“Leading from the Middle", by John Lubans*, is about freedom and democracy at work, teamwork, and leadership. Philosophy: the best work places empower staff to achieve their full potential; the less command and control, the better the product and service.

Friday Fable. The Cherokee Nation’s “WHY THE BEARS HAVE SHORT TAILS”*

Posted by jlubans on August 18, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Illustration by Paul Bransom (1921)

“AT first all the Bears had long tails.
One winter day the Bear met the Fox, who had a fine lot of Crawfish. Being hungry the Bear wanted some too: so he asked the Fox where and how he got his Crawfish.
The Fox replied:
‘Go and stick your tail down in the water and let it stay there until it pinches you. The more it hurts, the more fish you will have.’
This was what the Bear had in mind to do: so he proceeded down to the lake and made a hole through the ice.
Sitting over it, he let his tail hang in the cold water.
When it began to freeze, he felt a pain; but as he wanted to catch lots of fish, he did not stir until his tail was frozen fast in the ice.
The Fox's instructions were not forgotten: so he suddenly jumped up in the expectation of getting heaps of fish; but he merely broke his tail off near the body instead.
And ever since the Bears have had short tails.”
______________
One might think this Native American story has nothing to do with cubicle land. How could the duped bear’s frozen tail offer any lessons for the workplace?
Well, who’s that lurking in the background? Mr. Fox. Reynard.
My first “professional” job in the 60s – my title was “Junior Science Librarian”! – was at a famous engineering school.
The president (a “bench” engineer) of that school was convinced automation was a way once and for all to control library costs – reduce the payroll.
In any case, he imposed on the library a former systems analyst (Mr. Fox) who proceeded to tell us all about scientific management and how easy it would be to move from print to full electronic text. It sounded really good and like the bear in the fable we were convinced we’d have more than our share of “crayfish” if we automated.
Cluelessly, we began a huge project of automating the periodical collection. We worked overtime coding forms, punching cards, running tallies, and producing reams of printouts. Ye olde manually typed list would have accomplished just as much in one percent of the time!
That the IBM corporation was just around the corner was not a plus; it was in their interests back then to promote automation of everything.
Soon, we realized just how big a job it was. (It would be several decades before genuine automation would produce benefits.)
Our foxy consultant was hired away by a major library to head up their automation effort – with the same result!
We were left with rolls of flexowriter paper tape, stacks of punch cards and piles of alphabetical printouts. Other than the experience, we had little to show for the thousands of hours of effort.
We kept our tails, but at least two of us had our tails kicked out the door;
one deservedly so, one very unfairly.
I went west to a new administrative job somewhat wiser and less likely to stick my tail into icy water. I began to ask questions.
Two decades later, Illustrative of how bizarre organizational life can be, the engineering school campus named its new library building after the former president.

*Source: Myths of the Cherokee, by James Mooney in “An argosy of fables; a representative selection from the fable literature of every age and land”, New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company. 1921.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Followers & Dissenters

Posted by jlubans on August 15, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Like-minded dissent.

In my July essay on Andris Vilks leadership – he is director of the National Library of Latvia, an organization of over 400 - I linked to an article about sports teams’ captains and their considerable influence on team success.
In 2016, when I asked Andris to characterize his leadership, he responded readily, “as a team captain”.
A long time basketball player, he was invariably the team captain and he preferred that type of leadership to any other. Not “a king and his court”, nor “a general and his army” or “the father of a large family” but a captain of a team.
Sam Walker, the author of the captains’ study, argues that it is not the super stars but the captains – often not the best players - who create and sustain the greatest teams.
In “The Seven Leadership Secrets of Great Team Captains”, he states,
“(the teams) all had just one shared characteristic: Their long streaks of dominance either began or ended—and in many cases overlapped precisely—with the tenure of one player. And in every case, this player was … the captain.”
It may be that the captain – not the coach or the CEO - is the one who sets the team’s “chemistry, that ineffable dynamic that can make or break a team.
Boiled down, Walker’s captains exhibit these qualities:
Work hard,
Break rules when necessary,
Are pragmatic in speech,
Lead by doing,
Think for themselves,
Are relentless in pursuit of goals, and
Exercise emotional self-control.
For me, good captains are like effective or “star” followers in any type of organization.
A “star” follower displays these characteristics: manages oneself – she is a leader in her own right.
The effective follower requires little supervision, even less direction.
And, he is committed to the organization and to a purpose or person outside himself – he is not a narcissist.
The best follower is independent in mind and thinks critically.
She prefers action to being passive or engaging in endless discussion.
However, all is not sweetness and light for the effective follower. Really good followers (not the yes men or those in the sheep or survivor categories) find themselves often at risk.
How can that be? Surely, does not an organization always look for the competitive edge with critical assessment by everyone (not just the MBAs in the C-suite) of any and all ideas?
Let’s return to Walker’s essay, especially how his captains were independent thinkers, unafraid to dissent.
“The captains on (his) list didn’t hesitate to let coaches and executives know when they disagreed with them. But their dissent wasn’t personal. They understood that conflict, when focused on supporting a team’s goals, is not destructive. It‘s essential.”
He gives an example:
In 1980 the Soviet (Russian) hockey team lost to a young USA team. “The Soviet coach, Viktor Tikhonov, had told his players not to point fingers. The story they would tell in Moscow is that they had lost as a team. On the plane returning to Moscow, however, Tikhonov huddled privately with his assistants - and probably a few “political minders” - and began ripping individual players for their failures. Valeri Vasiliev, a veteran defenseman, overheard this critique. He flew into a rage. He rushed over, grabbed Tikhonov by the neck and threatened to throw him off the plane if he didn’t take it back.”
Normally, dissent of any kind in “Soviet times” was punished by exile or worse. Somehow, Vasiliev survived and his teammates, several months later, elected him captain.
Surprisingly, the coach and the Kremlin let the decision stand.
“With Vasiliev as captain, the Soviet team became unstoppable for the next four seasons,” posting a record of 94 wins, 4 ties and 9 losses.
Robert Kelley, who articulated in 1988 a theory on followers, believes that about half the time effective followers are punished for speaking up, for articulating their own viewpoints, for threatening an organization’s complacency.
Consider last week’s outcome for James Damore, the young engineer at Google wanting to discuss - internally - Google’s diversity mandate.
He was fired for speaking his mind, for asking difficult questions. No, he was not proselytizing; he was poking around in Silicon Valley’s Pasture of the Sacred Cows. His doing so was intolerable to many in Google’s like-minded ruling elite.
Supposedly, he was a very good engineer, recruited by Google, which, of course, claims only to attract the best and the brightest.
We will see how Mr. Damore’s “manifesto” plays out.
Perhaps Google will learn that critical thinking is uncomfortable but of great value and may adopt genuine contrarian thought as a practiced and protected corporate value.
Or, it may smugly reassure itself in its “group think” that “We Never Make Mistakes” about much of anything and therefore questions are cause for excommunication.
Is this an extreme example limited only to race and gender?
Hardly.
Go up against the prevailing values and mores of any organization and you will experience first hand why effective followers are an endangered group. And you will begin to realize their value – like Vasiliev and other great captains - to the organization.
Who then, but the leader, can protect dissenters?

N.B. My next book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in September 2017, ($26.99) and will feature original illustrations by the renowned Béatrice Coron.
ISBN: 978-0-692-90955-3
LCCN: 2017908783
20170628-rsz_1rsz_fables_cover_half.jpg
Cover: "Fables for Leaders" PRE-PRINT, 203pp. 2017.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Friday Fable. Krylov’s “THE PEASANT AND THE ROBBER”**

Posted by jlubans on August 11, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Not to be. 'Farm Yard in Finland', Oil by Valentin Serov (1865-1911)

“A PEASANT, who was beginning to stock his little farm, had bought a cow and a milk-pail at a fair, and was going quietly homewards by a lonely path through the forest, when he suddenly fell into the hands of a Robber. The Robber stripped him as bare as a lime tree.*
‘Have mercy !’ cried the Peasant. ‘I am utterly ruined. You have reduced me to beggary.
For a whole year I have worked to buy this dear little cow. I could scarcely bear to wait for this day to arrive."
‘Very good,’ replied the Robber, touched by compassion; ‘don't cry out against me.
After all, I shall not want to milk your cow, so I’ll give you back your milk-pail.’”

*”’Bare as a lime tree’ after it has been stripped of its bark, of which the peasants make shoes, baskets, &c.”
________________
We laugh at the wry humor, the grim irony. The farmer’s dream gone pffft. The maid and the cow, alas, not this year.
Organizationally, it’s like being fired without due process and the boss (the Robber) offering to write a letter of reference (the milk-pail).

**Source: Krilof and his fables, by Krylov, Ivan Andreevich, 1768-1844; Ralston, William Ralston Shedden, 1828-1889. Tr. London, 1869

N.B. My next book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in September 2017, ($26.99) and will feature original illustrations by the renowned Béatrice Coron.
ISBN: 978-0-692-90955-3
LCCN: 2017908783
20170628-rsz_1rsz_fables_cover_half.jpg
Cover: "Fables for Leaders" PRE-PRINT, 203pp. 2017.
Update. The book has been printed as a Riga edition of 30, numbered copies. Ten have been given to friends and libraries in Latvia. The balance will be sent to review media in the USA.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Dancing Alone

Posted by jlubans on August 08, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Making moves at the wedding; alone and happy.

I’ve often thought about what my dance instructor told me about leading:
“On the dance floor, good leaders initiate the movement they want from their partner and then follow the movement they've created.”
At a recent wedding, I noted a few guys dancing alone and having a good time doing it. Somewhat inspired by the open bar, no doubt, still they were doing it their way, creating steps and moves, unhindered and uninhibited.
Well, what about leading in the workplace ritual? We really cannot dance alone, at least not all the time. The leader has to “initiate the movement” among followers and then – here’s the tricky part – follow the movement she’s created. What complicates everything is that those two events (initiating and following) are milliseconds apart. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers could and did merge leading and following into a beautiful leadership.
The little guy in the picture is going his own way – you can see to the side a horrified little spectator; probably an embarrassed older sister!
Unfortunately, if you are prone to go off and do it on your own, your followers may leave you rejected on life’s dance floor. Or, possibly worse, if your followers do not respond to what you are initiating – channeling Elvis, let’s say - you won’t even want to dance alone – even in the privacy of your kitchen with the sound system blaring - too down to be up.
Undaunted, I say, “Play on!”

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Friday Fable. Krylov’s “THE ASS AND THE PEASANT”

Posted by jlubans on August 04, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

20170804-rsz_1rsz_1rsz_11580615-silhouette-of-the-poet-ivan-krylov-walking-in-the-park-illustration-yegor-narbut-the-book-fables-by--stock-photo.jpg
Caption: Silhouette by Egor (Georgi) Narbut (1886-1920) of Mr. Krylov, “Walking in the Park”, 1912.

“A PEASANT, who had hired an Ass for his garden during the summer, set it to drive away the impudent race of crows and of sparrows. The Ass was one of a most honest character, utterly unacquainted with either rapacity or theft. It never profited by a single leaf belonging to its master, and it would indeed be a sin to say that it connived at the proceedings of the birds. Still the Peasant got but little good out of his garden. The Ass, as it chased the birds with all its might, galloped across all the beds, backwards and forwards, in such a manner that it trod underfoot and trampled in pieces everything that grew in the garden.
Seeing then that all his pains were thrown away, the Peasant took a cudgel and revenged himself for his loss on the back of the Ass.
"No wonder! " says every one; " serve the beast right! Was it for a creature of its parts to undertake such a business? "
But I say—though not with the intention of defending the Ass; it was certainly in fault, and it has already paid the penalty—“But I say—though not with the intention of defending the Ass; it was certainly in fault, and it has already paid the penalty—surely he also was to blame who set the Ass to guard his garden.”

__________________
I have been known, in the office, to say some outlandish things. For example, when a worker turns toxic. Well, of course, discipline is needed to set the errant soul on the righteous path, but – here’s the outrageous part – what of the supervisor (or in my biz, the committee) who hired the miscreant? Compounding this, as often happens, is the supervisor’s ignoring the bad behavior.
Should not the employer (supervisor or hiring committee) suffer some consequence for making a poor decision and lacking the courage to do something about it? No, redemption is not to be found in the HR solution of promoting the person to an harmless oblivion or transferring said bad apple to another part of the organization. I won’t get into the obvious details of disciplining the delinquent, but what about the people doing the hiring? A free pass? Or, a demotion?
*Source: Krilof and his fables, by Krylov, Ivan Andreevich, 1768-1844; Ralston, William Ralston Shedden, 1828-1889. Tr. London, 1869

N.B. My next book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in September 2017 as a PDF file ($3.99) and as a soft cover book, ($25.99). Both formats will feature original illustrations by the renowned Béatrice Coron.
ISBN: 978-0-692-90955-3
LCCN: 2017908783
20170628-rsz_1rsz_fables_cover_half.jpg
Cover: "Fables for Leaders" PRE-PRINT, 203pp. 2017.
Update. The book has been printed as a Riga edition of 30, numbered copies. Ten have been given to friends and libraries in Latvia. The balance will be sent to review media in the USA.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Friday Fable: Krylov’s “THE ELEPHANT AND THE PUG-DOG”

Posted by jlubans on July 27, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: The yapping dog. Postcard Drawing by Stroganova and Alexeev – 1969.

“AN Elephant was being taken through the streets, probably as a sight. It is well known that Elephants are a wonder among us; so crowds of gaping idlers followed the Elephant. From some comer or other, a Pug-dog comes to meet him. It looks at the Elephant, and then begins to run at it, to bark, to squeal, to try to get at it, just as if it wanted to fight it.
‘Neighbour, cease to bring shame on yourself,’ says Shafka (the long haired dog) to it. ‘Are you capable of fighting an Elephant? Just see now, you are already hoarse; but it keeps straight on, and does not pay you the slightest attention.’
‘Aye, aye !’ replies the Pug-dog, ‘that's just what gives me courage. In this way, you see, without fighting at all, I may get reckoned among the greatest bullies. Just let the dogs say, Ah, look at Puggy ! He must be strong, indeed, that's clear, or he would never bark at an Elephant.'"
______________
Patterned after Aesop’sTHE DOG AND THE LION”, Krylov’s pug-dog is anyone who manipulates the “optics” to imply they have some quality which they do not posses. Of course, it is self delusion; the depicted crowd ignores the dog.
Aesop’s version appears in my “Fables for Leaders” book and includes a vignette of one of my adventures with Bridger, my daughter Mara’s black lab:
“In the early morning you’ll see us, rain or shine, on a nearby forest
trail. In the afternoon, it’s a leisurely saunter around the block. One of
the houses in the neighborhood has a couple small dogs and a cat or
two. Usually I have Bridger off-leash because there is little foot traffic
and because she is amazingly polite and well behaved, of course.
Not long ago, as we strolled past the house with the several pets,
a high-strung barking erupted. Within seconds a tiny dog shot out
of the driveway scrambling after Bridger. Bridger was un-impressed.
Here was this 3 or 4-pounder, barking and snarling at a 50-pound black
lab. “Bring it on,” the little guy was shouting, “Bring it on!”
Bridger, imperturbable, ambled on. Then – Napoleonically thinking
she was in retreat – he snapped at Bridger. Bridger spun around,
opening her jaws about a foot wide, showing all of her teeth back to
the molars. And, her hackles stood up three inches, adding another
20 pounds to her presence. The little dog, stunned, eyes bulging,
ceased and desisted back into the safety of his yard. I like to think
Bridger was a little amused.”

*Source: Krilof and his fables, by Krylov, Ivan Andreevich, 1768-1844; Ralston, William Ralston Shedden, 1828-1889. Tr. London, 1869

N.B. My next book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in September 2017 as an e-book ($3.99) and a soft cover book, ($24.99). The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned Béatrice Coron.
ISBN: 978-0-692-90955-3
LCCN: 2017908783
20170628-rsz_1rsz_fables_cover_half.jpg
Cover: "Fables for Leaders" PRE-PRINT, 203pp. 2017.
Update. The book has been printed as a Riga edition of 30, numbered copies. Ten have been given to friends and libraries in Latvia. The balance will be sent to review media in the USA.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

A "Deferred Maintenance" Metaphor

Posted by jlubans on July 25, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: BEFORE – Note the stifling overgrown shrubbery.

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Caption: AFTER – Untangled, landscaped and restored. Photo by author, July 2017.

Across the street from where we live in Riga, Latvia is the campus of the First Riga Hospital (est. 1803).
In 2011, when I had my Fulbright to teach at the University of Latvia, the main building looked pretty much like in the BEFORE picture. I walked past that visually impenetrable fence daily to catch my bus for where I teach.
This June, I was amazed to see that under the unkempt jungle was a beautifully rendered fence matching the Art Nouveau architectural style of the main building.
The fence was once again a thing of beauty anchored in rose colored granite, the first level was again revealed with a small apron of lawn setting off the curving drive, and the building soared from ground to tiled and turreted roof.
I was taken with the contrast. This sudden Cinderella transformation of what had been a grim, unwelcoming building suggested to me what can happen in some organizations. We become depressed by decades of inaction, decades of postponed decisions, decades of waiting for additional funding to get us to where we want to be - a deferred maintenance of the organization’s spirit, not just the physical facility.
While lack of money can inhibit service provision, often, if we have the will, we can make low cost improvements. Those remarkable improvements at the Riga First Hospital came about by clearing away some of the undergrowth, cleaning and restoring the high quality stone, brick and metal, and painting the fence – opening up the view from outside and, importantly, from within.
That sort of dramatic improvement can often be done within existing resources – it’s a matter of implementing a plan to get the most benefit for the organization’s workers, its clients, and how its community perception.
I recall doing something like this when we took a step-by-step reduction and elimination of backlogged materials in a large research library. As we chipped away steadily, there was a perceptible freeing up of the organizational spirit, a realization that we could do it, that we were not bound to a perverse pride of achievement in having a large backlog.
Instead we tackled it, brought it under control and within a few years eliminated it.
Our leader at the time termed those backlogs an albatross, choking the organization, impeding its progress, and stifling innovation because we had to cope with this growing jungle of unfinished work. He was right.
Most rewarding of all was that we did it with existing staff and resources. That achievement encouraged many in the organization to take on additional challenges and not settle for second or third best.
As we streamlined and freed up staff from routines, we were then able to move that extra staff to other parts of the organization, specifically service points for students and faculty.
For the next several years what had been a stodgy organization gained a sense of urgency, became vibrant, full of innovation, and gained additional support from the parent organization.

20170725-rsz_1rsz_fence_hospital.jpg
Caption. Close up of the restored fence on the pinkish granite stone. Photo by author.

________________________
N.B. My next book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in September 2017 as an e-book ($3.99) and a soft cover book, ($24.99). The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned Béatrice Coron.
ISBN: 978-0-692-90955-3
LCCN: 2017908783
20170628-rsz_1rsz_fables_cover_half.jpg
Cover: "Fables for Leaders" PRE-PRINT, 203pp. 2017.
Update. The book has been printed as a Riga edition of 30, numbered copies. Ten have been given to friends and libraries in Latvia. The balance will be sent to review media in the USA.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Friday Fable: DIY.

Posted by jlubans on July 20, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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What fable can you develop from the above photo taken a few days ago in Vermanes Garden Park in Riga, Latvia?
If you look closely, on the stone lion’s haunch sits a swallow. Is it like Latvian proverb: “We have rowed well,’ said the flea as the fishing boat arrived at its mooring.” Or does something else come to mind?

N.B. My next book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in September 2017 as an e-book ($2.99) and a soft cover book, ($23.99). The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned Béatrice Coron.
ISBN: 978-0-692-90955-3
LCCN: 2017908783
20170628-rsz_1rsz_fables_cover_half.jpg
Cover: "Fables for Leaders" PRE-PRINT, 203pp. 2017.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

“A Captain Since Kindergarten”, Part 2*

Posted by jlubans on July 16, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Latvia’s Castle of Light A-building, July 2013. Photo by author.

For one sports writer, it is not the super stars but the captains – often not the best players - who create and sustain the greatest teams. Sam Walker, the author of “The Seven Leadership Secrets of Great Team Captains”, elaborates:
“(The teams) all had just one shared characteristic: Their long streaks of dominance either began or ended—and in many cases overlapped precisely—with the tenure of one player. And in every case, this player was … the captain.”
Boiled down, Walker’s captains exhibit these qualities:
Work hard,
Break rules when necessary,
Are pragmatic in speech,
Lead by doing,
Think for themselves,
Are relentless in pursuit of goals, and
Exercise emotional self-control.
How does this relate to Director Andris Vilks of the National Library of Latvia (LBN)?
Of course, the captaincy metaphor is inspired by Andris himself – that’s his quote in the title.
He told me: “I was not the best player, some were smarter, more knowledgeable. I liked to play; so (it was) important to be on field with other players, so I don’t want to be a coach. I want to be on the field and to play”
Being captain, “I took on responsibility for the team.” And that meant normalizing the team through “demonstrating your enthusiasm” to others. It takes an attitude, “I never like losing”, and “I never give up.”
Andris refers to the library as a team (of 400) of which he is the captain, “All (staff and friends) are members of this huge team - formal and informal.“
“A lion”
The building’s 20-year journey from inception to completion – all under Vilks’ guidance – reveals some of the best captain qualities; independent thinking, tenacity in pursuing a mission and a pragmatic approach in convincing others.
Mara Saule of the University of Vermont (USA), who consulted on the construction of the LBN, told me:
“Early on, the concept for a new National Library of Latvia building was little more than a grand idea …. In becoming a reality, it faced a skeptical public and political resistance over many years and through many changes in government. Nonetheless, Andris pushed on as a tireless and persistent warrior …. Thanks to Andris’ steadfast advocacy and relentless focus on the goal, the National Library now rises above the Daugava as a testament to the adage that no mountain is too high.”
At the building’s grand opening in August of 2014 - amidst Latvia’s elite, including the President and invited guests - the building’s architect Gunnar Birkerts termed Andris, a “lauva”, a lion!
Think for Self / Lead by Doing
In 1989, when he was promoted to the directorship of the National Library Andris was aware of the ten or more “informers” – his word - in the library. Informing, including to the secret police, was a common practice during Soviet times, widely feared and expected. **
Informers received intangible and tangible rewards from the ruling/enforcing culture.
So, on his first day as director he told each of the ten to never come to him with gossip or “information”. This action made clear to everyone this practice was over and done with; it was not going to continue under his leadership.
He was able to do this, he believes, because by 1989 he was well respected (protected) in many quarters for his knowledge and work in the profession; and, because this was the period of “glasnost” and “perestroika” a time of frank and open discussion to restructure the Soviet Union.
Indeed, Latvia regained its second independence on August 21, 1991. Still there was risk; hard-core communists inside Latvia and Russia wanted to crush, literally, any national independence-seeking movements. Had the communists prevailed, Andris would have been fast-tracked to Siberia or worse after secret imprisonment, a Torquemada-style "interview", and a forced confession.
Now, many years later, he still avoids the “whisperers” and people trying to share a secret. “If I feel a negative vibration (at work), I talk directly with the people involved - I do not go around collecting opinions from people - If something is wrong I try to intervene directly or delegate to the person in charge of the involved unit.”
Rule Breaking / Team Building
In the transition in the 90s from communism to democracy, many people were forced by economic hard times to leave the library, to look for gainful employment elsewhere.
Andris had to make a choice as to how he was going to re-build: Try to recruit trained staff from other organizations or to “grow our own”. Andris opted for the latter, “to invest in young people, that is my idea.”
Doing so came with a price. “It was prohibited to pay study fees (for staff) – but we did it. (I was penalized) for paying fees for our young staff. Almost everyone (of this group) is still working here ….”
A staff member told me that the LBNs organizational climate is supportive of staff – in other words, Andris’ idea to “grow our own” prevails. There is “not close supervision, mistakes can be made, (and) experimentation is possible”. That open atmosphere has made LBN a magnet for people from other less-open organizations, “If you have a better way at LBN, do it. You can enact….”
“A grizzly”
I asked Andris how the staff regards him. He told me, frankly, “Only an idiot thinks he is ideal.”
“Sometimes I would be happy if I were more patient – my reaction is not always best. I become too angry, not a teddy bear, sometimes a grizzly.”
However, he is “very fast to forgive, but it (his temper) is a weakness; manager should always control behavior. On other hand they know exactly what I think.” His predecessor told him: ‘Everything is seen on your face’.“
However, for him, a poker face is worse than not showing emotion. A neutral face is only important when you “try to solve conflict between two people. Both sides should understand you want to help” resolve the matter (and do not have preconceived opinions).
The most difficult situation for a leader is when his or her assessment is “very different from what your people think of you – then you are in trouble.”
Andris also ventured that he hopes, when asked, the staff would say that one of his qualities is that of “bringing together”.
“No one is hung”
Andris explained how LBN decisions are made. Decision-making is an important part of what he does, “All day I am spending in decision making.”
“A basic rule, always get the other side of discussion.”
“Consensus in important”; normally the most difficult decisions are made by top management. However, he always asks – “Who will it touch?” and those people are consulted about the decision prior to its being made. “Decisions should involve those who must execute the decision.” Failing to involve those people may lead to a poor outcome. Involving people can be the difference between leadership and dictatorship.
“I like horizontal decision-making – so am sure to include several departments (on problem solving groups”.
“If policy is already clear, then lower levels can make decisions”.
“No one is hung” for making a bad decision.
“Punishment is not the main idea”; “I am more concerned with a bad decision being repeated”; only then we might need to take corrective action.
“We analyze the decision; right or wrong. The decision may not be wrong, it may be different.”
“We should realize and analyze wrong decisions carefully; there may be another rationale and I may need to rethink.”
“I need to understand if the decision is conceptually different or if the wrong approach has been taken or the decision maker lacks confidence.
“Sometimes a “wrong” decision reflects a different – perhaps better - concept and we can accept it.”
He tries to convince managers that “humans are not robots, they may not behave always the way you think or do or want.”

Author’s note: I asked Andris to read a final draft of this essay. Prior to posting, I wanted to make sure I had not misinterpreted his answers to my questions. Not hearing from him after a few days, I asked him over lunch if he'd read the draft and did I need to make any changes? His response, with a touch of embarrassment: “Too many superlatives.”
I would add that Self-effacement is yet another’s best captain’s trait.
While multi-lingual, Andris is most comfortable speaking in Latvian; so my abbreviated English quotes (from my written notes) are but an attempt to epitomize his way of leading.
My personal takeaway is that Andris cares deeply about the individual. If someone strays from the organization’s path, I think Andris would tackle the perceived problem early on, face to face, and not delay or avoid. As he told me, the “best way (is) to just talk with someone.”
He would candidly explain to the person what he was observing and then listen to the individual’s response. I can well imagine a discussion - not a condemnation - leading to a mutually respectful and considerate resolution.

__________________
Next, Part 3: After attaining the pinnacle of the new library building, is the job done?

* My essay on Andris Vilks is in three phases: Formation, Application, and Future.
Part 1 was about the shaping of his leadership and focused on influences from childhood to the beginning of his career.
Today’s essay, part 2, is about how those early influences shape his actions and leadership.
.
**Background: Latvia was made into a Soviet satellite under a secret Nazi and Communist agreement prior to WWII. Inexplicably, the Yalta conference, with America’s ailing President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, England’s Winston Churchill and Russia’s Joseph Stalin, upheld this secret pact and continued the enslavement of several million people in the Baltic countries, not to mention other nations subordinated to the communist way.

N.B. My next book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in September 2017 as an e-book ($2.99) and a soft cover print-on-demand book, ($23.99). The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned Béatrice Coron.
ISBN: 978-0-692-90955-3
LCCN: 2017908783
20170628-rsz_1rsz_fables_cover_half.jpg
Cover: "Fables for Leaders" PRE-PRINT, 203pp. 2017.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Friday Fable. Krylov’s “THE PEASANT AND THE SHEEP”*

Posted by jlubans on July 13, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption. Exculpatory evidence. (Photo by M. Volpone)

“A PEASANT summoned a Sheep into court, charging the poor thing with a criminal offence.
The judge was—the Fox.
The case got into full swing immediately.
Plaintiff and defendant were equally adjured to state, point by point, and without both speaking at once, how the affair took place, and in what their proofs consisted.
Says the Peasant: ‘On such and such a day, I missed two of my fowls early in the morning. Nothing was left of them but bones and feathers. And no one had been in the yard but the Sheep.’
Then the Sheep depones that it was fast asleep all the night in question; and it calls all its neighbours to testify that they had never known it guilty either of theft or of any roguery ; and, besides this, it states that it never touches flesh-meat.
Here is the Fox's decision, word for word :
‘The explanation of the Sheep cannot under any circumstances be accepted.
For all rogues are notoriously clever at concealing their real designs; and it appears manifest, on due inquiry, that on the aforesaid night the Sheep was not separated from the fowls; and fowls are exceedingly savoury, and opportunity favoured it.
Therefore I decide, according to my conscience, that it is impossible that the Sheep could have forborne to eat the fowls; and accordingly the Sheep shall be put to death, and its carcase shall be given to the court, and its fleece shall be taken by the plaintiff.’"

____________________
And so it can be at work, when the decision-maker betrays the wronged, the unjustly accused. The Sheep’s fate awaits any person threatening the norms of an organization filled with like-minded dodginess and a shortage of accountability; a certainty for groupthink and the exclusion of opposing ideas.
Groupthink is the realm of the Yes-man; when the dominant culture wants its way, the Yesser acquiesces; he or she nods in approval.
For an independent thinker this is “like being caught behind enemy lines.”
I recall at a meeting with a government agency being met with stony silence and bureaucratic glares when I asked, un-sheepishly, for five consecutive years of production statistics; the agency’s foxy custom was to provide only the immediate year’s statistics, all the while assuring us, their clients, the agency was understaffed and overworked, etc.
As I soon learned, the foxes were in charge of this “court”.
I never did get those statistics. My peers, what did they do? Not much since many shared the self-serving notion that business models could not be applied to our kind of work; it was beyond measurement; our alleged “Quality” could not be quantified!
They were content with getting the “fleece” and the agency’s keeping the “carcase.”
In the meantime, our clients – the people we served - could wait.

*Source: Krilof and his fables, by Krylov, Ivan Andreevich, 1768-1844; Ralston, William Ralston Shedden, 1828-1889. Tr. London, 1869

N.B. My next book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in September 2017 as an e-book ($2.99) and a soft cover book, ($23.99). The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned Béatrice Coron.
ISBN: 978-0-692-90955-3
LCCN: 2017908783
20170628-rsz_1rsz_fables_cover_half.jpg
Cover: "Fables for Leaders" PRE-PRINT, 203pp. 2017.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017