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“When work gives you lemons – make lemonade!”

How often do you hear these everyday workplace problems? Travel restrictions are in place, budgets must be cut, no client expenses for the next quarter, how can we pull in biz from the next quarter into this one, can you get that completed in less time, we need it now or we’ll lose the client. We are all familiar with the current workplace mantra: we have to do more with less.

No doubt, time and money are scarce, and there is a drive to be more innovative in how we work. While most of us understand the logic behind scarcity in our workplace resources, it is still emotionally stressful. And when we can’t get what we need to do our job, it’s easy to look over at your boss, another co-worker or department and compare. We wonder why they get more while we get less.

However, doing more with less gives us a chance to be creative: perhaps we can make lemonade from lemons, as the saying goes. Maybe we can find more efficient ways of doing business.

What if, rather than competing for scarce resources, we became curious and collaborated? What if we asked each other questions? The following fable explores the power of asking why do you need it, and what could happen if we did that.

Lemonade from lemons: A fable about everyday workplace problems

Two sisters found themselves in the kitchen both reaching for the last lemon in the house. Neither one wanted to make the effort to buy more – besides, they had no money. Neither one wanted to exert power or manipulate the other so each did the honorable thing and compromised. Each begrudgingly took their half of the lemon to their spot in the kitchen. With much chagrin, one sister grated the rind to make a half of a lemon cake. The other, feeling resentful, squeezed a half a glass of lemonade.

Neither got what they wanted. But had they asked each other why they needed the lemon, they could each have had the whole.

The moral of the story:

When we get fixed on what we want rather than why we want it, we miss creating opportunities for innovation and win-win solutions.
Next time you find yourself in a budget meeting negotiating for resources, try to set aside what you think you need and ask the other why they need what they are asking for. You never know… sometimes you might both walk away with a whole lemon.

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