires, and how to keep them burning. They will then have warmth and light to enjoy their families, because without the fires there is no enjoyment. He taught them how to tend human fires and live amongst the villagers.
All this time, as the small dragons worked, the sun shone a little brighter, the trees dropped a few more branches and the wind blew a warm, gentle breeze. But the villagers weren’t happy. They were waiting. They had asked the Dragon to help them and they were waiting. They wanted to see the dragon himself blazing fire, they wanted to see his fire. ‘Why aren’t you here helping us?’ They cried. ‘The other dragons are singing songs, telling stories and dancing to help us, but we don’t see you. We are waiting for you to be more like them, only better’
They didn’t know the songs he had written, the dances he’d made up or the stories he’d told to all his dragons, to persuade the sun, the trees and the wind. Nor did they see his love for the small dragons that tended their fires for them or how he whispered to the wind daily to keep it blowing a warm breeze.
So the village waited as the fires and light grew, all the while disappointed in the dragon as the light started to creep in and they warmed their hands on their small fires.
And the dragon, he heard their cries and his heart broke. But he knew that the sun warmed, the wind blew and the forests provided wood as long as he was there to teach his dragons. And the village and all the other villages across the land were getting warmer and lighter daily so everyone could enjoy their families.