Getting Noticed

Posted by jlubans on January 23, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Logos for the Ezis Press, publisher of Fables for Leaders.

As an indie publisher, I am challenged by how to get a book like Fables for Leaders noticed amidst the pandemonium of the book-selling universe.
I have written about other challenges for the indie publisher,
including “The Ezis Press: Indie Publisher” and “A Tale of Two Covers: Designing Fables for Leaders
Today’s Topic: What do readers encounter when looking up a book, either to buy or borrow?
At its founding, Amazon made vast improvements to our antiquated book distribution system. No quarrel there.
But, now, 20 years later, how is it doing? How is it doing especially as the world’s leading bookseller?
Enter forced serendipity.
You know serendipity.
It’s what happens when you are browsing for a book in the library stacks - maybe with the location number in hand – and you discover not only the book you want but also several others, unknown to you.
Sometimes those other books are better for your purposes than the one you were looking for. You’ve found something really good without knowing that you were looking for it.
That’s one of the happy notions behind open stack library browsing, serendipity.
Libraries facilitate this by classifying similar books close to each other.
At Amazon (and to some extent at Google) what appears near what you want may not be a happy coincidence but a paid-for placement.
Like in a grocery store, if a manufacturer wants the eye level shelf to display his ketchup, he’ll have to pay for it.
If you do not have the money, then settle for the bottom shelf.
Libraries - egalitarian bastions - do not do that even if they do appear to have a “problem” with books from indie publishers.
If libraries buy your book, they will treat you fair and square.
Your book won’t be elbowed out of the way by someone with a mega-marketing dollar.
For example, here’s what happens when I search for Fables for Leaders on Amazon.
I enter the search term, Fables for Leaders. Unlike a library online catalog, Amazon’s search results begin with a display of three unrelated books:
There’s “Develop the Leader Within You” with (sic) John Maxwell (grinning as he should having sold 25 million copies of his books).
And, there’s his:
“The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You (10th Anniversary Edition)”
And, there’s also his:
“The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork: Embrace Them and Empower Your Team”
OK. I get it. Mr. Maxwell has cornered the market on the word “leader” by paying Amazon in order to squat on top of all other books on the topic.
But, lo and behold, what happens next?
While I am thankful, grateful, happy, pleased, if not over-joyed to see my darling book cited, it is followed by other titles that may or may not be relevant to my search.
In other words my book, Fables for Leaders, is used as a marketing magnet for readers to eyeball several other books. There’s
“Leadership Fables Every Leader and Manager Should Read”,
and,
“Our Iceberg is Melting by John Kotter & Holger Rathgeber”
and, not to be missed: “Leadership Fables: The Frog, The Crab, and The Monkey.”
Yes, I know. Amazon is selling books. You get to use their platform, so play by their rules.
But, this does smack more than a bit like Google’s monetizing the world’s “Information Desk” (That’s what Google aspires to become, taking anywhere from a quarter to a third of the library’s market share).
Is it fair? Not particularly so in an era when “never have so many written so much to be read by so few for free,” we, the content providers.
Maybe it is time for Schools of Information Science to undertake research that explores the issues around the growing monopolization and shaping of information by Google, Facebook, and Amazon.
Specifically, what is the social cost when for-profits control search results and in some cases skew those results for profit motives
Similar to the “fake news” plague, someone other than the providers (Amazon, Google, Facebook, even Twitter) needs to be exploring what these marketing strategies and policies means for producers and consumers.
_________________
My book, Fables for Leaders, is mentioned in American Libraries by Karen Muller in "How We Lead.". Click here.

Fables for Leaders Library of the Week: Salem Public Library, OR, USA
Summary: "Short fables emphasizing the philosophical and ethical aspects of leadership."

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

Friday Fable. Hilaire Belloc’s “Algernon: Who played with a Loaded Gun, and, on missing his Sister was reprimanded by his Father.”*

Posted by jlubans on January 19, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: One of BT Blackwood’s Goreyesque renderings.

“Young Algernon, the Doctor's Son,
Was playing with a Loaded Gun.
He pointed it towards his Sister,
Aimed very carefully, but
Missed her!
His Father, who was standing near,
The Loud Explosion chanced to Hear,
And reprimanded Algernon
For playing with a Loaded Gun.”
____________
Of Belloc’s bad children, Algernon (what else would you expect from a kid with that name?) is the most menacing.
There’s the lachrymosing Lord Lundy, door-slamming Rebecca, lying Matilda, and of course, dirt-loving Franklin Hyde, but none compare to Algernon.
What of the father?
Grieving at the failed homicide, is he?
Or, is this a mere confusion brought on by the loud report?
Let’s hope the latter, not the former.

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Caption: Still curious.

*Source: “Cautionary Tales for Children” by Hilaire Belloc, illustrated by Basil Temple Blackwood, 1907.

My book, Fables for Leaders, is mentioned in American Libraries by Karen Muller in "How We Lead.". Click here.

Fables for Leaders Library of the Week: Salem Public Library, OR, USA
Summary: "Short fables emphasizing the philosophical and ethical aspects of leadership."

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

What Does Democracy Look Like?

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

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Caption: Vermont democracy; citizens voting. Photo by John Lubans

In ancient Greece (the source of our modern day democracy) there was a multi-day theater festival in which citizens (not experts) chose the prizewinners.
In Bradford, Vermont (depicted) democracy has been on display for centuries at the annual town meetings in which citizens vote on budget items.
A BBC report suggests that when Greek citizens voted for best play they did not choose the “… crudely populist (which) appeals to the lowest common denominator – simplistic, chauvinistic and jingoistic.”
No, much to the chagrin of no less than Plato, who derided the common man “as ignorant and fickle”, “citizens consistently rewarded productions that challenged them ideologically and excelled artistically.”
And, all across Vermont, citizens take their democracy seriously and make well-informed decisions.
So at least in these two examples we might say that governance by the many (of, for and by the people) is just as good if not better than governance by a few.
But let’s not carried away; there are flaws in any system, democratic or otherwise.
In Athens the comedies were often ribald even when presenting intellectually challenging ideas. One prizewinner, the anti-war “The Acharnians” (425 BCE) by Aristophanes featured plenty of bosoms and bottoms, along with a parade of a three-foot tall male member and two young women passing as sows under rather vulgar review.
The Acharnians won first prize, despite its “very tricky subject matter” and during a time when Athens was at war with Sparta.
In Vermont, participation by the citizenry is far from 100%. In some cases the town meeting has been abandoned for a city manager and city council model – in other words decision-making is turned over to a representative rather than retained by the individual citizen.
Pivoting on the pessimistic Plato, (aren’t most philosophers micro managers?) let’s turn to the democratic workplace.
The micro manager (the expert) is convinced that no decision can be made without his or her approval.
I had one who reviewed each employee’s decision – sort of like the office administrator who would re-read each typist’s letters prior to their being sent out.
I stopped that as quickly as I could but I doubt if the person every understood why I did so. She firmly believed she was doing quality control.
Of course the expert knew her job, but what she was doing was abrogating the employee’s right to learn, to derive satisfaction from a job well done.
And so it is always when one individual retains all the decision-making authority and denies it to others who are fully capable of making those decisions. I termed the condition: The “Letting Go” dilemma among middle managers.
Some could not let go. They were the experts; they got to make the decisions. They were paid to make decisions.
Not really, but they saw themselves as central and essential to any decision and excluded others.
Doing so, they denied varied perspectives, different viewpoints, imaginative or not – all at the expense of the organization and its service to customers.
Some never figured out that letting go was part of their job and that positive results would ensue.
Let the person doing the job take responsibility for the job; work with that person to improve what is done.
Allow the worker to “exercise influence” like the citizen judges did in ancient Athens.
Ask what they think, and how would they change what they do.
This is not weakness; this is strength in your having the courage to let someone else in on the decision-making.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

Friday Fable. Phaedrus’ “THE SAPIENT ASS”*

Posted by jlubans on January 12, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Loaded donkey, Jurriaan Cootwijck, 1724 - 1798

“In all the changes of a state,
The poor are the most fortunate,

Who, save the name of him they call
Their king, can find no odds at all.
The truth of this you now may read—
A fearful old man in a mead, (meadow)
While leading of his Ass about,
Was startled at the sudden shout
Of enemies approaching nigh.
He then advised the Ass to fly,
‘Lest we be taken in the place:’
But loth at all to mend his pace,
‘Pray, will the conqueror,’ quoth Jack (the Ass),
‘With double panniers** load my back?’
‘No,’ says the man. ‘If that’s the thing,’
Cries he (the Ass), ‘I care not who is king.’”
_____________
It was important for me - as sapient as any ass - to learn from the staff that worked for my “direct reports”.
To that end, I visited each department and talked with the staff, not just the super.
My doing so was considered unusual and some did not know how to take this “reaching out”.
I explained I wanted to know what they were thinking about their work, what was on their minds and whether they had suggestions for improvement.
Some used my visits to complain about the air conditioning and parking, etc. Like Jack the Ass, they saw my visits as window dressing which would make no difference in work conditions (“I care not who is king.”)
A few saw my being there for what it was: a chance to let an administrator know about some observed deficiency or work flow impasse, like having to share computer terminals.
While I could do little about climate control and parking, I could do something about streamlining work flow.
When I convened a monthly meeting of support staff, the same dynamics came into play. Some had nothing to offer – either they had no ideas or were suspicious of my motives. It made no difference who was in charge; their burden would remain the same.
Others, unlike our Jack, saw a way to lighten their load.
Ideas from the people doing the work raised our productivity to unprecedented heights.

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Caption: Bust of Phaedrus, born in Macedonia, 15 BC, died in Italy, 50 AD.

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

** Laura Gibbs, in her translation, uses the term “pack saddle” not “panniers”. Double panniers are common (one pannier on each side of a saddle). In other words, regardless of master, the donkey’s burden (one saddle) will remain the same.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

“As happy as a dog with two tails.”

Posted by jlubans on January 09, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Bowie and his brother of Major Tom were our two back dogs (the dogs in the back are as important as the dogs in the front).

On my first ever dog sled ride, I got to see first hand, the impressive teamwork of 8 dogs pulling a sled with a couple of humans (my wife and I) inside, along with a “musher” at the back, several hundred pounds. All this one cloudy morning at Mt. Bachelor outside of Bend, OR.
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Caption. Waiting not so patiently.

The enthusiasm begins at the top of the hill, where about 30-40 dogs are lined up for scheduled runs this morning.
As soon as the mushers start making up teams the howling, barking, baying, tail wagging begins. “Pick me”, “Choose me”, “I want to go”, “Don’t forget me!” is what I hear in the din.
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Caption: On the run.

Once a team is selected (lots of experienced judgements enter the selection!) and harnessed in, the dogs begin to pull at the sled. “Let’s go, let’s go”. And with a stirring yell from Rafael, our musher, we’re off!
Flying down the hill, no slack in the harness, snow chips streaming back. The musher brakes the sled to not let it overtake the dogs, but all that energy is not going to let that happen.
When we take periodic rests on the uphill, the dogs munch on snow, and within seconds are straining at the harness, barking as fresh as they were at the top of the ride. And with the musher’s yell, we’re off.
I’ve been part of a few teams with this kind of enthusiasm, but only a few. Remarkable teamwork, a wide diversity of dogs, all from ancient bloodlines of sled pullers. Like we humans gain insights from ants and honeybees, these dogs have much to teach us:
Love What you Do
Do it with Gusto
Display and Return affection
Respect Others
Help Others

___________________
"American Libraries" magazine's positive review of Fables for Leaders just came out in print and in electronic versions. Read the e-version here.
Unreservedly recommended!
">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.”

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

Friday Fable. Caxton’s “The Wicked Thief and the Sun”*

Posted by jlubans on January 05, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Illustration from the Steinhowel Aesop, 1501.

Of the theef and of the sonne
No man is chaunged by nature but of an euyll man maye wel yssue and come a wers than hym self /
wherof Esope telleth suche a fable /
A theef held the feest of his weddynge /
And his neyghbours came there as the fest was holden and worshipped and bare honour to the theef /
And as a wyse man sawe that the neyghbours of this theef were ioyeful and glad /
he sayd to them /
ye make Ioye & gladness of that /
wherof ye shold wepe / take hede thenne to my wordes and vnderstond your Ioye /
The sonne wold ones be maryed /
But alle the Nacions of the world were ageynst hym /
& prayd Iupiter that he shold kepe the sonne fro weddyng /
& Iupiter demaunded of them the cause why they wolde not haue hym to be wedded /
the one of them said /
Iupiter thou knowest wel /
how ther is but one sonne & yet he brenneth vs al /
& yf he be maryed & haue ony children /
they shal destroye al kynde /
And this fable techeth vs that we ought not to be reioysshed of euyll felauship

_________________
The fable warns against a thief marrying and producing a gang of thieves as in “an euyll man maye wel yssue and come a wers than hym self”.
And so it can be in the workplace, when you keep adding like-minded thinkers to an already like-minded group.
That’s what happens when we recruit only those who are like us, not just in looks, but more importantly in philosophy or in worldviews.
I call it the tyranny of the like-minded.
Anyone other-minded faces a strong head wind when promoting his/her ideas to a room full of the opposition.
So, it is no small task for a good leader to bring in and back up people who question the status quo, who do not accept what is given nor what is assumed to be the best it can be or, worse, “good enough” by the majority.

*Source. The fables of Aesop, as first printed by William Caxton in 1484, with those of Avian, Alfonso and Poggio, now again edited and induced by Joseph Jacobs. London:1889
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England’s first printer, the illustrious Mr. Caxton, lived from 1422-1492.

___________________
"American Libraries" magazine's positive review of Fables for Leaders just came out in print and in electronic versions. Read the e-version here.
Unreservedly recommended!
href="http://www.midwestbookreview.com/sbw/dec_17.htm#rc">“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.”

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

A Year of (Lame) Apology

Posted by jlubans on January 02, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: In Latvia, burning last year's "sins" is a Winter’s Solstice tradition.

A dark and stormy night found me at my daughter’s farm in the Willamette Valley of Oregon for the second annual “You’ll drink, Yule pull”.
Across the fields and through the woods we went, pulling blocks of wood towards a roaring bon fire.
The Winter Solstice was the reason.
Latvia’s “Bluķa vilkšana” (log pull) has ties to fertility rites (the log is male the earth is female), links to the agrarian calendar, and links to Christmas in that the bon fire, for some, is the first light for Christmas. That meaning was added after the 1200 AD Christianization of Latvian pagans.
Each person’s log represents an aggregation of all the bad stuff done in the previous months; transgressions, mistakes, the “wouldas, couldas, and shouldas” of one’s existence.
Once in the bon fire you’re clean for another year. Can you feel the load lightening? Well you should unless you are holding something back!
In any case it is a way to turn the blotted page and to start anew.
But, by now you may be sputtering,
“What’s your point?”
2017 has been a year of apology among the so-called elite, our special people.
But apologies ain’t what they used to be.
For one thing, they are now made in public often on social media for anyone and everyone to see.
If one’s admission of doin’ wrong is done wrong a furious backlash awaits, again on social media.
This public admission is kind of like what goes on - I am told - in mountain villages in Guatemala in which the Mayan inhabitants gather and confess publicly the bad things they’ve done in the previous year.
But, I assume the Mayans are not about parsing individual confessions and going on and on about how sorry they are just in case anyone was offended. The Mayan point is to fess up and hope to do better next year.
Let’s begin with an oldie, a song title: “Don’t pay the ransom, honey; I’ve escaped!
Not exactly an apology but rather an anticipation of one soon to come! Better have something ready.
More recently, here are some not so classic apologies from the with-it crowd:
“This is not who I am.”
In other words, an alien being snatched my body and groped dozens of people; a variation on “the Devil made me do it.”
“He - the groper/rapist/molester - is not the person I know.”
Even molesters have friends, especially if they are economically linked. The attempt to aid and abet, supports the alien body snatcher notion, yet, in reality, qualifies the “friend” as an enabler and a co-conspirator.
"Moving forward."
One of the must have phrases inserted by damage control experts in celebrity apologies: In other words, “OK I did it, let’s move on.” Forgive and forget. The perp is starting the forgiveness clock. It’s not his to start.
It “Was not my intention to disrespect women today on the podium. Just a joke, sorry if someone was disturbed about it.”
This twitter comes from a male participant in a panel on sexual assault who grabbed, publically, a female panelist’s backside.
What a guy! He’s saying in effect, “You are such sorry losers for not getting my subtle humor.”
Of course, the perp’s time stamping his apology (“today”) suggests our apologizer dreams only of tomorrow back in the office elevator with that perky intern.
“I apologize to all those I may have offended.”
An all purpose apology for the guy who believes that he is only doing what many of his victims want him to do; everything he does to others is tacitly consensual.
And, besides if you were offended, it is your problem not mine, since my mother tells me I am an otherwise super dude!
The implicit “Not my bad” echoes the biblical: “If thy eye offend thee, pluck it out!”
Similarly, “I Am Sorry You Were Offended”.
Do you see the supposedly clever shift of blame from the grabber to the grabee?
Well, moving forward ….
___________________
"American Libraries" magazine's positive review of Fables for Leaders just came out in print and in electronic versions. Read the e-version here. In the print issue (Jan/Feb 2018) you can read it on p. 66. See my blog entry December 29 for quotes from Karen Muller's review.

REAL NEWS:
More praise for Fables for Leaders:
“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.”

© Copyright John Lubans 2017