Krylov’s THE LEAVES AND THE ROOTS*

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

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ON a beautiful summer day the Leaves of a tree whispered softly to the breezes; and as the shadows fell across the valley this was what they were saying, boasting of their luxuriant abundance:
"Is it not a fact that we are the pride of the whole valley?
Is it not due to us that this tree is so vigorous and wide-spreading, so stately and majestic?
What would it be without us?
Yes, indeed, we may well praise ourselves without vanity!
Do we not, by our cool shade, protect the shepherd and the traveller from the noonday heat?
Do we not, by our beauty, attract the shepherdess to come and dance here?
And from among us, both morning and evening, the nightingale sings; while as for you, gentle breezes, you hardly ever desert us."
"You might spare just a word of thanks to us," interrupted a faint voice from under ground.
"Who is it that has the audacity to call us to account?
Who are you who are talking down there beneath the grass?" the leaves retorted pertly, tossing disdainfully on the tree.
"We are they," came the reply from far down below, "who burrow here in the darkness to provide you with food.
Is it possible that you do not know us?
We are the Roots of the tree on which you flourish.
Go on rejoicing in your beauty!
But remember there is this difference between us that with every autumn the old Leaves die, and with every spring new Leaves are born; but if the Roots once perish neither you nor the tree can live at all."
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As Krylov would have it, those of us on display – like the first leaves and blossoms of spring time – sometimes forget our “roots”.
Our amnesia may apply to former colleagues who gave us a hand up (we, of course, deserved it), or if we are leaders, the countless followers who did most of the work (it was, of course, our wise leadership that made things happen). Or, if we are an organization riding a wave of success, we should not forget the early days and predecessors when failure was just around the corner.
So, let’s hope the myopic leaves heed the wise words of the roots and be thankful for their days in the sun.

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

Posted by jlubans on July 14, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Perfect weather for Introverts. Illustration by Anete Konste and Reinis Pētersons, 2018.

A cartoon promotion about “I” (an Introverted Author from Latvia) at the London Book Fair got the attention of the BBC.
Christine Ro’s story builds on the “I” cartoons and posits that Latvia, while a serene kind of place, is a land of introverts with “a personality type that gets overstimulated easily and prefers solitude, quiet and reflection.”
Since I was born there and have lived and taught there for many months each year since 2010 I know a little about the people.
She’s right more than wrong, and I could go on about why but read her article for some interesting ideas on how Latvians got the way they are.
Do bear in mind all the Scandinavian and Baltic countries have similar taciturn tendencies, certainly far more than the Mediterranean countries.
But, I digress; what I found tantalizing was the notion that somehow Latvians are introverts because they are more creative than other peoples.
In other words, Ms. Ro implies introversion may “cause” creativity.
Indeed, it is but a skip and a jump to declare there’s a “link between creativity and a preference for solitude.”
Or is it the other way around?
You can see this is becoming circular so I will desist.
But before I do, here’s an interesting quote from the BBC article: “Latvian psychologists have suggested that creativity is important to Latvian self-identity.”
If that means what I think it means, then a search for solitude goes hand in hand with innovation.
I’d venture to say that introverts or extroverts are neither fully one nor the other. We are always a combination of the two; some of us with a bias toward introversion and others toward extroversion. Some of us may even slide along the continuum, situationally.
It is no easier for an introvert to be with people than it is for an extrovert to be left alone.
Getting back to the world of work, if creativity is something we desire in our workers, perhaps we should be looking for people with strong indications of introversion.
No, I am not suggesting the use of Myers-Briggs testing. The results, like signs of the zodiac, may make for perky party chatter (boring or not, depending on your MB score) but are not based on quantitative science. Tarot cards may get better results.
Anyway, I see myself in the “I” cartoons.
Extroversion just might be overrated. It all reminds me of what PG Wodehouse observed when invited to sit in with the scintillating and gregarious founding members of New York’s daily Algonquin Round Table.
“When do they work?”
Another writer, Anita Loos, echoed the same while demurring.
That’s the implied downside of extroversion.
One produces less because four hours of back and forth with one’s chums is not the equivalent of four hours solo at a typewriter.
Presumably, extroverts eschew solitude. One study, cited by Ro, had participants who chose electric shocks over being left alone in a room for 15 minutes!
If introverts are more creative than extroverts perhaps we need more of them in decision making.
So, as a gregarious leader, remember why some of the best answers toward a solution will come from your quietest staff. Introverts take time to reflect; extroverts may do less of it and, when asked to do so, find it bothersome saying, “Let’s move on!”
Don’t deny introverts the solitude to get their job done. Don’t force them onto committees for group work.
Accept what might be regarded – in a gregarious society – as anti-social behavior. It isn’t; it is the introvert’s way of working and coming up with solutions.
Don’t expect an introvert to lead or want any part of the latest office Karaoke outing.
Interestingly, outdoor team building sessions that include solo time and reflection may fly with the introverted set, but please no group hugs.
Of course, the extrovert may bring his or her smart phone along for any “down time” so find a venue off the grid.
In any case, as the leader, encourage and protect the quiet few. You won’t regret it.
PS. On my "To Read" list: “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking”
It's by Susan Cain and came out in 2013.
PPS. Christine Ro offers more insights on the introversion—creativity link in her February 2018 article: “Why being a loner may be good for your
health.


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© Copyright John Lubans 2018

Krylov’s THE SQUIRREL AND THE THRUSH*

Posted by jlubans on July 03, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

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ON a certain holiday a big crowd had gathered in front of the window of a rich man's home, and stared with open-mouthed wonder at a Squirrel running in the revolving wheel of its cage.
A Thrush, perched on a branch of a neighbouring tree, also wondered.
The Squirrel ran so fast that his feet seemed to twinkle, and his bushy tail spread itself straight out behind him.
"Dear old friend of my native woods," said the Thrush, "will you please tell me what on earth you are doing?"
"My dear fellow," replied the Squirrel, "I can hardly stop to talk, for I have to work hard all day. I am, in fact, the courier of a great nobleman, so that I can hardly stop to eat or drink or even to take breath."
And immediately the Squirrel began again, running faster than ever in its wheel.
"Yes," said the Thrush, as he flew away, "I can see plainly enough that you are running. But for all that, you are always there at the same window."
There are many busy-bodies in the world, always worrying, always rushing back and forth; every one wonders at them. They seem ready to jump out of their own skins; but in spite of it all, they make no more progress than does the Squirrel in his wheel.
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Do you find yourself, from time to time, very busy doing unproductive work, running in circles?
Some of us recognize it and, unlike the squirrel, get off the revolving wheel.
In my field of work, one measure of a person’s effectiveness was the number of daily meetings attended. The more attended, the more “productive” the person.
But, even the most frequent meeting-goer would eventually stop and wonder about results. Are we doing better because of meetings, or are we revisiting the same issues without resolution?
Alas, instead of banning meetings, we’d tinker with the concept: focus the agenda, narrow down the participants, improve the documentation, etc. In other words, a better exercise wheel.
What dreadful things would happen if we eliminated meetings?

*Source: Krilof and his fables, by Krylov, Ivan Andreevich, 1768-1844; Ralston, William Ralston Shedden, 1828-1889. Tr. London, 1869.
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There are more interesting ideas in Lubans’ book “Fables for Leaders” at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018