A fable with a strong link to a Christmas Classic!
Dorian Gale was a CEO who was taken in by two brothers, Emerson (Em for short) and Henry to lead their family company Kansas Farms, in Norfolk in the 00’s. Em and Henry had inherited the original farm from their father, Clive. All those years Clive knew exactly why he set up the original farm in the small village of Kansas in Norfolk, England. It had been successful under Em and Henry going from 1 farm to 6 and diversifying into tourism and retail as many other farmers had done. It was a good company, but to some extent it had lost why it was there and its teams certainly didn’t know why it was.
Dorian had a real mission, and wanted to create something special, something that would be remembered in history, something people would be proud to be part of. He didn’t really know how to get there, but he knew when they got there it would be more meaningful and fun.
Dorian went on a training course in Seattle to try to find a way to make this happening. This was no ordinary training course, it was at the World Famous Pike Place Fish. He found himself in a place he had never been before, the magical, beautiful, dangerous and technicolor land of Organisational Zen. He knew he was in Norfolk anymore. It had a profound effect on his thinking.
There he met a wise man called Jim who cleverly taught him that the only way to find Kansas Farm’s “Why” was from within himself and the people in it.
Finding their way back home
Dorian returned to Norfolk with his new ideas, he helped the organisation find its Why, Why did it exist. You see, they had got lost on the journey, to some extent they needed to find their way back to the original Kansas farm; they needed to find their way home. He, with the team, developed a purpose and some values that were meaningful to the Kansas Farms.
He got immediate resistance from many in the company, who wanted Kansas Farms to be just the way it was now and in particular two Managers, who were like the witches of the company. They seemed to want to get rid of him from Kansas Farms altogether.
He quickly killed one of the witches from the business. This initially pleased many of the team he “ruled” over. However, the other was not pleased and vowed revenge. She would be there at every turn to try to stop the purposeful journey.
Dorian’s own journey
Dorian sought guidance from a Mentor, Glinda who told him to trust in his journey and follow the road to realise Kansas Farms’ purpose. She said there will eventually be a wise man who will guide him further. She had noticed that Dorian looked tired and after some coaching, she found out Dorian used to be a good runner and suggested he took up running again. She felt this could give Dorian more energy to protect him on his journey. She gave Dorian some special red running shoes and he started running. The running was really working, Dorian was noticeable different at both home and work. He had more energy, more enthusiasm and seemed to be making better decisions.
A year passed and Dorian found himself on the starting line of the London Marathon, one of the biggest sporting events on the planet. He felt amazing. He had also started to learn the valuable lesson about the correlation between the planning that went into a long term training programme (breaking down into bite-sized chunks, mini achievements along the way and measurement, which crossed over so much to the journey at work. He completed the event in a very respectable time. He knew there and then he wanted to do it again. He also liked the idea of trying triathlons. That summer he completed his first triathlon. Triathlon was offering him more challenge than just running and a different type of fitness. He has also discovered how tranquil and peaceful open water swimming could be.
Thinkin’ about me thinkin’
Dorian continued with the journey, he used his newfound energy to embed the purpose and values. He then met a wonderful thoughtful lady, with wild scarecrow like hair, called Rochelle. She introduced him to the wonders of coaching, and how to broaden the mind. From this Dorian realised the mind was a muscle too and it needed exercising and looking after just like all the others. A lot of what Rochelle said reminded him of the advice Jim had talked about in Seattle about living in the moment and truly being present. She reminded him how to think.
He continued on the journey, with a strong body and strong mind, he grew even stronger; he even seemed to be a bit wiser. He certainly was sharper.
If I only had a heart
He started to work more closely with a lovely lady, Sall. Sall was a more mature lady, she had lovely long silver blonde hair, almost resembling tin. She reminded him that having a big caring heart could help complete his journey. So now armed with his physical fitness, mental wellbeing and thinking, and a good heart he continued on the journey.
Things were really starting to happen in the business, behaviours were changing and, in pursuit of the purpose and guided by the values, people were doing really great things. By now Dorian had realised that plenty of sleep and a good wholesome diet were key to helping his mind, body and heart.
Put ’em up, Put ’em up
He was still encountering resistance from some quarters and this was weighing heavy on his mind. He enlisted the help of a new recruit, Carlton. Carlton was a big man, with long curly hair and a beard, you could almost mistake him for a lion. He came to work for Dorian because of the Purpose and Value and because he believed in Dorian. He was the type of tenacious guy that never took no for answer and always looked for the positive in every situation. Dorian, loved and respected that about him. He taught Dorian to be more courageous.
Out on a long run one day, Dorian reflected on this and it reminded him that he was right to stick to his values and see the journey through. Most people in the organisation were now getting pretty much on board with it.
Dorian often used his long runs and rides to get some headspace to be able to mull things over. It seemed the more he trained, the harder he pushed, the better things were going at Kansas Farms.
With diminished powers, the witch was still determined to undermine the journey, trying to deliberately scupper the purpose by openly criticising it to her teams and not living the values.
More time passed and more marathons and more triathlons, Dorian longed to complete the ultimate triathlon, an Ironman, the big daddy, that was a 2.4mile swim, an 112-mile bike ride and then a full marathon. He knew that with work and a family, he just could not commit the time needed to train, but how he longed.
Back at Kansas Farms, the Witch had much less power now, is still trying to undermine things. Now most in the organisation were fully bought into the purpose and values.
Finding the Wizard
Dorian found the wise man Glinda referred to earlier, Bert. Almost Wizard like in appearance, Bert was an interesting man, who was very insightful. He tells Dorian to finally deal with The Witch before he can help him.
The witch puts up one last fight, he had recruited a small team of saboteurs who, like flying monkeys, were hell bent on attacking Dorian. But Dorian was strong. He was physically and mentally strong and he had a strong heart and courage. He knew the purpose and values were right. He used all his strength to completely disarm the Witch and turn her team against her and back to following Dorian and Purpose and values. It was as if the Witch had melted.
Dorian met Bert again and explained what he has done with witch. Dorian asked Bert to help complete the purpose, but he refused. Dorian thought he was not that wise at all. In reality, he was very wise, but he wanted Dorian to figure out that he knew how to complete the journey. For Kansas Farms it was about a public recognition of the achievements to date and for Dorian, it was time to do that Ironman he dreamt of. By the end of that year, Dorian completed his grueling 7-month training programme and completed his Ironman.
That year Kansas Farms was named the best farming business in the country and the best overall business in the region. Its commitment to its purpose and values was cited as the main reason. They had found their way home.
Reflecting on the Journey
Dorian met with Glinda, and together they reflected on the journey that he had gone through. All those years ago, when he started the journey, Kansas Farms was a good company but had no proper purpose. Dorian was a good CEO but lacked a little drive and that something extra. Now, Kansas Farms was widely regarded as being one of the very best companies both by its teams, its customers, and the local community. Dorian had completed one of the most grueling endurance events on the planet in a great time, was in the best physical condition of his life, and mentally prepared for anything life could throw at him. He has all the heart and courage he needed to succeed at anything.
Dorian looks down at his feet and saw his bright red running shoes (He had replaced them several times by then). He realised, there and then that his personal journey in his red shoes and the journey of Kansas Farms were, in fact the same journey. His commitment to his physical and mental wellbeing had not only helped him but through him being a great leader had also helped Kansas Farms complete their journey. He realised that throughout the journey he had been Creating History for himself and Kansas Farms.
Time for a new journey
He knew in that moment that it was time to say goodbye to Kansas Farms and left it in the capable hands of Sall, Carlton and the other leaders of the business.
He knew he had a higher purpose, a calling, to take his learning about purpose and the effect of a leader’s physical and mental wellbeing on success and share it with the world. Yellow Brick Road was born. The red shoes have become a symbol and he wears them wherever he goes and he continues to empower leaders and organisations through purpose and wellbeing, thus increasing productivity through better engagement and leadership.
He continues with his own personal journey, still looking after his body and mind, and has now competed three times for his country in triathlon, the sport he loves.
Ian Hacon, Founder and Cheif Dorothy, Yellow Brick Road
Disclaimer: Whilst you may recognise this journey from my own, some of the facts and chronology has been changed to enhance the story and it’s message.