Mountain Musings

Earn trust to harness power

Special to The CambrianJune 13, 2014 

Photo of Clarence Rougeot with his mule team in the early 1920s harvesting grain in Paso Robles.

COURTESY OF LESTER ROUGEOT

Have you ever been told you’re as stubborn as a mule? Perhaps not, but even if you haven’t, surely you’ve tried to accomplish something with someone whom you perceive as headstrong or mulish. As if achieving a goal isn’t tough enough, right? Then some mule that refuses to budge gets hitched to your wagon. That makes the mission at hand even more challenging, doesn’t it?

Well, while it may appear that way, project managers that care about and believe in their team members can use delays as time to examine the situation more thoroughly. They realize that a reluctance to be rushed may very well prevent a wreck down the row.

Though mules may have notorious reputations of being obstinate or unreasonable, in actuality, most mules are willing to pull much more than their own weight. Not only do they have incredible endurance and patience, they also work well in groups.

Strong, sure-footed and hardy, mules demonstrate courage and exhibit intelligence — often above and beyond that of donkeys or horses. For example, some horses can be whipped into working past the point of exhaustion, but not so with mules.

They have keen survival instincts. Consequently, they won’t put themselves in detrimental situations. They can’t be pushed around, thus they are considered stubborn or difficult — even though they readily work hard, given the right conditions.

Get on the good side of a mule and it’s probable you’ll build the foundation for a loyal and supportive partnership. On the other hand, if you approach a mule from any number of objectionable directions, such as trying to manipulate or force one into compliance, you’ll likely take a hoof to your most vulnerable part.

At the very least, you’ll waste a lot of energy getting nowhere. Lose their trust — pay the price. So it is with humans, too.

When there’s an absence of corrupt agendas, dishonorable conduct, or downright danger, it’s possible that each participant of a team can be convinced to put their best foot forward. Trickery, on the other hand, is a surefire way to receive a swift kick that hinders or halts all progress.

Open-mindedness, a willing spirit and a productive relationship require honesty and compassion. To promote and maximize enthusiasm, as well as generous efforts toward a common objective, the workhorses (whether people or mules) must feel confident about the direction they’re headed. They must have faith in those they allow to lead them.

In order to get a literal or figurative field plowed with efficiency and minimal conflict, mutual trust is essential. Trust motivates others to be agreeable and eager. Trust encourages the strengths, skills and gifts of individuals. With trustworthiness, fair play, kindness and respect, even a mule might be persuaded to cooperate.

To give and gain trust is to harness great power. After which, prepare to yield remarkable results. Giddy up!

Michele Oksen’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email the resident of Cambria’s mountain community in the Santa Lucia range at micheleoksen@gmail.com.

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