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.

How Jerks Happen

Posted by jlubans on January 18, 2019  •  Leave comment (0)


While working on my Fulbright sponsored class, Literature and Leadership, I came across an intriguing essay,
The Dark Triad and the Evolution of Jerks
The author, a psychology professor, wonders how jerks thrive.
Most of us, perhaps up to 90%, try to live our lives according to the golden rule: treat others as you want to be treated. When attacked, we are cautioned to “turn the other cheek”.
So, how do we get jerks, those habitués of the Dark Triad?
The class will make use of my book, Fables for Leaders. As fables go, many are stories about jerks and offer examples and advice.
For example, there’s the fable of "The Travelers and the Purse"
in which one of the two travelers claims full ownership of money the two find on the road, (my good fortune, not our good fortune). When threatened by an approaching posse, the jerk reneges on his claim of exclusive ownership.
And there’s, “A Hedge-hog and a Snake”, about an unwanted guest who ousts the hospitable Hedge-hog’s from his nest.
And, finally, there’s
The Weeping Man and the Birds” about how a man who “weeps” crocodile tears while slaughtering birds for the cooking pot.
Here’s what’s in the Dark Triad: “Narcissism (an excessive focus on oneself), Machiavellianism (manipulating others for one’s own gain), and psychopathy (an overall disregard for others).”
Looking for more information about the dark triad, I discovered that there are tests you can take to find out if you are one of them. Please note that I question the credibility of these tests. Who –when kindness and cooperation are what set most humans apart from other living creatures - would agree with any of these following beliefs/behaviors?
It's true that I can be mean to others.
I know that I am special because everyone keeps telling me so.
Most people can be manipulated.
Hurting people would be exciting.
I enjoy having sex with people I hardly know.
Payback needs to be quick and nasty.
I like to get revenge on authorities.
I’ll say anything to get what I want.
Make sure your plans benefit you not others.

If you strongly concur with these statements, then you are probably reading this in a jail cell or lolling in the lap of luxury as the jefe of a drug gang.
Or, if you have more than an occasional lapse or two (“To err is human”, after all), and routinely apply these behaviors to get ahead at work, you are more than likely One Big Fat Jerk (OBFJ) a new type for the Myers Briggs Type Indicator!
So, if most of value kindness and cooperation, how does the dark side thrive?
Well, according to research, unkind people adapt and use trickery to make gains and to survive against the kind folks they encounter and abuse.
Is it nature or nurture one might ask?
Some of the dark behavior is what it takes to survive under bad conditions. And one might ask realistically, if is it permissible to fight a jerk with jerk behaviors? That question should make for some interesting class discussion about effective leadership and followership.

My 2010 book, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2019

Phaedrus’ Fable X. OF THE VICES OF MEN*

Posted by jlubans on January 04, 2019  •  Leave comment (0)


Jupiter has loaded us with a couple of Wallets: the one, filled with our own vices, he has placed at our backs, the other, heavy with those of others, he has hung before.

From this circumstance, we are not able to see our own faults: but as soon as others make a slip, we are ready to censure.

This quintessential fable also appears on p. 74 in my “Fables for Leaders” as Jupiter and the Two Sacks.
If there ever was a must-read fable for leaders it is this one.
Our willingness to blame others instead of ourselves was observed millennia ago. The flaw is nothing new. If noted, it was not revealed by Freud, Psychology Today or Dr. Phil.
In a very few words, Aesop/Phaedrus show us man’s seeming inability to look beyond self and “to walk in another person’s moccasins”. A bit of Native American wisdom, there, at the end.
Yet, in corporate suites and the cubicles of the not-for-profit the annual ritual of performance appraisal is celebrated by the master over the servant.
Far better to have a humble conversation on one’s dreams and aspirations than to seek to reduce an individual to a decimal or letter of the alphabet.


Caption: Maybe Phaedrus, more likely Aesop.

**Who was Phaedrus?
Gaius Julius Phaedrus was born BC 15 and died AD 50 in Italy. Born a slave, he became a free man in the Emperor Augustus household and was educated in Greek and Latin authors.
He enlarged upon the Aesopic tradition and invented fables of his own
He did much to promote the fable literature, achieving a great popularity, we are told, in the Middle Ages.

My 2010 book, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2019


Posted by jlubans on December 28, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Ruffin McNeill (L) with OU’s Head Coach. Lincoln Riley. Interestingly, Mr. McNeill was Mr. Riley’s boss at East Carolina University.

I first heard “FIDO” in a post Vietnam War song sung by Johnny Cash: Forget it, “Drive on – It don’t mean nothin’, drive on”. FIDO for short.
More recently, I heard it during the 2018 football season, American football.
FIDO means make a mistake, learn from it and move on. In other words, don’t dwell on it so much you wind up doubting yourself. It’s a favorite refrain for Ruffin McNeill, Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator at the #4 ranked University of Oklahoma.
N. B. In case you agree with the snide sports writer that FIDO is just another clichéd business term, like a Wal-Mart motivational poster, do consider the context in which it is applied and used.
Mr. McNeill took over coaching OUs defensive platoon in mid season after an upset loss to the University of Texas Longhorns team.
He was hired to instill confidence (belief in self) and to ameliorate self-doubt. Is not communicating trust and confidence a leader’s key role?
In American football, the offense - the 11-member team that has the ball - is composed of different players from those on the defensive "eleven" that tries to stop the other team’s offense.
Unlike OUs number one ranked offense, the defense has been much criticized. One kindly writer called it “porous”.
Complicating this is the new strategy of “spreading the field” - distributing players far apart so there’s more acreage to defend. If defense is “porous” on both teams then some games devolve into what are called, “shoot outs”, with 50 points each team!
Most American football games finish in the low 20s.
Since Mr. McNeill’s been in charge of the defense (coaching and anticipating what the other team might do), there’s been some noticeable improvement.
While the OU offense continues to rack up touchdowns the defense has tackled better, and has made some momentum-swinging interceptions and forced fumbles.
Mr. McNeill – ever mindful of the importance of player confidence – attributes the improvements to the FIDO mantra.
Do your best. When you make a mistake or the other team does something brilliant, forget it and drive on and do better the next time.
If you do something brilliant, savor it, then move on to the next play.
Mr. McNeill’s confidence in his players is evident in his demeanor.
In the Big12 championship game, when an OU defender sacked the Texas quarterback in the end zone for a game changing “safety” (2 points for OU), TV cameras showed McNeill's reaction to the play, “except there was no reaction — not even the slightest of smiles or fist pumps.” He was saying by not saying, “No surprise! It’s what I know you can do. Now move on.”
His predecessor, Mike Stoops, was far more excitable.
Often the TV cameras showed Mike, up in the coach’s booth high above the field, jumping out of his chair and letting fly with some rapid fist pumping.
Mike sure had enthusiasm, maybe too much of it. How long can players buy into extreme external emotion and keep it at fever pitch during 60 minutes of play (approximately 3.5-4 hours on the field)?
The unanswered question under Mike was “How do you invert that external emotion into an internal motivator for the player?
Mr. McNeill’s way is to offer steady guidance and positive feedback.
If you have the best people, you can implicitly count on them to do their best and when they mess up, remember FIDO.
In a way, the fiery locker room speech is a lack of confidence, a holding on instead of letting go. It is the coach doing the inspiring not the players from within themselves.
Mr. McNeill’s quiet enthusiasm in the coaching booth may do more for the players’ confidence than were he to run up and down, with hair on fire, fist bumping everyone in sight.
In press conferences, it is not unusual for Mr. McNeill to mention the names of his defensive coaching team and how they contribute to the defense getting better.
While many coaches (and bosses) fail to name their assistants, Mr. McNeill is deliberate in spreading confidence among his team, players and coaches.
You don’t think his positive sharing of success makes it back to the players (and the coaches)?
Of course, FIDO has relevance to the work place. When things go awry for good people, ask them to reflect, learn and move on.
Don’t stop making the extra effort; don’t cave in; don’t worry about what the boss thinks. You already know he thinks you will do the best you possibly can.
When things really click and hum along, enjoy it, reflect, and drive on.
OU plays the “Crimson Tide” of Alabama this Saturday, January 29 in the Orange Bowl down in sunny Miami, Florida.
I’ll be watching.

PS. Dec 30.
OU lost to a well balanced U of A team. After a weak start, OUs offense and defense got much better but the deficit was too great to overcome.
Apart from football, Mr. McNeill's coaching of these young men will influence them in positive ways for the rest of their lives.

My book, Fables for Leaders is only a click away:

Also, My 2010 book, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018


Posted by jlubans on December 22, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Drawing by Nathan Altman, 1969.

A MONKEY, which had grown weak-sighted in old age, remembered having heard men say that this was not a serious misfortune, but only made it necessary to wear glasses.
So the Monkey provided himself with half a dozen pairs of Spectacles, and after turning them this way and that, tried wearing them first on the top of his head, and then on the end of his tail, smelled of them and licked them, but all to no purpose.
The Spectacles did not help him to see any better.
"Good gracious," cried the Monkey, "what fools people are to listen to all the nonsense that they hear.
All that I have been told about Spectacles is a pack of lies.
They are not a particle of use to me!"
And hereupon the Monkey in his vexation flung the Spectacles down upon the ground so violently that they were broken to pieces.

Too great an impatience and an unwillingness to ask for help just might doom one to a lonely life, not only without books, but without friends.
Of course, if you can find like- minded friends, i.e. those whom agree with your myopic view of the world, well you won’t be alone but you also won’t appreciate different perspectives.
Group think (actually un-think) is the greatest drawback I believe to human advancement, or more humbly, to an organization’s ability to roll with the punches and to take what comes and make it better.
Christmas tidings to the battlers of unthinking, the contrarians, among us!

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

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

Doing by Not Doing

Posted by jlubans on December 16, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Who’s in charge?

A recent TED Talk,Lead Like the Great Conductors” by Itay Talgam claims, rightly so, that the way conductors lead is relevant to non-musical bosses.
Talgam, a former conductor, is now a self-professed “conductor of people in business.”
I’ve long been interested in the topic, e.g. my articles about how Simone Young led her orchestras when she was in Sydney, Australia and then in Hamburg, Germany. My book, Leading from the Middle, has a chapter on Simone.
I found her to be a splendid example of a collaborative conductor: her’s was a partnership with the musicians. I never observed her browbeating anyone or refusing to see an opposing view.
While she may well have been the brightest person in the room, I never got the sense that she would reject other musical views simply because she knew best.
Talgam, in the TED talk, shows via video well known successful conductors. The first is Carlos Kleiber who with his body language appears to invite the musicians’ continuous involvement in making the music. How hands off is he? Hard to tell but he does seem to enjoy very much the sound he is hearing and the musicians do see his enjoyment.
Perhaps they build on that.
I might call Kleiber’s leadership style laissez faire. If you have very good people in your organization who want freedom and accept responsibility the hands-off approach might get very good results.
In counter point, Talgam is not so impressed with conductors like the controlling Ricardo Muti, nor the distant Richard Strauss nor Herbert von Karajan, who we see with eyes closed simply enjoying the music and expecting the musicians to keep at it with zero intervention from the podium.
Muti is unquestionably an autocrat. I am not sure how to characterize in management talk the other two. But, before we dismiss the command and control conductor type, remember there are people (many or few depending on the organization) who want to be told what to do. They do not want to think for themselves - it's not in their job description, as they will remind you.
And, rehearsals would likely see a very different – versus the actual performance - musical leadership from Strauss and von Karajan. I like to think that neither conducted rehearsals with their eyes closed.
Also, I am certain Muti laid down the law as to what the sound and tempo were going to be. Any problem with that?
Talgam’s ideal conductor is “Lenny” – his nickname for his mentor - Leonard Bernstein.
Indeed Mr. Bernstein does empower his musicians so that they apparently do achieve very good music. Possibly, Mr. Bernstein is a democratic leader.
Talgam’s TED talk features a video of Lenny letting go completely, we are led to believe. He puts down his baton and simply uses facial expressions to show his delight with what he is hearing. This we are told is a perfect example of “Doing by Not Doing”, the Taoist paradox.
Talgam fails to mention the conductor-less Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (depicted above). There’s a relevant quote from Herbert von Karajan :
"The worst damage I can do to my orchestra is to give them a clear instruction. Because that would prevent the 'ensemble', the listening to each other that is needed for an orchestra."
Listening to each other is wha the egalitarian Orpheus does better than any other orchestra.
At one Orpheus rehearsal I met a student conductor. He told me that observing an Orpheus rehearsal taught him more about conducting than his classes did!
The Talgam tape of Mr. Bernstein letting go of the reins, so to speak, reminded me of something that happened when the violinist Itzhak Perlman guested one night with Orpheus at Lincoln Center.
Most guest artists enjoy playing with Orpheus since doing so gives them unprecedented freedom of expression. If there’s a conductor involved, regardless of who, there will be constraints.
Unlike Mr. Bernstein and his facial expressions, when Perlman sat out a piece - telling the audience that Orpheus was fully capable in DIY mode - he sat there, fiddled with the sheet music, pulled up his socks all the while simply enjoying the music. This was really doing by not doing!
When I show the Lincoln Center tape, some of my students fail to see this, and criticize Perlman for being a distraction. Hardly, he truly lets go and Orpheus fails him not.
Perlman looks truly apart from the music, leading by not leading at all. He sees the musicians as they are – no pandering or patronizing or permission giving.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

Sale extended for Christmas and New Year's

Posted by jlubans on December 01, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Another reason to get your copy of Fables: Because it is illustrated by the illustrious Béatrice Coron! See her fabulous animated art for Dave Mathews with the songs “That Girl Is You” and “Again and Again”.
So, due to popular demand (see how easy it is to slip into advert talk?) act now and take 30% off your order of Fables for Leaders, through December, by clicking on this button:

Or, you can buy a full price copy at AMAZON.

My 2010 book, Leading from the Middle, is also available at Amazon.


Posted by jlubans on November 25, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)


THE Sheep before the Lion came, and prayed
Protection from the Wolves, that havoc made
Among the flocks. Compassion moved his breast:
Thrice having roared, he thus his will expressed:—
"We Leo, King, and so forth,—having found
The sore indictment by the Sheep profound
Against the Wolves, and touched with sympathy
For their most sad condition, thus decree:
If any Wolf shall any Sheep offend.
Said Sheep with leave said Wolf to apprehend.
And carry him before the nearest Bear
In the Commission of the Peace—and then
Such order as the matter may invite
Be duly made—and Heaven defend the right!"
⁠So 'twas decreed. 'Tis a most curious fact.
No Sheep hath yet enforced the Act:
'Tis probable they are no more attacked:
The Wolves now graze, it is to be inferred
(How this agrees with them I have not heard).
⁠If rogues defraud, or men in power oppress—
Go to law instantly and get redress.
Shall the meek inherit the earth? Not according to this fable.
Another translation has it that the “sheep shall be allowed, without respect to persons, to seize (the wolf) by the scruff of the neck, to carry it into the nearest thicket or wood, and there to bring it before the court." Good luck on that.
Sometimes the cards are indeed stacked against the weak vs. the strong. So, in the workplace when you know of wrong-doing and bring it to the boss, the boss may not really want to pursue it, preferring instead to hide the transgression and to get rid of you, instead.
This is evident as well when someone with a different perspective is exiled from an organization made up of a majority of like-minded individuals. There’s no fair process for the contrarian and the majority of the like-minded are perfectly OK with that. They know they are right!
On a rare occasion, courageous bosses and other individuals stand up for the afflicted-at-work and they are to be celebrated.

*Source: Krilov, Fables. Translated from the Russian for Fraser's Magazine.

Update on Beatrice Coron, the illustrator of Fables for Leaders. See her fabulous animated art at the Dave Mathews store with the songs “That Girl Is You” and “Again and Again”.

Act now and take 30% off your order of Fables for Leaders, through November, by clicking on this button:

Or, you can buy a full price copy at AMAZON.

My 2010 book, Leading from the Middle, is also available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

The Castle of Light: A Beehive

Posted by jlubans on November 18, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Dace Melbārde, Latvia’s Minister for Culture with Andris Vilks, Director of the National Library at the Inauguration of Latvia’s Online Encyclopedia special print edition, October 18, 2018. National Library of Latvia. Kristians Luhaers 2018

Today (November 18) marks Latvia’s 100th year, a monumental achievement for any democratic country. One of the icons of the new Latvia is its National Library. I interviewed the Library’s leader – Andris Vilks - in 2016 not long after the opening of the architecturally striking building on the bank of the Daugava River across from Old Riga*.
Baptised the “Castle of Light”, it was many years in the making, all under Andris’ leadership. A colleague of his stated that this new building was the equivalent of his earning a PhD and then some.
So in 2016, when I asked Andris if his job was done, he surprised me a bit: He told me there was much, much more. The building is only the “skin”. Now the focus is on what goes on inside the building. His Herculean “to do” list included:
Creating a digital library
Producing an online Latvian encyclopedia
Linking the building and the collections to conferences and other events inside the building; and,
Increasing research staffing to study and promote the library services and collections.
I asked him in October of this year about progress toward these ambitious goals and he sent me a four page single space response.
The library indeed is now a beehive of activity.
I want to use his progress report as another way to illustrate his leadership.
Under “Creating a digital library” he describes his role as one of “solving strategic problems. These problems are not as much of technological nature, as the choice of direction and decision-making.”
Almost 6 million digitized pages have been created, including “pictures, photos, sound recordings, manuscripts, etc.”
As leader, he sees the importance of setting priorities since
“it is not possible to preserve information on ‘everything about everything’ – there’s not enough “human capacity” - it is necessary to determine priorities specific to Latvia.
The online Latvian encyclopedia is to be launched on
December 18 and will be available worldwide.
Caption: Happy customer. The 3000 volume special print run sold out in a week. National Library of Latvia. Kristians Luhaers 2018
Seeing the encyclopedia to completion took planning and collaborating with many people over many years. “More than 50 subject committees were formed, where almost every leading Latvian scientist and specialist was involved.” Over 250 authors are writing on behalf of the encyclopedia.
To celebrate Latvia’s 100 years, a cumulative encyclopedia “Latvia” was turned into a sold-out print publication. More are on the way.
The goal of linking the building and the collections to conferences inside the building:
In the four years since the new building, it has “hosted several thousand events.” These events include conferences e. g. One
conference was dedicated to the founder of the Department of Rare Books and Manuscripts and book-publishing history in Latvia, Aleksejs Apīnis, Andris' mentor.
Also, conferences have been a way to create cooperation and partnerships (synergy!) with others interested in Latvia’s intellectual heritage, such as the Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art of the University of Latvia.
Then there are Exhibitions. NLL can provide space for 10 simultaneous exhibitions. Exhibitions are often paired with conferences, seminars and lectures.
Library as publisher: “Since 2014 the NLL has exceeded expectations for well-researched publications.” It has received “two awards in the Latvian annual competition of book art “Zelta ābele” (Golden Apple-Tree).
And annual events help link the library to the general community. “One of the most notable … is “Children’s Jury”. Every year around 20,000 Latvian children vote for the books they value the most.”
And, Art is used to please the eye and to entertain the mind inside the building and out. Recently, two sculptural compositions have been mounted outside.
Caption: “Barefoot Rainis” (my title). Jānis Rainis is of Olympic stature among Latvia’s literary figures. His partner and muse, Aspazija, would have told him a thing or two about going barefoot in winter. Photo by Viktorija Moskina 2018.

Finally, working from inside to reach out, the library is ramping up its commitment to research staffing. It is on track to achieve research institutional status so that collections can be studied and made more accessible.
In the last three years “holders of a doctoral degree (at the time 15) and postgraduate students are getting involved in collection analysis, book publishing and other related field researches.” This has required creating ratios of research to librarianship, e.g. 25%:75% or 50%:50%. “Librarians participate in conferences, publish their findings, and organize exhibitions. Like researchers, they engage in scientific processing of digital collections, in other words in text contextualization.”

*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 young adulthood.
Part 2, was about how those early influences have shaped his leadership; in brief, how he leads.

You’ve just read part 3.
Take 30% off your order of Fables for Leaders, through November, by clicking on this button:

Or, you can buy a full price copy at AMAZON.

My 2010 book, Leading from the Middle, is also available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

Ambassadors for Government

Posted by jlubans on November 16, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Image from new video on The Drive Test, from the Oregon DMV. Watch it here to see DMV service values in practice.

Who would think a governmental office – in this case a Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) – would provide a “best practice” model for customer service?
Or, as I term it, exemplary courtesy and kindness in service, (the C+K Factor.)
And, in the mix, expect staff to be “ambassadors for government”.
Well, the North Salem branch office (one of 60 in Oregon) does just that.
My conclusion is based on several trips to the DMV following a move to Oregon. During those visits, I was taken with how well this DMV works: fast and courteous service with knowledgeable and pleasant staff – how Oregonian! Not a sour puss in the bunch, not a one “afflicted with office.” I asked myself, how do they do it? What’s the secret sauce? Looking for answers, I interviewed - amidst their busy schedules - Bea Halbert, Customer Service Manager, of the North Salem DMV; Stefanie Coons, DMV Field Services Group Manager; and, Thomas L. McClellan, Oregon’s DMV Administrator.
Each state in the USA has separate DMVs and a driver is obligated to register her car – prove ownership and insurance -and to pass a written test prior to getting that state’s driver’s license. Newbie drivers - in an American coming-of-age ritual - have to pass, along with the written test, an on-road drive test, as illustrated above.
In brief, the DMV gets to say yea or nay on your driving.
Not everyone gets what they want: a failed driver’s test, an adjudicated loss of license, or an iffy car title, can result in unhappy clients
As Bea told me, “We deliver a lot of bad news every day”. Statewide the DMV “handles about 20,000 convictions and other orders from court.”
So, there’s no shortage of self-inflicted frustration to be dealt with amidst the daily volume of walk-ins: on average the North Salem branch sees 482 customers per day and on peak days as many as 700.
If you handle conflict well, your clients will respect you; if you don’t, well that’s how some DMVs get a bad reputation and become the poster child for what’s wrong with government.
My interview with Bea (a DMV employee since 1984 and a self professed “servant leader”*) revealed several clues to how her office’s 17 staff achieve such high levels of service. These points illustrate how the overall DMV gets high staff buy-in into its stated values.
1. Weekly staff meetings with expected input from staff. This hour-long meeting occurs each Wednesday prior to opening. It features a NOT ON AGENDA opportunity to bring up urgent items. Several customer service improvements, like express lanes, have resulted.
2. A regular rotation of staff (no one does the same thing over and over) among workstations. Staff then become familiar with all parts of the DMV, not just a narrow bailiwick.
3. Strong support for training, in house and at other venues, including state universities with paid time off. Bea regularly promotes training opportunities and frequently participates.
4. Strong support for and action on a promote-from-within policy. Bea has benefited from mentoring by her supervisors and others from the time she came on as a summer “temp” in 1984 to now managing the North Salem office. Bea told me that “reaching out, asking for help, describing scenarios and what ifs to her mentors” was very important to her career development. “The managers I have worked with all have the same mentality, how we coach and how we train.”
5. A very supportive top leadership with clearly stated expectations, e.g. in the published “DMV in Motion: A Strategic Vision” which uses acronyms like PACE (Public service, Amazing Quality, Customer focus and an Engaging Workplace). And, there are regular statistical measures to evaluate and monitor the service, business, and program aspects of the DMV. A current statewide goal: 70% of customers will be seen within 20 minutes.
Tom and Stefanie told me (confirmed by Bea) that managers have leeway to try out ideas and to see what happens; mistakes are not career ending. There’s freedom to problem solve and to propose solutions; it’s expected when someone identifies a problem, he will make recommendations on what to do differently.
6. Facility-wise, most Oregon DMVs are an open building, with a barrier-less lay out for the client. This is quite remarkable, as I have observed an ever-increasing trend for architectural barriers in many public offices.
7. Very well informed receptionists (see # 2) including at-the- door greeters and, on occasion, “floaters” among seated clients waiting to be seen by a DMV staffer. The floater makes sure no one gets “lost in the process.”
8. Stress on face-to-face, one-on-one communication between managers and staff. Problems are dealt with immediately.
9. Teamwork. Bea sees herself as the Coach of her team. In one way, she’s a player/coach, since she works out front once a week. One practice that takes teamwork well beyond the local office is that, when necessary, most offices share staff with other regional DMV offices.
10. Leadership role: When I asked Bea early in the interview about the many positive services and actions toward clients she told me without hesitation that the “Vision comes from Administrator Tom McClellan and from Field Services Group Manager Stefanie Coons (and regional managers)”.
In other words, the DMV leadership “practices what it preaches.” The five characteristics for DMV leadership (creativity, courage, communication, collaboration, and commitment) are not just office speak; they’re practiced.
Finally, an observation about my newly adopted Oregon:
When I comment about how helpful and courteous people are, the Oregonian response is: “This is Oregon, Why would you be surprised?”
I have to agree there’s something to that; it’s a widely prevalent attitude one encounters in many Oregon communities and I think that attitude, the so-called Oregon Way, just might come in the door with the staff. So, many of the pro-customer practices may derive from the state’s culture.
When I sought to define the “Oregon Way” I found a video done by Oregon State University. The people in the video refer to the state’s
Pioneer spirit, a “nostalgia for what we were and want to be”. We’re willing to try different things, to explore what Oregon has to offer. We are not complacent; we go out and enjoy the state’s natural resources. Everyone lends a hand. We are genuinely inclusive. A newcomer to the small community of Amity described what she, as a parent, likes about living there: “It’s a giant family”.

*Robert K. Greenleaf described servant leadership in his 1970 essay, The Servant as Leader: “The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.”
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Posted by jlubans on November 02, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Up in a lofty oak the Bees
Had made their honey-combs: but these
The Drones asserted they had wrought.
Then to the bar the cause was brought
Before the Wasp, a learned chief,
Who well might argue either brief,
As of a middle nature made.
He therefore to both parties said:
“You’re not dissimilar in size,
And each with each your color vies,
That there’s a doubt concerning both:
But, lest I err, upon my oath,
Hives for yourselves directly choose,
And in the wax the work infuse,
That, from the flavor and the form,
We may point out the genuine swarm.”
The Drones refuse, the Bees agree—
Then thus did Justice Wasp decree:
“Who can, and who cannot, is plain,
So take, ye Bees, your combs again.”
This narrative had been suppress’d
Had not the Drones refused the test.

Justice Wasp dispenses justice. The drone, which exists many think solely to mate with Queen Bees, is regarded as lesser than a worker bee. This is unkind.
Without the drones the hive dies.
They have a quintessential purpose: propagation
Similar, it seems, to the members of Wodehouse’s immortal Drones Club.
In that day and age, around 1900, an annual income of 200 pounds sterling a month was sufficient to keep a servant, a gentleman’s gentleman (like Jeeves) and to rent a fashionable apartment and to pay club dues. Beyond that, one lived on credit and studiously avoided creditors.
Wodehouse obviously chose the name, the Drones, to reflect on the social situation of all of these non-working young men.
Fathers were more than glad to pay the young men to stay away.
Sort of like today’s “Trust Babies”, but just better educated: boarding schools like Eton and higher up, Sandhurst, Cambridge or Oxford.
Of course, for propagation a drone had to be caught by an ambitious young woman and therein lies many of Wodehouse’s comedic plots.
Alas, or perhaps inevitably, this world ended in the great and senseless tragedy of the First World War.

* *Source: The Fables of Phaedrus Translated into English Verse. Phaedrus. Christopher Smart, A. M. London. G. Bell and Sons, Ltd. 1913.

Take 30% off your order of Fables for Leaders, through November, by clicking on this button:

Or, you can buy a full price copy at AMAZON.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018