Problem Solving - Think Cleopatras Ass

Picture the scene. Anthony pops down to the guardhouse, partly because he wants a break with the lads, but also because he has a problem. Cleopatra says she wants to bathe in ass's milk. So Anthony tells the guys in the guardhouse, that he needs some help. "The wife wants to bathe in ass's milk now." He says.

Gerald, the Head Guard, says, "She wants to what?" "Bathe in ass's milk", says Anthony, "You know what these women are like - she's read it on some tablets of stone somewhere - it's supposed to be good for her complexion".

"So how are you going to sort that out then," says Gerald, "Are you going to get someone to pour it over her or something?" Anthony thinks about it and says, "No, that won't do, she wants to soak in it. She needs a 'bath'."

"What's a 'bath' then..", says the Gerald. "It's a big thing you get into that's full of the ass's milk - and then you lie down in it," says Anthony.

"What do you want to do that for then..?" asks one of the new guards, a young lad really.

"So you can get clean all over and relax in it - let the ass's milk do it's job." Says Anthony, trying to sound as if it makes sense. "Oh, right then.." Says the Head Guard.

"Nah, I don't know where you'll get one of them."

Anthony goes on his way, this time stopping at the stonemason's yard, thinking all of a sudden, those big stones we shape, all we need to do is to hollow on out and that will do.

So he starts a conversation with the Head Stonemason, Steve. "Can you do me a 'bath'", he says. "What's one of them, then?", the rather busy stonemason says. "It's a big thing you get into and lie in, full of hot liquid. It's relaxing." Anthony says, sounding less and less convincing each time. "You can do it, with this stuff you're cutting up each day, it'll be a breeze". "Nah, mate," says Steve, "This stuff is sandstone, it won't hold the liquid".

Disappointed, but losing a bit of interest, Anthony moves along in his quest.

But it starts the stonemason thinking - he has a bit of spare granite out the back of the shed, so over the next few days, he does a bit if chiselling and sees what he can do.

A week the following Friday, he gives old Anthony a shout and shows him his work. "Brilliant", says Anthony - let's get it installed, she'll be having her nails done all afternoon. "Let's get those asses milked too", he shouts to his PA.

Later that afternoon, Cleopatra has a big surprise and excitedly clambers into the new granite bath, filled with warm asses milk and she is in seventh heaven.

Bet you're wondering what the moral of the story is eh?

Well, in our everyday job, we are faced with dozens of little challenges. New problems to puzzle out. And they cause us irritation and frustration. Yet, like the stone mason, Steve, we have people around us who, left to their own devices and interested enough in the challenge, will sort things out - in their own way and in their own time.

It's as true today as it was when Anthony and Cleopatra were around.

There is a postscript to this. Two days later the stonemason is called up to the new 'bath' room. Cleopatra was pleased to see him and thanked him for his excellent work but asked, discreetly, if he could bring his polishing stone up with him later.

"The bath is great, but I have a little problem. There's something right in the bottom corner that is a little rough - in fact, she said, it's a bit of a pain in the ass."

Knowingly, the stonemason left the bathroom for his tools. "I know, I know" he said, "We get them all the time." And he smiled a little smile as he prepared to meet a challenge of a more delicate nature.

Copyright 2005 Martin Haworth is a Business and Management Coach. He works worldwide, mainly by phone, with small business owners, managers and corporate leaders. He has hundreds of hints, tips and ideas at his website, http://www.coaching-busine (Note to editors. Feel free to use this article, wherever you think it might be of value - it would be good if you could include a live link)

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