Caxton's Of the Tree and of the Reed*

Posted by jlubans on August 29, 2019  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Illustration by Heinrich Steinhöwel, circa 1477/78.

None ought to be prowd ageynst his lord / but oughte to humble hym self toward hym /
As this fable reherceth to vs of a grete tre / whiche wold neuer bowe hym for none wynd /
And a reed whiche was at his foote bowed hym self as moche as the wynd wold / And the tree sayd to hym / why dost thow not abyde stylle as I doo /
And the reed ansuerd / I haue not the myght whiche thow hast /
And the tree sayd to the reed prowdly /
than haue I more strengthe / than thow / And anone after came a grete wynde /
whiche threw doune to the ground the sayd grete tree /
and the reed abode in his owne beynge /
For the prowde shall be allwey humbled And the meke and humble shalle be enhaunced /
For the roote of alle vertue is obedyence and humylyte
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For the feudal Mr. Caxton
– his use of the lower case "l" makes clear this is not about the Deity - this fable’s meaning was clear: you get to a virtuous state by obedience and humility to your leader.
But, are there not points when a bad leader should be disobeyed? How then are we to behave?
Too often we accommodate and that’s why many bad leaders get to stay on and on and on.
Eventually, their pride trips them up and they fall on their face. But, the inner circle’s failure to speak up means the bad leader continues. Russia's Khrushchev, it is said, in answering a written anonymous question from a group of journalists, about his obeisance to Stalin demanded, in a loud and menacing voice: “Who wrote that?” “Who asked this question?”
Silence.
A few moments later, he explained, “That’s what I did” (whenever Stalin gave orders with which he totally disagreed).

*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
20180105-caxton_pic.jpg
England’s first printer, the illustrious Mr. Caxton, lived from 1422-1492.


© Copyright John Lubans 2019

Getting to Great

Posted by jlubans on August 26, 2019  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption. NOT Group-think: Collective Intelligence

There’s more being said about “Factor C” or Collective Intelligence, that so-called secret recipe for successful teams.
A BBC story, “The science of creating a dream team
delves into “C” theory and comes up with the latest research and some highly positive results.
The story uses Iceland’s upset-minded 2016 soccer team to explain what qualities make for a great team even while other teams have far more resources and talent.
How can a thinly populated nation beat nations with populations of multiple millions? Should not the latter always have the advantage? Their talent pool is huge whereas Iceland’s is miniscule.
Specifically, how could a team ranked 131st in the world beat perennial powers like England and Austria? Iceland did just that.
According to the article, the difference is in player attitudes and behaviors.
When a team is said to want a win more than the opponent that’s one example of how complacency among the mighty can lead to failure. When you think you are the best, your arrogance leaves ajar the door to defeat.
In my not-for-profit work world, smug complacency often has a very long run before undesirable consequences force a change.
Worse, that change is often imposed from outside and is far more painful than if change came from within. But, if you are the best, why change?
Let’s recap as to what C is said to be:
“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.
We hear much about Diversity & Inclusion as essential to organizational well being and by extension, that teams built on Diversity should somehow be superior.
What the research shows is that members of the best teams have high emotional or social IQ and the ability to engage others rather than to sit mute or to rule the airwaves.
Apart from the explicit nod to women’s elevated social IQs, diversity alone is not enough to make for an effective team.
And, there’s more to these notions.
The C researchers test for “four different kinds of thinking: generating new ideas; choosing a solution based on sound judgement; negotiating to reach compromise; and finally, (possessing a) general ability at task execution.”
The results show that high scores on those ways of thinking and problem solving make for the best teams.
Scarce resources and a lack of star players may be good excuses for losing, but they do not necessarily inhibit a team from winning.
Indeed, scarcity may contribute to the sense of urgency and the latter may promote more of a full team effort.
Too many stars can lead to competition among participants (on the playing field and in the work place) and to less “sharing of the ball”.
A rugby team I wrote about, New Zealand’s “All Blacks”, also gives us clues about what team qualities contribute to victory.
Two of those are especially relevant to team effectiveness. First, there’s “Sweep the Sheds.” At game’s end, the senior players clean up the locker room. It’s an act of humility,
Second, there's the rather impolite “No Dickheads” rule.
If you are a jerk you won’t play for the All Blacks. “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.”
Let’s return to Iceland, almost 11,000 miles north of sparsely populated New Zealand.
The BBC write-up offers two takeaways for organizations, not just soccer teams:
Hiring: Look for people with a measure of social sensitivity rather than simply employing a “star”, the person with the best individual performance. (Remember the “No Dickheads!” rule).
Hiring a player with good social skills may turn out to be far more beneficial – particularly if you already have lots of high-flying members. Obviously, if a star can be a servant-leader, then hire that star!
Role model: Make sure the team leader displays the kinds of behaviors expected within the team. For example, a leader’s “humility can be contagious.”
Her willingness to listen to others, “rather than dominating the conversation.” And, a leader who can “admit his or her mistakes” can influence the entire team and increase the overall social intelligence of each player.
Then you have a shot at getting to great.

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And, my book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2019

Another Hindu Fable: THE SERVANT WHO LOOKED AFTER A DOOR*

Posted by jlubans on August 15, 2019  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Two doors, one gone.

A CERTAIN merchant said one day to his Servant, "I am obliged to go home for a short time. Take good care of the Door of my shop until I come back."
Having said this the merchant went his way, and the Servant, removing the shop Door placed it on his shoulder and went off to see some actors who were performing nearby.
Later, as the Servant was returning, his master met him and scolded him roundly.
But the Servant answered, "What have I done amiss? I have taken the best of care of this shop Door, just as you told me to."

It is folly to heed only the words of an order, without trying to understand its meaning.
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Language, whether written or spoken, has its limits.
The servant literally took “good care” of the door, never letting it out of his sight.
Doing so, he left the shop open to plunder. How much leeway to give the servant? The shop steward for the servants union, I assure you, would blame the shopkeeper for his lack of clarity. The steward might add, it is not only for the audience to understand; it is also the speaker to be clear as to what is desired.
Of course, the shop owner would see it just the opposite; he was speaking figuratively and no reasonable person would remove the door leaving the shop open.
Is the servant being spitefully disingenuous or simply guile-less and a bit thick? If the latter, what did the owner expect?
If the former, you’ve got a personnel problem.
I recall spending hours drafting policy. Looking back, I have to admit it was not worth the effort.
Finding the mot juste, the precise word, made little difference. If the staff supported the policy it worked well.
If they were agin’ it, then no matter how well worded, they’d find ways to circumvent.
A verbal command – with a back and forth - would have been better. Too late for me, but the reader might think about how she might do a better job of keeping an eye on the shop Door.

*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.

__________
ONLY a click away:

And, my book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

Fables for Leaders Library of the Week: University of Puget Sound Collins Library where Béatrice Coron, colleague and inestimable illustrator of Fables for Leaders just concluded a lecture today, August 22, 19: "From Book Shelves to Cat Walk: Wearable Papercuts and Artists Books."

© Copyright John Lubans 2019

An Hindu fable: ABDUL AZIZ AND THE PEARL*

Posted by jlubans on August 10, 2019  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption. I like this picture and its healing and leading story.
THE story is told of Abdul Aziz that he had a pearl of great beauty and value, set in a ring.
Shortly afterwards there came a dry season, the crops failed, and there was great suffering among his people.
Moved by compassion the King ordered that the pearl should be sold, and the money received for it given to the poor.
One of his friends reproached him for doing this, saying:
“Never again will such a beautiful jewel come into your hands."
Sighing regretfully, the King answered:
"Ugly is any ornament upon the person of a King when the hearts of his people are wrung with want and hunger. Better for me is a stoneless ring than a suffering people."
Moral. Happy is he who sets the welfare of others above his own.
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Eschewing self-interest, Abdul Aziz puts his subordinates, his subjects, first.
He’s a servant leader in his willingness to “serve first” unlike a “leader first” personality seeking to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions.”
Let’s get personal.
Would you replicate this King’s munificence? Or do you view this as foolishness, a squandering of resources?
In a time of famine, were you king, what would you do? Cling to the pearl? Or, would you make the sacrifice?
Away from management textbooks, case studies and leadership lectures, what does this simple story say to you about your leadership?
In the modern office, far removed from famine and scarcity, what do you do when a worker is not living up to expectations?
Reach out to that person or push the panic button for an HR intervention?
Fables, simple and short, prompt questions about ourselves – if we’re open to it.

*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.

__________
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And, my book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2019

Lubans' Fable of the Man and the Hole in the Ground

Posted by jlubans on August 05, 2019  •  Leave comment (0)

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It was an unusual Sight.
Behind the town Bank, in its parking lot, a backhoe was digging away, tearing out hunks of asphalt, concrete and dirt. Dump trucks roared off with the debris.
Lastly, a truck with a vacuum hose as big as an elephant’s trunk and a tank big enough to drain a swimming pool came by and sprang into action, sucking up something out of the hole.
It was hard to tell what the project was about.
Whatever, it left a large hole in the ground surrounded by fluttering yellow tape, “Danger - Work Area”.
Each day, for several days running, a man dressed in a V-P suit came out through the back door of the Bank – usually around Quitting time – and walked over to the Rim of the Hole and looked into it. He stared and Pondered as if in Deep Thought.
This sight – the Man and his Hole in the Ground, bemused departing workers.
Some were impressed by his Dutiful Diligence (“No doubt”, they said, “he's making sure the Job is done right.”; a few Wondered, "I never knew he had an Engineering Degree!", while others - a disrespectful few - Tittered, “Is he thinking about jumping in?”
Eventually, the hole was filled in and the parking lot was freshly paved and newly lineated; it looked spiffy.
The man no longer stopped to look at what was now a filled-in hole.
Sometimes it takes a hole in the ground for a man to feel important.
__________
ONLY a click away:

And, my book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2019