Krylov’s THE SHEEP'S PETITION*

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

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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.
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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.
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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:


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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)

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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.
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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.
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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.
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© Copyright John Lubans 2018

Ambassadors for Government

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

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

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

Phaedrus’ THE BEES AND THE DRONES*

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

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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.

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Solomon-like,
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.

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