The Three Builders

Once upon a time in a kingdom far away, there were three royal construction foremen. One day the king declared that his three foremen were each to build a new castle for him. Each castle was to be a mighty and magnificent structure that would stand the test of man, nature, and time. Upon completion of the castles, the king would then judge the three foremen and the quality of the structures they had each created.

In order for the three foremen to accomplish this momentous task, the king allotted each of them a construction budget and allowed each foreman to assemble and lead his own individual team of engineers, builders, and various specialists. Each foreman could select, organize, and manage his team however he wanted and however he thought would be most successful in completing the king’s project. Thus the king gave his foremen a great deal of leeway and independence in completing their identical tasks, and each of them decided to take a radically different approach towards completing it.


The first foreman’s name was Chief. And Chief was a very competent and experienced construction leader who had already overseen countless projects. Chief was also very well prepared for the task at hand because he already had his own elite team of professional engineers, builders, iron workers, masons, and various other specialists assembled and ready to go for the job ahead. And Chief organized and ran his team well. He was a tough but fair leader who demanded the very best from his men, but who also treated his men with dignity and respect. In turn, Chief’s men loyally respected him as a strong and competent leader based on his experience and accomplishments.

As a highly skilled and experienced team, Chief’s men had been working together for many years and had already successfully constructed many impressive buildings. Due to this past history of success and accomplishment, the men on Chief’s team possessed a great sense of shared identity and team pride. Chief’s team had become a proud institution unto itself, and the individual members were honored to be a part of it. The team had become like a family or brotherhood, and Chief loved his team and the men loved Chief in return. Furthermore, as a means to better keep this fraternal unity intact, Chief ensured that his established team was all but closed to any outsiders. In the rare instances when positions did open up, or new positions had to be created, the selection process was extremely vigorous and the standards were extremely high. Thus the admission of new team members was not taken lightly and Chief had no intention of watering down the elite unit he had created. So then not only were the men on Chief’s team proud of their common history and accomplishment, but they also took great pride in the knowledge that they were part of a select and elite outfit.

This overwhelming sense of team pride also contributed to a unity of purpose and mission, which then better allowed the men on Chief’s team to function as a cohesive unit. And because of this team cohesion, as well as their already long history of working together, Chief’s team was able to operate as a well-oiled machine, which only further enhanced the overall quality of their work. So the men were not only proud of their past accomplishments, they were also extremely confident in their capabilities as well. Furthermore, this tight-knit atmosphere also contributed to greater accountability among the individual men on Chief’s team, because the men felt heavily honor bound and loyal towards one another due to their common history, brotherhood, and team pride. And with reinforced accountability comes a greater overall quality of work, because each individual has not only the pride of their own personal reputation at stake but also the reputation of their team and teammates as well.

As individuals, each member of Chief’s team was a highly skilled and experienced professional. This then provided each man with a strong sense of personal identity and accomplishment to go along with their sense of team identity and pride. As such, the men on Chief’s team were able to be proud of both their team’s overall accomplishments as well as their own individual roles in contributing towards them. Each man knew and appreciated the importance of his individual role and understood exactly where it fit into the larger picture, which then further helped Chief’s team to operate as a well-oiled machine.

Chief’s team was also built and structured on merit and hierarchy. And each man was therefore fully aware that hard work, experience, and excellence were the keys to advancement and increased status on the team. They also understood and that such status and respect had to be eared, and that nothing would just be handed to them. Chief’s men also knew that laziness and freeloading would not be tolerated, and that each man, honor bound and accountable to one another, was expected to pull their own weight. And every man knew that in those rare instances when someone did not live up to the team standards or uphold the team values, he would be dealt with quickly and harshly by his peers and supervisors.

Needless to say, Chief ran an elite and professional construction team. And Chief’s team wasted no time getting to work on the king’s castle…


The second foreman’s name was Coach. And Coach too was a very competent and experienced construction leader who had also overseen countless successful projects. In fact, over the years Coach had led several different teams in completing many outstanding projects. He therefore also fully understood how to successfully organize and run a successful construction team. Coach knew what worked and what didn’t, and what kind of system was required to complete the king’s project. Yet unlike Chief, Coach did not currently have his own elite team already assembled and ready to go for the job ahead. So in order for him to complete the task of constructing a magnificent castle for the king, Coach first had to assemble a new team from scratch, from the ground up. And Coach wanted his new team to be elite, so he knew that he would have to deliberately pick and choose the select group of professionals that would comprise it.

Coach wasted no time in getting to work staffing his team. And due to his notable reputation as an outstanding construction leader, hundreds of eager applicants from all over the kingdom were eager to join, fully aware of the wonderful opportunity available to them in working for Coach. As a result, Coach had no shortage of qualified applicants vying for the coveted spots on his team. But those spots were limited, and Coach knew that he could not just pick anyone and everyone who applied. So instead, Coach was extremely selective in which applicants he accepted to be a part of his team. And his standards and hiring process was very strict. Because when building a team, Coach understood the importance of selecting only the most qualified and worthy from all those who applied. He also understood that he could only select those men who were best able to fill a specific role or job on the team. Because Coach knew there were limits to the amount of men his team could successfully use and sustain, and that any dead weight would only drag the rest of the team down. He therefore recognized the harsh necessity of selecting only the best while dismissing the rest.

But Coach was not just interested in selecting the best and most useful men for his team. He was also selecting only those men who truly wanted to be a part of what he was creating. Those select men who would be devoted and loyal to Coach, and who genuinely believed in the project at hand and in the greater team itself. And as a result, men who would then actively come together as a team and be honored to be a part of it. Coach did so because he understood that such men would be far more inclined to willingly adopt and follow his rules and methods and conform to the values of his new team. And so Coach wanted only those men who were prepared to fit into his new system and come together as a cohesive unit. For Coach was building a new organization from scratch, a new culture and identity and tradition, and he wanted it to be a legacy of success and excellence.

So although Coach’s new team did not yet have the long history of accomplishment and success like Chief’s team did, he wanted to lay the foundation that would eventually foster it. And so Coach selected only those worthy men who would contribute to it and who believed in the team’s future. In doing so, Coach hoped to create the same sense of team identity, loyalty, and pride that a more established and accomplished team enjoyed. Because Coach understood that a shared sense of team pride and identity contributed to a unity of purpose and would help the men on his team begin to function as a cohesive unit. So while the men on Coach’s new team did not yet fully operate like a well-oiled machine, Coach hoped to create the atmosphere which would eventually lead to it. An atmosphere which would also contribute to increased accountability and honor among the men, and an overall higher quality of work. Where each individual team member knew and could be proud of his individual role, but also understood where it fit into the larger picture.

And Coach too recognized the importance of structuring his new team according to merit and hierarchy. For Coach most certainly also appreciated excellence and hard work, and so he too held his men to a high standard. Laziness and freeloading would not be tolerated, and every man was expected to pull their own weight. As such, every man on Coach’s team fully understood that hard work, experience, and excellence were the keys to advancement and increased status on the team. They also knew that such status and respect must be earned, and that nothing would be handed to them. Coach also made it known that those men who did not live up to his standards or uphold the team values would be dealt with quickly and harshly by their peers and supervisors. Coach wanted to create a new system of accountability and honor among his men.

And so Coach’s team began construction on the king’s castle. And although Coach did not yet possess a team with a longstanding tradition of excellence behind it, he was certainly laying the groundwork…


And then there was Lefty, the third and final foreman. Unlike the other foremen, Lefty had no prior experience and had never actually led a team or completed a project before. He also did not currently have his own team assembled. Lefty was therefore completely untested and unseasoned in his abilities to effectively organize and run a successful construction team. But despite his inexperience and lack of “real world” accomplishment, Lefty was confidently driven by an undeserved sense of youthful entitlement and an obnoxiously inflated ego. For you see, Lefty had just graduated from college. And there he had learned all about the theoretical and correct ways that a construction team “should” be run. So filled with his ivory tower sense of idealism and intellectual superiority, Lefty too got to work forming his team to complete the king’s project of constructing a magnificent castle.

Yet Lefty was not driven by the ideals of excellence, unity, and merit like the other foremen were. Instead, he believed that fairness, diversity, and equality were the superior principles on which to build a team. And high on his moral superiority, Lefty arrogantly believed that his team and castle would be the best of all.
So Lefty began recruiting workers to join his team. But in the name of equality, fairness, and opportunity for all, Lefty greatly lowered and relaxed the standards and qualifications required to join. He also extended his recruiting efforts to people outside of the kingdom, in the furtherance of expanding diversity. Lefty essentially opened his doors wide-open, to anyone and everyone, near and far. And all because Lefty wanted to provide a diverse and fair employment opportunity for all those poor underprivileged and less qualified workers out there who were unfairly denied a chance on the other, more “privileged”, teams.

And so because of this wide-open, unregulated employment opportunity, hundreds upon hundreds of low-skilled, inexperienced, and uneducated workers flooded to Lefty looking to get on his team. Some of them actually took the time to formally apply, while many others just showed up on site expecting to work. However, conspicuously absent from Lefty’s flood of potential workers were those more qualified, superior applicants. Most of whom instead choosing to apply and compete for what they instinctively knew to be higher quality jobs and teams. But nonetheless, Lefty was overjoyed at the outpouring of applicants he received.

So Lefty wasted no time in hiring pretty much anyone who applied or showed up to be a part of his team. And he was proud to be creating hundreds of new, well-paid positions for all manner of otherwise marginalized workers. In doing so, Lefty was pretty much unconcerned about the qualifications, abilities, and job experiences of the men he hired. Nor did he care about their individual personalities, attitudes, cultures, or belief systems. Lefty was even unconcerned about hiring men with extensive criminal records, since everyone deserves a second chance. All because Lefty believed in diversity and equality, and therefore did not want to discriminate or seem intolerant towards anyone. And as a result, Lefty’s team became a disparate assortment of low-quality workers, many of whom did not even share the same culture or speak the same language. And Lefty was pleased with all his diversity.

And due to all this good he was doing, Lefty was not overly concerned about keeping his project and team within budget. He was greatly pleased with himself for helping people, and figured that the economics of the project and team would somehow work out in the end. Besides, the king had plenty of money and budgets and financial concerns were long-term future considerations. So although deep down Lefty knew that the spots on his team were limited, and that he could not realistically use or sustain every single person he was hiring, he did not have the heart to turn anyone away, even the grossly unqualified. Because Lefty believed that since his intentions were good and his heart was in the right place, everything would somehow work out in the end and the king would be pleased. Therefore he did not overly concern himself with the operational or economic ins-and-outs of organizing and managing a team or construction project. He just had hope.

Lefty was also unconcerned about rating or classifying his newly hired workers based on their individual job skills or talents. Since that would have been unfair and biased of him. So Lefty did not use qualifications or merit as parameters for deciding which workers should be assigned to which positions. Why should a worker who is better at math automatically be assigned to an engineering or architectural position? Perhaps he just had an unfair or privileged advantage growing up. No, to Lefty all of his workers were absolutely equal and therefore equally interchangeable. And an uneducated, low skilled laborer was just as good as anyone else and just as capable of doing the job of an engineer as a math genius was.

Of course Lefty still desired to construct a magnificent castle for the king. And he was still extremely confident that his approach and team would be successful in achieving that end. But as his top priority Lefty also viewed this project and team as a means to create opportunity and equality for the underprivileged masses. For if he just accepted and allowed all of the disadvantaged to participate, then surely a magnificent castle would arise as a result.

So because equality and fairness were his top priorities and the end result merely an afterthought, Lefty barely viewed the group of men he was assembling as an actual team at all. Since the word “team” can be harsh and exclusionary and Lefty’s project was all about tolerance and acceptance. And he also certainly did not expect or require his men to come together under any kind of common identity or exhibit any sort of team pride. Since to do so would have been culturally insensitive and supremacist thinking on his part. So instead, Lefty just hoped that this disparate group of men would all be tolerant and respectful towards one another and that everyone would work together in harmony.

Of course the rabble of men who flooded to work for Lefty could sense this pluralistic attitude, and therefore had no intention of ever adopting a team mentality or common identity either. They were there only to temporarily exploit the opportunities available, not to come together as teammates. On Lefty’s crew, the ideas of a unified team, a shared purpose, and a long-term future together were non-existent.

And although he was the foreman, Lefty did not want to seem too strict in imposing and enforcing his own rules and methods on his team. For who was he to say that his ways and methods were best? Lefty also certainly did not want to hold his workers to any unrealistic standards of hard work, quality of work, or excellence. Since to do so could have been viewed as shaming or insensitive ableist thinking on his part. So to avoid all that, Lefty ran a rather unstructured operation and pretty much left his workers to their own devices, free to do practically whatever they pleased. The men could work as hard or as much as they wanted, and they could rest for as long as they wanted. After all, too much structure could be viewed as systemic oppression and an overriding rule system as moral supremacy. And besides, Lefty felt that an unstructured environment fostered artistic creativity in the men.

When instances arose of workers breaking what few rules did exist, Lefty usually came down far more harshly on his supervisors than on the offenders themselves. Since clearly the supervisors must have been harboring prejudice and bias, which thereby lead to profiling and the unfair selective enforcement of the rules. Lefty would then also question his own rules for possibly contributing to a hostile and oppressive work environment. Even when there were blatant cases of workers being outright hostile or destructive, Lefty just didn’t have the heart to fire or expel them from the team. Because deep down Lefty just knew that some kind of hidden oppression must have been to blame for their bad behavior. So he would just pardon them, and the bad apples would slip away back into the cracks of Lefty’s fractured team.

But nonetheless, Lefty’s progressive and diverse team began to construct their castle. Yet unlike the other foremen’s projects, Lefty’s project lacked a strong vision and unity of purpose. And his team most certainly lacked any sense of teamwork or unity. So as a result, there was hardly any cooperation among the individual men, and even less cooperation between the various job specialties. The iron workers did not cooperate with the carpenters, the carpenters did not cooperate with the masons, the masons did not cooperate with the excavators, and no one was listening to or communicating with the engineers and architects. And even among the engineers and architects, there was no agreement or unified blueprint or design to follow; they all just drafted whatever felt like. So Lefty’s castle had no blueprint, his project had no direction or vision, and his team had no unity or cooperation. And from the individual workers’ perspective, there was absolutely no personal pride or sense of greater contribution. They were there only to exploit a paycheck.

To make matters even worse, the individual workers on Lefty’s team began to break off and separate themselves into even smaller groups and cliques, even within the larger enclaves of specialized job assignments. And then each smaller group just kind of did its own thing. There was no accountability or unity among the different groups, and there was no investment or concern for the wellbeing of the team or final the product. The individual, fractured subgroups only looked out for themselves, and there was certainly no sense of greater purpose or design.

Yet Lefty’s team kept right on building. With different groups building different sections of the castle however each of them pleased and with no coordination whatsoever. Some groups didn’t even bother to work at all. They just sat around joking and relaxing all day while still collecting their pay checks. And then there were the other groups who were outright oppositional and destructive to the project, deliberately interfering with or tearing down the work others had done…


In the end, Chief’s team built a mighty and magnificent castle for the king. Because Chief was a strong and worthy leader and his long established team was unified, exclusive, and able. And the king was pleased, and thus rewarded Chief and his team with great fortune and fair maidens aplenty.

Coach’s team too built a mighty and magnificent castle for the king. Because Coach too was a strong and worthy leader who established his new team upon the stalwart foundation of unity, bonding, excellence, and merit. And the king was pleased, and thus rewarded Coach and his team with great fortune and fair maidens aplenty.

But Lefty’s team utterly failed to build a mighty and magnificent castle for the king. Because Lefty was an incompetent and irrational leader who established his team on the false promises of equality, fairness, tolerance, and hope. And Lefty wasted a fortune of the king’s money to build an unstable mess of castle, built of a hundred different ways upon a foundation of nothing, until the castle finally collapsed under the weight of its own stupidity. And the king was furious, and thus had Lefty and his team executed and their bodies torn asunder and sent to the four corners of the kingdom. The end.

© 2016 By AB Frank, All Rights Reserved

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