Friday Fable. Abstemius’ “The Lion and His Battle Array”*

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

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Caption: Illustration de Grandville (1870) Note the lizard on the lion’s helmet.

“The lion, king of the beasts, about to go to war with the birds, arranged his followers in a battle array.
When asked by the bear how the sluggishness of the donkey or the timidity of the rabbit could bring victory, when he saw them in the midst of the other soldiers, the lion answered:
‘The donkey will rouse the soldiers to fight with the blaring noise of his trumpet, while the rabbit will carry out the duties of a courier because of the swiftness of his feet.’
The fable shows that no one is so contemptible that he cannot benefit us in some way or other.”

_________________
Fables are impractical! Sugared pabulum for kids!
If you still think that after hearing the lion's wisdom on using existing resources, then here’s a bit more clarification from La Fontaine:
“A monarch provident and wise
Will hold his subjects all of consequence,
And know in each what talent lies.
There's nothing useless to a man of sense.”**
The “provident and wise” leader “know(s) in each (subject) what talent lies”.
The leader’s job (among several others) is to ascertain and then develop proactively that talent for the good of the organization.
How then to apply this to a traditional organization, one in which the leader inherits existing hires?
Some may appear not to be worth much. So, what to do? Weed or figure out new roles?
Weeding is easy. Far more difficult is thinking out how best to use the seemingly redundant or the passed over.

*Source: Abstemius, ca.1440-1508. Translated by Laura Gibbs.

** Source: THE FABLES OF LA FONTAINE Translated From The French by Elizur Wright. [original place and date: Boston, U.S.A., 1841.] A New Edition, with Notes by J. W. M. Gibbs,1882. Available at Gutenberg.

Fables for Leaders arrives just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas, a beautiful gift in appreciation of the best leader you know; even better for your worst leader – shove it under the door!
Or, get it for anyone learning what it means to lead or to follow.
Is there anyone I’ve left out?
And, of course, this book of fables – the underpinnings of the world’s literature - is a “natural” for every library, our cultural bastions.

Fables for Leaders, with original illustrations by Béatrice Coron and designed by ALISE ŠNĒBAHA, launched September 30, 2017 ($26.99).
Ezis Press
ISBN: 978-0-692-90955-3
LCCN: 2017908783
Amazon
BOOKBABY’s BOOKSHOP! The BookBaby listing features a “See Inside” the book.
BARNES & NOBLE!

© Copyright 2017 John Lubans

Not “Bound in Limp Purple Leather”

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

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Caption: An out-take.

You can’t judge a book by its cover, they say, but in the case of “Fables for Leaders” you can; it gets better and better on the inside!
What brag, you might be thinking!
Not really, since my assessment is less about my writing and more about Sheryl Anspaugh’s editing of the manuscript into its seven management topics, Béatrice Coron’s captivating illustrations and Alise Šnēbaha’s creative design.
What I wanted, after publishing dozens and dozens of grey scholarly books and articles, was a beautiful book, an objet d'art. This blog’s Friday Fables* became a means to achieving that long-held desire.
What’s a beautiful book? No, it’s not the Wodehousian “slim volume of poetry bound in limp purple leather”.
Obviously, the book has to have solid content. Literary fabulists like La Fontaine, Aesop, Sir Roger L'Estrange, and Krylov provide that. My commentary - my musings about leadership in the workplace - builds on, embellishes and enlarges their meaning.
I could have done that without a single illustration and it would have looked just like any other of my books.
A friend from long ago told me he could tell by the “heft” of a book if it was any good. Perhaps an outrageous claim, especially from a distinguished scholar and bibliophile as my friend was, yet I knew exactly what he meant; the book in hand has to feel right.
A beautiful book is one that delights the eye and mind through illustration, typeface, quality of the paper and ink and color, with a cohesive, imaginative design that makes every page unique yet integrated from cover to cover.
Each page has to have freshness and purpose, as in the turning over of a new leaf.
Béatrice’s cat and mouse illustration - at the top - did not make the cut, at least not as a stand-alone illustration. I got a bit squeamish about this depiction of friendship lost. Cat and Mouse, the 75-word fable was already sad enough.
________________________
Fables for Leaders arrives just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas, a perfect gift in appreciation of the best leader you know; even better for your worst leader – shove it under the door.
Or, get it for anyone learning what it means to lead or to follow.
Is there anyone I’ve left out?
And, of course, this book of fables – the underpinnings of the world’s literature - is a “natural” for every library, those bastions of human culture.

Fables for Leaders, with original illustrations by Béatrice Coron and designed by ALISE ŠNĒBAHA, launched September 30, 2017 ($26.99).
Ezis Press
ISBN: 978-0-692-90955-3
LCCN: 2017908783
Amazon
BOOKBABY’s BOOKSHOP!
BARNES & NOBLE!

*The Friday Fable, a feature of this blog since 2010 is the source for the book. Each Friday I share a fable and make observations on how this little bit of literature applies to leadership, that composite of leader and follower.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Friday Fable. “THE HARE AND THE TORTOISE”*

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

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Caption: In Need of No-Doz. (Illus. by Harrison Weir, 1871).

“A HARE one day made himself merry over the slow pace of the Tortoise, vainly boasting of his own great speed in running.
The Tortoise took the laughing and boasting in good part. ‘Let us try a race,’ she said; ‘I will run with you five miles for five dollars, and the Fox out yonder shall be the judge.”
The Hare agreed, a course was arranged, and away they started together. True to his boasting the Hare was out of sight in a moment.
The Tortoise never for a moment stopped, but jogged along with a slow, steady pace, straight to the end of the course. Full of sport, the Hare first outran the Tortoise, then fell behind. Having come midway to the goal, he began to nibble at the young herbage, and to amuse himself in many ways. After a while, the day being warm, he lay down for a nap, saying: ‘She is behind me now. If she should go by, I can easily enough catch up.’
When the Hare awoke, the Tortoise was not in sight; and running as fast as he could, he found her comfortably dozing at their their goal.

Those who are very quick are apt to be too sure. Slow and steady often wins the race”

_____________________
Probably among the two or three best known of Aesop’s fables, is there any more to be said beyond the obvious?
Of course. There’s always more with Aesop. All it takes is re-thinking the fable’s meaning. I’ll show you:
The turtle wins less for being slow and steady than for the hare’s over confidence (and considerable smuggery). IOW, the hare is his own worst enemy.
And, so it can be at work.
Studies have shown it is not always the loudest, the smartest, the fittest, or the strongest in a group that holds the key to a knotty problem. Time and again, I have seen the quietest group member, or someone of average intelligence, or the physically weakest member offer the best idea for solving a problem.
Often, it is the person with the highest EQ (emotional intelligence) that facilitates the best decision-making. That’s because of his or her capacity to work with others and to get others thinking.
A trickster or Team Turtle version of this fable has the turtle winning not because of the rabbit’s laziness, but because of turn taking by different turtles. No matter how hard the hare dashed, there was always turtle in front, a la Rosie Ruiz.**

*Source: J. H. Stickney. “Aesop's Fables / A Version for Young Readers.” Æsop’s Fables: A Version for Young Readers
Illustrated by Charles Livingston Bull
New York: Ginn and Company 1915
Available at Gutenberg e-books

**Rosie Ruiz won the 1980 Boston Marathon in record time. Shortly after she was exposed as having run only the last mile. Her secret to winning: “Don’t run the whole thing.”
Maybe Rosie read the alternate version of the turtle/hare fable, the one with the turn taking turtles.

Fables for Leaders, with original illustrations by Béatrice Coron and designed by ALISE ŠNĒBAHA, launched September 30, 2017 ($26.99).
Ezis Press
ISBN: 978-0-692-90955-3
LCCN: 2017908783
ORDER NOW at BOOKBABY’s BOOKSHOP!
BARNES & NOBLE!
Or, Amazon

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Best Practice Meetings

Posted by jlubans on October 10, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Drilling down, as they say, into an anthropological study of business meetings, I found a few takeaways, ones I could have used when I was chairing and taking part in the many meetings of my lengthy career.
Meetings would not score well on Yelp. Maybe a 1.5 out of 5. Almost as bad as long distance movers whose sins are the stuff of customer disservice legend.
Sure, there are those 10% of meetings that click; something gets done!
One professional association – of which I was a very busy member – could only meet in certain cities. Why? Not enough meeting rooms. While many cities had beds for 10,000 or more conventioneers, my association required thousands of meetings rooms.
Was this good? Well, if the meetings got anything done it could be very good. But, having sat through hundreds I can assure you little got done. I suppose people felt busy and that has some rewards in itself, but busy-ness is not always correlated with productivity. Indeed, it may work in reverse – the more busy, the less done.
Again, my 10% rule applied, when the stars aligned, things clicked and decisions were made; new ideas were born and supported. The other 90% were in dire need of the oxygen masks in the cartoon.
You know you are in trouble when there are groups charged with meeting about meetings, as there were in my association.
Here’s how-to-improve meetings from an anthropological perspective:
1. Hold accountable everyone at the meeting. What does this mean? Be prepared. Even in a “culture of collaboration” the individual cannot dodge the responsibility to be informed (IOW, read the background) and to have thought through matters relevant to the purpose of the meeting.
A sure sign of in-effectiveness is the desire to hear all sides of the problem. Quantity of information does not trump quality of information.
2. Empower the leader. Make known who will decide on meeting outcomes. Make clear that decisions are indeed expected – this is not a discussion group. Avoid situations where “guests” hijack the meeting and “force the team into a spiral of blackness.”
Other basic recommendations from the anthropologist’s analysis:
1. Ensure that all meeting invites include basic information. That’s so “that people have the tools they need to come prepared. If people are not prepared, ask them.”
2. “Invite participants, not spectators. And don't be afraid to ask people to leave if they weren't invited.”
3. “Create spaces that are conducive to meetings, this includes stand-up tables and clocks for meeting rooms. Not every meeting requires a giant table: giving smaller groups the flexibility to huddle can help move projects along.”
4. Schedule shorter meetings. “If a status (sic) can occur in 15 minutes, you really don't need 30 minutes just so folks can chat about The Walking Dead.”
5. “Call an audible when the meeting is over. Despite what we believe, we are terrible multitaskers.
When the meeting has completed its objectives, it's over. Send participants away.”
The anthropologist gives us much to think about and much to take action on.
No, there is no reason to meet on this!
___________________
Fables for Leaders, with original illustrations by Béatrice Coron and designed by ALISE ŠNĒBAHA, launched September 30, 2017 ($26.99).
Ezis Press
ISBN: 978-0-692-90955-3
LCCN: 2017908783
ORDER NOW at BOOKBABY’s BOOKSHOP!
BARNES & NOBLE!
Or, Amazon

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Friday Fable. Faernus’ “THE MILLER, HIS SON AND THEIR ASS”*

Posted by jlubans on October 06, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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“A MILLER and his Son were driving their Ass to a neighbouring fair to sell him. They had not gone far when they met with a troop of girls returning from the town, talking and laughing.
“Look there!" cried one of them, "did you ever see such fools, to be trudging along the road on foot, when they might be riding!"
The old Man, hearing this, quietly bade his Son get on the Ass, and walked along merrily by the side of him. Presently they came up to a group of old men in earnest debate.
"There!" said one of them, "it proves what I was a-saying. What respect is shown to old age in these days? Do you see that idle young rogue riding, while his old father has to walk?—
Get down, you scapegrace! and let the old Man rest his weary limbs."
Upon this the Father made his Son dismount, and got up himself. In this manner they had not proceeded far when they met a company of women and children.
"Why, you lazy old fellow!" cried several tongues at once, "how can you ride upon the beast, while that poor little lad can hardly keep pace by the side of you.
The good-natured Miller stood corrected, and immediately took up his Son behind him. They had now almost reached the town. "Pray, honest friend," said a townsman, "is that Ass your own?"
"Yes," says the old Man. "0! One would not have thought so," said the other, "by the way you load him. Why, you two fellows are better able to carry the poor beast than he you!"
"Anything to please you," said the old Man; "we can but try." So, alighting with his Son, they tied the Ass's legs together, and by the help of a pole endeavoured to carry him on their shoulders over a bridge that led to the town. This was so entertaining a sight that the people ran out in crowds to laugh at it; till the Ass, not liking the noise nor his situation, kicked asunder the cords that bound him, and, tumbling off the pole, fell into the river.
Upon this the old Man, vexed and ashamed, made the best of his way home again—convinced that by endeavouring to please everybody he had pleased nobody, and lost his Ass into the bargain.”
________________
And so it can be in the office, when we find ourselves caught between factions and too willing to go along to get along.
A workmate of mine would agree to a mutual decision with me and then, encountering resistance he would backtrack.
This happened regularly and it led to an unhappy workplace relationship, and to a perceived weak leadership. “By endeavouring to please everybody he had pleased nobody.”
I suppose it came down to a lack of self-confidence on his part. Of course, as any workplace expert would advise, I should have had a frank talk with him; instead I avoided the unpleasantness and doing so make me complicit in this imbroglio.

*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.
Faernus, an Italian poet, (Gabriele Faerno) was born in 1510 and died in 1561.

Fables for Leaders, with original illustrations by Béatrice Coron and designed by ALISE ŠNĒBAHA, launched September 30, 2017 ($26.99).
Ezis Press
ISBN: 978-0-692-90955-3
LCCN: 2017908783
ORDER NOW at BOOKBABY’s BOOKSHOP!
BARNES & NOBLE!
Or, Amazon

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

“Bossholes” and Other Dour Denizens

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

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Caption: Homer’s Mr. Burns.

Jena McGregor’s “A field guide to jerks at work”
reminded me of the “No Dickheads”* rule enforced within New Zealand’s phenomenal All Blacks rugby team:
“If you are a jerk you won’t play for the All Blacks. A jerk would undercut the Maori concept of whānau or the “extended family” of the team. There's a Maori saying that sums up the meaning of the whānau for the individual in a team: ‘My strength does not come from my individuality, my strength comes from many.’…
‘The All Blacks select on character as well as talent, which means some of New Zealand's most promising players never pull on the black jersey …, their inclusion would be detrimental to the whanau.’”
Commenting on Robert Sutton’s new book, “The A--hole Survival Guide”, McGregor adds a few more categories to the jerk genus. There’s the:
The lone "bosshole"
The powerful bully
The clueless jerk
The petty tyrant, and to balance things out,
The overbearing client.
There’s a magnetic quality to the word “jerk”. We all know one or more. Indeed, we may catch a glimpse of one each morning in the bathroom mirror!
If you take umbrage at that, listen to Sutton’s mantra: be “slow to label other people as a--holes and fast to label yourself one.” Some of us may well be clueless when it comes to our own jerkitude quotient (JQ).
While I have to agree that talking about jerks is more fun than talking about hair products, the discussion weakens – as it always does with intractable problems - when we get into the “What can I do about it?” part. McGregor mentions several options:
Placate?
Go to HR?
Turn the other cheek?
Quit?
Partner with positive “stars”?
Hide?
Get even?
Have a “heart-to-heart” with the jerk?
Make yourself indispensable to the jerk?
I’ve worked for and with jerks. (And, sometimes I’ve been the jerk. Fortunately, I had co-workers and subordinates who were unafraid to confront jerkiness!)
On the other hand, when I was being jerked around I probably went through all of the listed options.
Frankly, when a toxic jerk boss – the ultimate bosshole - has it in for you, the best strategy is to leave, the sooner the better.
“But I don’t want to leave,” you wail.
Well, the worm might turn but what if it does not?
As for karma kicking in, I’m still waiting.

*Oxford Dictionaries’ definition of dickhead, noun, vulgar slang: “A stupid, irritating, or ridiculous person, particularly a man.” In other words, a jerk.
_______________
Praise for Fables for Leaders from Laura Gibbs writing in her Bestiara Latina Blog:
“I have a fun announcement today! It's a beautifully illustrated Aesop book with fables and thoughts from John Lubans, plus gorgeous illustrations by Beatrice Coron: Fables for Leaders”.
Laura is the author of Aesop's Fables, one of the books in the renowned Oxford World's Classics
Her Aesop was the first I bought and consulted when I began the Friday Fables series in 2010. I use her book often and recommend it highly as a splendid and erudite collection of fables and classical commentary.
Fables for Leaders, with original illustrations by Béatrice Coron and designed by ALISE ŠNĒBAHA, launched September 30, 2017 ($26.99).
Ezis Press
ISBN: 978-0-692-90955-3
LCCN: 2017908783
ORDER NOW at BOOKBABY’s BOOKSHOP!
BARNES & NOBLE!
Or, Amazon

© Copyright John Lubans 2017