Friday Fable. Krylov’s “THE PIKE"*

Posted by jlubans on March 31, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Swimming free.

“AN appeal to justice was made against the Pike, on the ground that it had rendered the pond uninhabitable. A whole cart-load of proofs were tendered as evidence; and the culprit, as was beseeming, was brought into court in a large tub. The judges were assembled not far off, having been set to graze in a neighbouring field. Their names are still preserved in the archives. There were two Donkeys, a couple of old Horses, and two or three Goats. The Fox also was added to their number, as assessor, in order that the business might be carried on under competent supervision.
Now, popular report said that the Pike used to supply the table of the Fox with fish. However this might be, there was no partiality among the judges ; and it must also be stated that it was impossible to conceal the Pike's roguery in the affair in question. So there was no help for it. Sentence was passed, condemning the Pike to an ignominious punishment. In order to frighten others, it was to be hung from a tree.
‘Respected judges,’ thus did the Fox begin to speak, ‘hanging is a trifle. I should have liked to have sentenced the culprit to such a punishment as has never been seen here among us. In order that rogues may in future live in fear, and run a terrible risk, I would drown it in the river.’

‘Excellent!’ cry the judges, and unanimously accept the proposition.

So the Pike was flung—into the river.”

_________________
The ever wily Fox’s cunning is on brilliant display in this humorous story; a Russian version of the American South’s story of the briar patch and B’rer Rabbit. You get an idea of how stingingly effective Krylov was as a Satirist with his choice of animal types for the judiciary: Donkeys, Horses and Goats.
I wonder, as the ides of April approach, if the Fox is available to do my taxes.

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

N.B. The new book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in June 2017 as an e-book ($15.00) and a soft cover print-on-demand book, ($25.00). The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned, Béatrice Coron.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Motivation; An Eternal Question

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

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Caption: One way to fire up a staffer.

Early in March, I revisited Economist Dan Ariely’s research on what motivates workers. In an interview, BEYOND CARROTS AND STICKS, he reveals four ways to get your employees to do more than just minimal effort:
Make work rewarding
Trust your employees
Challenge them
Rethink bonuses

Mr. Ariely’s conclusions are based on psychological experiments.
Australia’s Fred Emery found that workers want:
Adequate elbowroom for decision-making
Opportunity to learn at work
Variety in work
Mutual support and respect
Meaningfulness
Desirable future

How different are these two lists?
While similar, I would suggest that Mr. Emery spots more genuine motivators than does Mr. Ariely, but that may be a matter of interpretation. Emery developed his own list; Ariely’s is something put together by a journalist from an interview.
In another story, SHELF LIFE, the Wegmans grocery chain is cited as one of Fortune Magazine's best places to work. This year Wegman’s came in second, behind Google.
“It’s not immediately obvious why Wegmans fare(s) so well. Salaries are not high: … cashiers average $9.44 an hour, while department managers make about $60,000 a year. The work is not particularly exciting or challenging, and while helping customers feed their families can be rewarding, it’s not exactly curing cancer.”
Simple things seem to make the difference: “Wegmans stands out by offering schedule flexibility, opportunities for advancement and thoughtful gestures, like cakes on birthdays and hot chocolate for employees working outside in the cold.”
I first heard of Wegmans from Saul Zabar, the boss at the eponymous NYC deli at 80th and Broadway. He emulates the Wegmans philosophy and gets similar results in employee effort, quality of product and customer care. (See the Zabar's chapter in my book, Leading from the Middle.)
Like Wegmans, Zabar’s offers employees tuition benefits and even goes as far as making cash loans to help low income workers avoid pay day lenders. (Last year Wegmans put up $5 million in college scholarships.)
Any regular customer at Zabar’s soon notes the low turnover among the store’s staff; the same faces behind the bakery counter, the fish counter, the cheese counter, and all through the store! People like working there; but it should be noted that Zabar’s does offer competitive wages: “You can make a living here” is how one Zabar’s supervisor put it to me.
Lists of motivators aside, I believe there are ineffable reasons why some places appeal to workers more than others. Leadership’s attitudes toward workers matter a great deal. Genuine interest in and concern for people, humane attitudes, respect for the individual – those qualities may make more difference than other external motivators like company policy, medical insurance, salaries, or free parking.
Unless there is a genuine warmth and meaning behind kind gestures like “cakes on birthdays” employees quickly figure out that this kind gesture is just another gentle kick in the rear end, the classic external motivator.

N.B. My new book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in June 2017 as an e-book ($15.00) and a soft cover print-on-demand book, ($25.00). The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned, Béatrice Coron.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Friday Fable. Aesop’s “Fortune and The Boy”*

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

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Caption: Verse by W.J. Linton. Illustration by Walter Crane. 1887

“A Boy heedless slept by the well
By Dame Fortune awaked, truth to tell,
Said she, ‘Hadst been drowned,
'Twould have surely been found
This by Fortune, not Folly befel.’"

“FORTUNE IS NOT ANSWERABLE FOR OUR WANT OF FORESIGHT”
_______________________
It’s all too easy, is it not, to blame circumstance or others or the Ladies Luck and Fortune and their Sister Fate, than to consider what I may have done to bring about my misfortune.
How DID I get into this pickle?
And, on the other side of retrospection one should seek lessons on how to avoid misfortune in the future. What will I change? What will I do differently?

*Source: The Baby's Own Aesop (verse fables by W.J. Linton), 1887. Illustrations by Walter Crane. Available online at International Children's Digital Library.
Also, at Laura Gibbs index to fables.

N.B. My new book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in June 2017 as an e-book ($15.00) and a soft cover print-on-demand book, ($25.00). The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned, Béatrice Coron.
I hope to have prepublication information up soon on Amazon, Powell’s Books, Barnes & Noble and other purchasing venues.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

The Mouse’s Roar

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

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I’m planning a class exercise this spring around this photo.
My class is largely about democracy in the workplace and includes topics relevant to how one goes about achieving democratic ideals. The working assumption is that democratic ways achieve more than authoritarian or laissez-faire leadership.
Among the class topics are group development and the conditions required for taking a group from formation to performance.
Also, we look at, read about and discuss group dynamics and roles of followers and leaders in shaping a reluctant group into a highly effective team. We talk about types of power.
I’ll ask the class – in small groups - to tell me what they see in this picture.
Look at the details: the dutiful writing into little notebooks, the size of the table, the comic opera military hats, the leader’s location. What do you think is happening?
Where is the bowl of M&Ms?
How would you describe the atmosphere in this room? Formal, friendly, fearful, frightening?
Have you found yourself in a group like this? No, not in North Korea. What about the boss’ monthly meeting with department heads? What about in a one-on-one with a boss you fear and loath?
What did you do? Did you roar like a lion or did you squeak like a wee mousie?
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Did you keep your head down or did you look into the leader’s eyes?
Did you lower your pencil and ask for clarification?
I’ll let you know how this class exercise comes out.

_______________________
N.B. My new book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in June 2017 as an e-book and a soft cover print-on-demand book. The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned, Béatrice Coron.
I hope to have prepublication information up soon on Amazon, Powell’s Books and other purchasing venues.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Tuesday’s Tale. Krylov’s “THE CUCKOO AND THE EAGLE”*

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

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THE Eagle promoted a Cuckoo to the rank of a Nightingale. The Cuckoo, proud of its пеw position, seated itself proudly on an aspen, and began to exhibit its musical talents. After a time, it looks round. All the birds are flying away, some laughing at it, others abusing it. Our Cuckoo grows angry, and hastens to the Eagle with a complaint against the birds.
‘Have pity on me!’ it says. ‘According to your command, I have been appointed Nightingale to these woods, and yet the birds dare to laugh at my singing.’
‘My friend,’ answers the Eagle, ‘I am a king, but I am not God. It is impossible for me to remedy the cause of your complaint. I can order a Cuckoo to be styled a Nightingale; but to make a Nightingale out of a Cuckoo— that I cannot do.’”
____________________
How many of us wannabe Nightingales are fearful of being found a Cuckoo?
A study of 116 CEOs, revealed “their biggest fear is being found to be incompetent, also known as the “imposter syndrome.”
“The five top fears resulted in these dysfunctional behaviors: a lack of honest conversations, too much political game playing, silo thinking, lack of ownership and follow-through, and tolerating bad behaviors.” Sounds all too familiar.
What’s a poor Cuckoo to do?
The study’s author offers us ways to reduce such fears. These suggestions are well worth considering. (BTW, if you are alone in your executive group in wanting to address these fears, as I was once, you probably need to move elsewhere. Abandon ship and all hope. You cannot do worse by skedaddling).
1. Admit to being fearful and commit to building a strong organization.
2. Value and recruit for emotional intelligence.
3. Encourage executives to share personal stories about key moments in their lives.
Maybe you’ll never be a Nightingale, but you’ll be a lot less of a Cuckoo.

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

N.B. My new book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, will be out in June 2017 as
both an e-book and a soft cover print-on-demand book. The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned, Béatrice Coron.
I hope to have prepublication information up soon on Amazon and other purchasing venues.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Food Fight or Happy Meal?

Posted by jlubans on March 09, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Culinary Committee. Always watch out for the guy with the bâtard!

Food fight or teamwork? That’s the unanswered question in a recent BBC Business story,“Recipe for success: The growth of team-building cookery classes”.
According to the BBC, and confirmed by an e-multitude of global purveyors, culinary team building is the latest rage in out-of-office fun and games.
For sure, team cooking improves on walking on hot coals – Stop press! Let’s combine the two: scorched feet and Sauté of Crawfish Vol-au-Vent on the side!
Well, kidding aside, is this but an expensive ($125 per head) escape from one’s cubicle or does team cooking accomplish something more: improved communication, camaraderie, and group dynamics? The vendors aver it is so.
But, I suspect even the corporate kitchen adventures get their share of negative feedback. Perhaps less than that when office mates are forced “to race your boss around an assault course, or pass a beach ball to a colleague without using your hands” during a company away-day.
When I was offering team building adventures like my “Days in the Woods” series for work teams I learned a few important concepts. Always, make the event voluntary. And, secondarily, count on the most vehement criticism to come from those who do not attend.
By working with only those who want to be there the individual participant has the opportunity to learn about himself and herself and their colleagues. Those insights did extend back to the workplace and did make for improvements.
A third operating rule was that there had to be an open discussion about what happened and what personal effect it had on the individual and how that insight might apply to work. It was less the need for a skilled psychologist than asking the right questions to start exploring and applying. The more voluntary the event, the more honest, less guarded the discussion.
Sure, like recess, team cooking can be fun. But since it’s on the corporate dollar, is there substance to the claim that all this fun does result in a more bonded team?
Or is it really just an advanced version of sanctioned time off that results in yummies like “twice-baked cheese soufflés, roulade of chicken in a Madeira jus, and apple tartlets with a salted caramel sauce”?
The article asks but does not answer: “Would you tell your boss that his or her cooking skills weren't very good?” How about your office mate? How about yourself?
I would think a simple plus/delta, like I do with my Books to Eat teams in my Democratic Workplace class, or a modified AAR (After Action Review):
What was supposed to happen?
What actually happened?
Why were there differences?
would be a quick way to assess what was good and what could have been better in dealing with the heat of the kitchen. And for further exploration, it would be good to confirm if the “C factor” applies in team cooking. You will recall that
“C” is a predictor of group failure or success and includes three elements: participant emotional or social IQ; the number of engaged participants; and, interestingly, the number of women on the team.
Do the chef-leaders ask the teams to think about what they’ve just accomplished? Do they ask for some introspection on how each person contributed or did not contribute? What might the team have done better? If the “soufflé” fell, how to prevent that from happening the next time?
The article does not mention any kind of de-brief. So, once the goods are out of the oven, is the discussion only about pairing wines to the free eats?
Even then, with no attempt to assess team dynamics, the individual participant can do his/her own diagnosis. What would they do differently to be a better participant, a more effective team member? If one held back, why? If one felt left out, what might have changed that?

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Caption: Honest feedback.


N.B. My new book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, will be out in June 2017 as
both an e-book and a soft cover print-on-demand book. The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned, Béatrice Coron.
I hope to have prepublication information up soon on Amazon and other purchasing venues.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Friday Fable: Sir Roger L'Estrange (1692) Aesop’s “A MAN AND TWO WIVES

Posted by jlubans on March 03, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Sculpture: Margaret McAdams

“It was now Cuckow Time, and a certain middle-ag’d Man, that was half grey, half brown, took a fancy to marry two Wives, of an Age one under another, and happy was the Woman who could please him best. They took mighty Care of him to all manner of Purposes, and still as they were combing the good Man’s Head, they’d be picking out here and there a Hair to make it all of a Colour. The matronly Wife, she pluck’d out all the brown Hairs, and the younger the white: So that they left the Man in the Conclusion no better than a bald Buzzard betwixt them.”

“THE MORAL. ‘Tis a much harder Thing to please two Wives, than two Masters; and he’s a bold Man that offers at it.”

_______________________
Anyone who’s worked for two bosses might dispute Sir Roger’s claim. Indeed, having two masters might lead to the servant going bald from pulling his/hair out in frustration.
Another moralist, Joseph Jacobs, has it: “Yield to all and you will soon have nothing to yield.”

N.B. My new book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, will be out in June 2017 as
both an e-book and a soft cover print-on-demand book. The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned, Béatrice Coron.
I hope to have prepublication information up soon on Amazon and other purchasing venues.


© Copyright John Lubans 2017