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.

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

© Copyright John Lubans 2019