Fables for Leaders includes 100+ short stories of talking animals and trees…. and my ruminations on each. I emphasize the philosophical and ethical aspects in these stories – from across the centuries - to my own on-the-job experiences, - successes and failures - and relate them to our contemporary behavior and decision-making. We relate to stories, we remember stories, and these fable stories may help in thinking through and solving, in untraditional ways, problems on the job.” Whimsical illustrations by international artist and paper cutter, Béatrice Coron, capture the charm of this ancient literature and add to its comprehension and enjoyment. Each entry -in 7 chapters- sets forth the original fable followed by Lubans’ commentary. And, many fable feature a “My Thoughts” space to explore how this fable relates to the reader. The seven chapter heads: “Us and them” “Office politics” “The Organization” “Problems” “Budgeting and strategic planning” “The effective follower” “The effective leader”. Topical sub-heads include: “Perspective makes a difference” “Where is the cooperation?” “Hiring decisions” “Performance appraisal” “Pretenders” “Kindness, loyalty and respect for the boss…or not” “Have you heard of the Tall Poppy?” “Gossip and envy” “Are you leading or am I following?” Etc.

Friday Fable. Krylov’s “THE PEBBLE AND THE DIAMOND”*

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

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“A DIAMOND, which some one had lost, lay for some time on the high road.
At last it happened that a merchant picked it up.
By him it was offered to the king, who bought it, had it set in gold, and made it one of the ornaments of the royal crown.
Having heard of this, a Pebble began to make a fuss. The brilliant fate of the Diamond fascinated it; and, one day, seeing a Moujik (Russian peasant) passing, it besought him thus :
‘Do me a kindness, fellow-countryman, and take me with you to the capital.
Why should I go on suffering here in rain and mud, while our Diamond is, men say, in honour there?
I don't understand why it has been treated with such respect.
Side by side with me here it lay so many years; it is just such a stone as I am—my close companion.
Do take me!
How can one tell? If I am seen there, I too, perhaps, may be found worthy of being turned to account.’
The Moujik took the stone into his lumbering cart, and conveyed it to the city.
Our stone tumbled into the cart, thinking that it would soon be sitting by the side of the Diamond.
But a quite different fate befell it. It really was turned to account, but only to mend a hole in the road.”

_________________
And so it can be in the workplace.
When a coruscating colleague is promoted to an exalted position those of us left behind may exclaim, “Lucky dog! Why not me? Are my achievements any less stellar?”
Well, the Chorus may answer, “You are but one of hundreds of cobblestones in the road of life. Fret not; it beats being a hole in the road.”
If the vote does not go your way, what to do?
The sanctimonious will proclaim: “Eschew envy.”
If you see yourself as “a diamond in the rough”, keep doing a good job and eventually you will gain recognition, if only within yourself.
Maybe that’s more important than the roar of the crowd?

*Source: Krilof and his fables, by Krylov, Ivan Andreevich, 1768-1844; Ralston, William Ralston Shedden, 1828-1889. Tr. London, 1869
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REAL NEWS (Dec 14): Fables for Leaders is praised by Midwest Book Review:
“An inherently fascinating read from cover to cover … unreservedly recommended.”
"Fables for Leaders" is a “Reviewer's Choice” at Midwest Book Review (MBR) December, 2017:
“A unique and exceptional approach to developing problem solving attitudes and skills, "Fables for Leaders" is impressively well written, organized and presented.
Thoroughly 'user friendly' and an inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "Fables for Leaders" is impressively entertaining, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, making it unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library collections.”

__________________

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Caption: A month ago, Fables for Leaders was singled out for its Five Star award by Readers’ Choice.

10 days to Christmas! Now’s not too late to order your gift copies of "Fables for Leaders" by John Lubans
The behemoth Amazon is linked here. Amazon has the book in stock and ready to ship, as does BookBaby.
And, just around the corner from where I live in Salem, Oregon, at Powell's Books in Portland, OR.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

“An inherently fascinating read from cover to cover … unreservedly recommended.”

Posted by jlubans on December 14, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

Fables for Leaders has been selected as a “Reviewer's Choice” at Midwest Book Review (MBR) December, 2017.

Quoting from the critque:

“A unique and exceptional approach to developing problem solving attitudes and skills, "Fables for Leaders" is impressively well written, organized and presented.
Thoroughly 'user friendly' and an inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "Fables for Leaders" is impressively entertaining, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, making it unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library collections.”

20171117-5star-shiny-web.png
11 days to Christmas! Now’s not too late to order your gift copies of "Fables for Leaders" by John Lubans
The behemoth Amazon is linked here. Amazon has the book in stock and ready to ship, as does BookBaby.
And, just around the corner from where I live in Salem, Oregon, at Powell's Books in Portland, OR.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Aesop Gets It Right, Again

Posted by jlubans on December 12, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Leo Cullum from the New Yorker

An early December essay by the BBCs Amanda Ruggeri, spells out why resting, doing nothing, and reflecting – in other words, doing less – can result in greater productivity, creativity and better health.
Her essay, “The compelling case for working a lot less
cites numerous people who have studied and commented on human creativity and the seeming conundrum of working less to produce more.
She includes the latest thinking from brain science and what it is finding out about how we imagine and create; and about “the part of the brain that activates when you’re doing ‘nothing’, known as the default-mode network (DMN), (which) plays a crucial role in memory consolidation and envisioning the future”
Ruggeri cites Henry Miller who waxes downright Aesopic when he advises aspiring writers to: “Stop at the appointed time. Keep human!”
Two thousand years ago, Aesop understood the importance of rest. And, his fable in 177 words, pretty much says the same (less any reference to DMN!) as Ruggeri’s 2500 word essay.
Here is my blog entry about the unstrung bow from October of 2013. BTW, It also can be found on p.172 in the book “Fables for Leaders” along with 99 other fables relevant to the workplace.

AESOP AND THE BOW*

“When a certain man of Athens saw Aesop playing with marbles amidst a crowd of boys, he stood there and laughed at Aesop as if Aesop were crazy.
As soon as he realized what was going on, Aesop -- who was an old man far more inclined to laugh at others than to be laughed at himself -- took an unstrung bow and placed it in the middle of the road.
'Okay, you know-it-all,' he said, 'explain the meaning of what I just did.'
All the people gathered round. The man wracked his brains for a long time but he could not manage to answer Aesop's question.
Eventually he gave up.
Having won this battle of wits, Aesop then explained, 'If you keep your bow tightly strung at all times, it will quickly break, but if you let it rest, it will be ready to use whenever you need it.'
In the same way the mind must be given some amusement from time to time, so that you will find yourself able to think more clearly afterwards.”
___________
Even the winged Cupid has to give his bow a rest from time to time. And so it is at work. If, without cease, we keep our nose to the grindstone, our ear to the ground, our eye on the ball, and our shoulder to the wheel, we’ll wind up as humorless and clichéd as the last four phrases!
Worse, we’ll be less productive than if we take breaks. I was surprised with the varied response from staff when I organized a “Day in the Woods”.
This was a playful team building experience and far away from e-mail, voice-mail, offices, desks, and computers. Some took part with enthusiasm; others were reluctant but showed up with an open mind, willing to try out something new. Others, unlike Elvis, never left the building!
They saw a day off playing group games as a waste of time – or so they said. (I think the group’s being a mix of supervisors and staff deterred some. From my work with corporate groups, I have seen bosses very reluctant to mix and mingle and a few appeared fearful of not doing well, of not having THE answer to a problem solving activity.)
A few even took it upon themselves to disparage others’ going, and, if a subordinate wanted to go, they’d not grant permission.
Invariably, the results of those days away were new and strengthened relationships, new perspectives, and, oddly enough, fresh ideas on how to get work done.
Many of my “direct reports” chose to take part; overall about 20% of the total staff volunteered.
I will probably lead a weeklong off-site retreat next summer in Latvia; my draft agenda already includes several of the timeless events from those Days in the Woods. And from what I know of the hard-working Latvians, like Aesop, they already know the value of play.

*Source: Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs. Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.

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Thirteen days to Christmas! Avoid the parcel post push, order this instant! gift copies of "Fables for Leaders" by John Lubans
The behemoth Amazon is linked here. Amazon has the book in stock and ready to ship, as does BookBaby.
And, just around the corner from where I live in Salem, Oregon, at Powell's Books in Portland, OR.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Friday Fable. Krylov’s “THE HOP-PLANT”*

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

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“A HOP-PLANT had made its way to the edge of a garden, and had begun to wind itself around a dry stake in the fence.
Now, in the open field beyond stood an oak-sapling.
‘What use is there in that stunted creature, or, indeed, in any of its kind?’ Thus about the oak the Hop used to whisper to the stake.
‘How can it even be compared with you?’
‘You, simply by your erect carriage, look like a perfect lady in its presence.
It is true that it is clothed with foliage; but how rough it is! what a colour it has ! Why ever does the earth nourish it?'
Meanwhile, a week had scarcely passed, before the owner broke up that stake for firewood, and transplanted the young oak into his garden.
His care resulted in full success, and the oak flourished, extending vigorous shoots.
Remarking this, our Hop-plant wound itself about it, and now its voice is entirely devoted to the oak's glory and honour.”
______________
Savor, if you will, the richness of this fable.
How often do we side with a “tradition”, one that appears stalwart and strong, like a firm stake in the ground?
When an upstart, like the oak sapling, exposes the stake (or process or value or belief) as dead wood, how long do we stay with the good old ways.
When Krylov’s hop plant enviously asks, “Why ever does the earth nourish it?” maybe he is implying that the hop plant knows something, that the stake is rootless.
How long before you, like a reed in the wind, bend and move to the sapling?
A few “reeds” will move early on, because they are independent; their ideas coincide with the sapling’s.
But many others will only move – reluctantly and resentfully – when the status quo becomes indefensible, at least in public.
Krylov is clear about the hop plant as sycophant; it will praise whatever platform it has as long as it gains favour. If you are an oak sapling, don’t think you’ve won when a traditionalist becomes a follower.

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

______________________
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Eighteen days to Christmas! Avoid the parcel post panic, order gift copies of "Fables for Leaders" by John Lubans before the holiday stampede!
The behemoth Amazon is linked here. Amazon has the book in stock and ready to ship, as does BookBaby.
And, just around the corner from where I live in Salem, Oregon, at the mighty and magnificent Powell's Books in Portland, OR.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

E-book or Print book?

Posted by jlubans on December 05, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: A not unusual e-book glitch; a split cover.

That’s the question. Early on, whenever I mentioned the “Fables for Leaders” book project, I would declare it was going to be a print book and an e-book – in other words, in two formats, one paper and the other silicone.
So, what changed my mind?
The answer is fairly simple. Unlike the uniformity of paper (a page is a page), the silicone platforms for e-pages are too many in number to accept anything but the simplest of book designs.
Having illustrations on multiple pages would confound even the most advanced e-readers, including smart phones. Like the split illustration above, we would have pictorial non-sequitors all over.
I was told that the only way around this was to strip out all the illustrative detail in Fables for Leaders – in other words, make it a text-only book in the simplest of formats.
So, I would need to have two e-files; one e-file for printing the paper version of the book and another e-file for the book to appear on a Kindle.
Maybe (no guarantee) I could keep the cover, but all else would need to be simplified so as to not confound e-reader apps and platforms.
If you have seen the print book, you know that cutting the illustrative detail (created by Béatrice Coron and Alise Šnēbaha) would take away the book’s personality; transforming a lively and charming book into an etiolated version of itself.
So, now you know why “Fables for Leaders” is a paper book.
At one time I was au courant with the publishing industry, but in semi retirement, less so.
Given the multitudes of print books still gushing forth from presses - to confirm, just drop in at your local Costco and gaze upon the sagging heaps of print books! - I wonder what a several year statistical comparison between print books and e-books might reveal?
You may remember the IT tocsin, “E-books rule!” And paper books were to become quaint and queer things like your father’s Pontiac. Print was (and is) dismissed by the brash and indubitably certain twentysomethings as “Dead Tree” technology.
Is there then a flattening of the demand curve for e-books? Or, are e-books on an altogether separate track from paper?
I will keep an eye out for a creditable summary article. If you know of one, pleases let me know.
In any case, “Fables for Leaders” is a paper book. While not bound in “limp purple leather” it continues the centuries old tradition of ink on paper and the inherited tradition of book design (the shape, color, feel, and texture of the book and its pages) for the human reader.
E-book technology has a long way to go. It need not emulate the incunabula or what has gone on in centuries of print on paper, but it does need to evolve into something more than a poseur of its predecessor.

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Twenty days to Christmas! Avoid the postal panic, order gift copies of "Fables for Leaders" by John Lubans before the holiday stampede!
Find Fables at any number of Internet vendors, including Barnes & Noble, Amazon, BookBaby, and Powell’s Books.
The behemoth Amazon is linked here. Amazon has the book in stock and ready to ship, as does BookBaby.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Friday Fable. A Recommended Reading

Posted by jlubans on December 01, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

There are good reasons, every now and then, to leave that arid and windy plain of leadership studies. Find a green oasis and settle in among the palm trees. Reflect.
Literature of all sorts, including fables, helps us to make sense of what goes on in the workplace.
Fables, simple stories packed with wisdom, can help us better understand others and ourselves.
Annette Simmons' book, “The Story Factor: Secrets of Influence from the Art of Storytelling” helps explain the power of story telling in our sense making of life.
One of my former students asked me to edit a book about young professionals and their first years at work.
Of the examples she sent me, most read like annual reports – not exactly a little book to put on one’s nightstand.
A few of the young authors – and here’s my point – told their story: How and why they got into the business and how they were doing.
I was much more interested in those stories than I was in the objective factual statements of achievements.
We respond to stories in ways we do not understand. How and why does a metaphor – a simple allusion to some event in an unrelated way – inspire me and help me to better understand some action?
Simmons' point is that stories (and fables are stories) can carry powerful messages and help us connect with other people. Stories help others understand us. We reveal who we are - just like any other human - and that helps make the sought after connection.
I told my former student to focus on the stories – the more personal the better. Avoid, always, the repelling style of the impersonal annual report.
Speaking of stories, I often use the “Human Compass” as an ending activity in my seminars and classes. The activity derives from the Native American tradition of the “Medicine Wheel” involving the introspective bear, the soaring eagle, the loving mouse and the plodding buffalo along the compass points of our lives.
When everyone has his or her say the Human Compass usually goes well; taking time for that to happen is essential to its effectiveness. I use the compass to help focus participants’ thoughts, individually and collectively, on where they’ve been and where they want to be; a thoughtful summing up and beginning.
______________________
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Twenty four days to Christmas! Avoid the panic, order your copy of "Fables for Leaders" by John Lubans before the holiday postal stampede!
Find Fables at any number of Internet vendors, including Barnes & Noble, Amazon, BookBaby, and Powell’s Books.
The behemoth Amazon is linked here. Amazon has the book in stock and ready to ship, as does BookBaby.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

A Tale of Two Covers: Designing Fables for Leaders

Posted by jlubans on November 28, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Because of America's 2016 presidential election we opted not to use this cover; the elephant is symbolic of one of the political parties

One of the benefits of indie publishing is the author’s having more say in a book's design.
I recall early in my writing career authors were not consulted about the cover design or how the book would look.
One of my first books, “Educating the Library User” was a fairly large success for an academic book (over 6000 copies were purchased) but I had no input about the book jacket design. I liked it, but I would not have picked the art work the publisher used.
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Yet, I do like the mauve (pink trying to be purple) fabric binding!
More recently, my "Leading from the Middle" book, was moving full speed ahead in production with no word to me about the cover.
When I inquired, I was shown the most prosaic, functional cover imaginable. A flat dull color for the background and the title along with my name in nondescript type. As dull as any dissertation!
Nothing to pull the reader in, nothing to entice the eye, everything to suggest to the prospective reader, “Why would I want to read this dull and boring book?”.
I persisted and the publisher sent me a half dozen cover suggestions.
All but one was a variation on the soporific.
I opted for the geometrically imaginative one and I am sure that design had much to do with the success of that book.
So, as an indie publisher, I had a lot to say about the cover for Fables for Leaders. And to my good fortune, I was working with the renowned artist
Béatrice Coron and ALISE ŠNĒBAHA as the book’s illustrator and designer. Between the two of them I had a variety of covers and illustrations to choose from.
The final cover itself had 27 iterations of color and placement of text. Yes, 27!
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Caption: Two early versions of cover. One with real people and their totems. And, the other with animals in a meeting room led by (who else?) Leo, the Lion!
The final version (see the masthead for this blog) fired Leo and replaced him with Ozols, the bear drawn from my fable in the book, "The Bear in the Tree".
When I look back over my several books, Fables for Leaders is the one worth collecting as an example of how design and illustration contribute to the purpose of the book.
A visually appealing book, with the right heft, draws the reader in. And, keeping the implied promise, (“You can judge a book by its cover!”) the content adds to the enjoyment of the book.
______________________
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Order your copy before the holiday postal stampede!
Find Fables at any number of Internet vendors, including Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Powell’s Books.
The behemoth Amazon is linked here.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Friday Fable. Lubans’ “Tom the Turkey’s Tale”

Posted by jlubans on November 24, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Tom’s mates no more.

Once in winter, a flock of wild turkeys made its circuitous way across farmlands and through forests. There were two dozen, young and old.
One of the older turkeys, Tom by name, somehow mangled his foot and could not keep up.
He called to the flock and asked them to slow down, but no one responded. When the group stopped to graze, Tom caught up, only to be shunned, now a persona non grata.
Several of the healthy turkeys ganged up, surrounding Tom – wings outspread - and sought to peck him to death. Saying as it were, "You are weak, we are strong, you must die."
Tom escaped by flying into the branches of a sheltering tree.
A kindly Farmer saw this and put out corn and water.
Whenever the flock returned – eating up all of Tom’s food - Tom would drop down from the tree and limp over to the flock, only to be viciously pecked at.
Thanks to the Farmer and time (and the sheltering tree), Tom’s foot got better; he limped less. Then, one day, he disappeared.

Moral for the workplace: When you see happening what happened to Tom do you participate in the shunning or are you like the Farmer? Are you a sheltering tree?
When a workmate is ostracized do you lend a helping hand or look the other way?
______________
Fables for Leaders would be a perfect Christmas gift for the thoughtful leader and/or the thoughtful follower. Beautifully illustrated and designed. Several vendors offer the book. Click on the cover image above to link to Amazon.

Black Friday special only on BookBaby. 15% off, Code:JD9VQK

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Feudin’, fussin’ and a-fightin’

Posted by jlubans on November 21, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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I’ve been in a few feuds – not like how the 1948 hillbilly movie poster has it, but close.
Mine were office feuds that simmered and impeded, got in the way of progress, stymieing the best use of resources.
So, a BBC article about “feud consultants” or “peacemakers” - those who intervene in office feuds - reminded me of several that did not work out in a satisfactory way.
I could have done better.
Had there been a third party – a feud buster - a resolution might have happened.
What would I do differently?
Would it be better to follow an extreme solution like that suggested in the Wall Street Journal to “forget mediation, the silent treatment or even an awkward office shouting match.” And skip group hugs! Instead, put up your dukes and get in the boxing ring!
Or, more recently, the WSJ advises us of another conflict resolution strategy: “Forget trust falls. Indoor ax throwing has become the latest way to bond with colleagues.” Intriguing! Compete alongside your office “enemies” in tossing dangerous objects into a wooden target!
Fun, maybe but not for me.
I know that team building activites do work - however indirectly - but some situations demand direct action to address and resolve personal conflict.
In my case, I wish someone (me!) had said, “Look this is not going anywhere, it is bad for the organization, we have got to clear the air. Would you (the other aggrieved party) be willing to work with me to resolve our differences?”
(Conflict resolvers say the key phrase in this statement is "would you be willing?")
But before asking that of the other person, I need to answer some questions about my role in the conflict.
Why do I see that other person as an enemy, as someone who seeks to undermine me?
Why does the other side think of me the same way?
Why do I believe this other person is working to frustrate what I hope to achieve?
Why does the other side think that of me?
You can appreciate just how difficult this conversation could be!
So, a third party intervention makes good sense. But, finding that third party is not easy.
Most Human Resources (HR) specialists are not really neutral. I have met only two who commanded respect as being fair and effective in resolving disputes.
Those two had an internal strength or internal compass that helped overcome long-term personality clashes without their getting sucked into the conflict.
Those two were Solomon-like in how they perceived and dealt with differences.
In my line of work, conflict is rarely addressed openly. Avoidance and accommodation are the preferred methods – as in many other industries - of dealing with conflict, so little changes.
Compromise is celebrated as an achievement! Yea, we won a little!
You get a little, they get a little and the problem is half resolved.
We kid ourselves into believing we have achieved all we can achieve.
If people remain closed, then the win-win of open collaboration (good ideas competing and melding into one best solution) is beyond reach.
Instead, we “compromise” and we settle for something less.
In my experience, my “problem people” – and there were several - were often self-centered, only looking out for themselves, none for all. If they were on a team, guess who had to be the captain?
For them, everything came down to “Me, first”, or so I thought.
I wonder what they thought of me?
Really, as I look back, a feud buster would have been a plus, for no other reason than to get me talking with the “enemy”.
Instead, each of us was articulate in blaming, sotto voce, the other for the sorry situation.
Funny, in a bitter way. I knew I had to have a frank talk with the other person but I did not; I went off and did things, kept busy.
I avoided, ignored, for years and then it was too late. I went on doing stuff and now, well I am here and they are there.
No, I am not going to call them on the phone and tell them I love them anyway!
No, having that talk would have made all the difference. Not having that talk has made all the difference.
______________
Fables for Leaders would be a perfect Christmas gift for the thoughtful leader and/or the thoughtful follower. Beautifully illustrated and designed. Several vendors offer the book. Click on the cover image above to link to Amazon.

Black Friday special only on BookBaby. 15% off, Code:JD9VQK

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Friday Fable. Odo of Cheriton’s “THE BIRD OF SAINT MARTIN”

Posted by jlubans on November 17, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Winter Wren

“AMONG the Birds there is one known as the Bird of Saint Martin, which is no larger than a Wren, and whose legs are long and slender like reeds.
It happened once at the festival of Saint Martin, when the sun was shining brightly, that the little Bird of Saint Martin flung itself down upon the ground beside a tree and rolling over kicked its legs high in the air exclaiming:
‘There, if the Heavens should fall I could hold them up with my legs!’
Just then a single leaf fell from a branch of the tree and fluttered down upon the Bird.
The latter sprang up, half dead with fear, and flew away crying shrilly, ‘Oh, Saint Martin, Saint Martin, save your little Bird!’
There are many like this Bird of Saint Martin, whose faith is strong in times of safety, but weak in times of danger.”

______________
And so it can be in the workplace when a bold executive trumpets – at a happy hour with like-minded co-workers - that he will fix tomorrow what’s wrong with the organization today.
Nodding, they each order another, and dream of wrongs to be righted.
Comes the dawn, our hero meets an entrenched and resistant workforce. Its cri de coeur: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” echoes through the land. Last night’s champion, like the Bird of St. Martin, quickly quails and retreats in haste.
Little wonder the wise old birds sit in silence, gazing into the horizon.

*Source: Cooper, Frederic Taber, editor (1864-1937), “An argosy of fables; a representative selection from the fable literature of every age and land”. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company. 1921.

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For more fables, old and new, and their applications to organizational life, see my new book:
Fables for Leaders, with original illustrations by Béatrice Coron and designed by ALISE ŠNĒBAHA, 2017 ($19.99).
Ezis Press
ISBN: 978-0-692-90955-3
LCCN: 2017908783
Amazon

© Copyright 2017 John Lubans