Aesop’s “The Fox and the Turkeys*

Posted by jlubans on August 18, 2022  •  Leave comment (0)

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A Fox spied some turkeys roosting in a tree. He managed to attract their attention and then ran about the tree, pretended to climb, walked on his hind legs, and did all sorts of tricks. Filled with fear, the Turkeys watched every one of his movements until they became dizzy, and, one by one, fell from their safe perch.
By too much attention to danger, we may fall victims to it.”
______________
La Fontaine, in his version, sets forth the moral:
“A foe, by being over-heeded,
Has often in his plan succeeded.”
While Reynard the Fox may claim he can charm birds out of the trees as he “Walk’d on his hinder legs sublime” this is more about the turkeys’ willingly being bamboozled than about Mr. Fox’s deadly charms.
There’s recent research about the debilitating effect on one’s brain when in the willing throes of social media.
Or, many have found out that if you want to make yourself less miserable, stop watching cable news.
Social media, like Don Cuervo tequila, is not your friend, whatever the Don tells you.
So don’t get zuckered in and fall off your perch, shutter that iPhone and enjoy your personal world view.

*SOURCE: Aesop's Fables: A New Revised Version From Original Sources” WITH ILLUSTRATIONS
BY HARRISON WEIR, JOHN TENNIEL, ERNEST GRISET
AND OTHERS” New York : Frank F. Lovell & Company, c1884

© Copyright text by John Lubans 2022

The PATS VAINĪGS (“It's your own fault!”) Model of Customer Service

Posted by jlubans on August 11, 2022  •  Leave comment (0)

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I returned to Latvia a few months ago.
One of the observable changes on Riga’s sidewalks from 2019 is the increase in E-scooters.
Pre-Covid (PC) Riga sidewalks made for pedestrians were already congested with bikes. Now, sidewalks are shared with bikes, e-scooters, skate boards, and even Vespas.
As every large city has discovered, pedestrians and wheeled contraptions do not mix well. Numerous collisions occur from excessive speeds, two riders wobbling along on a one person scooter, drunk driving, and food delivery scooters hurrying to pick up or drop off, all the while swerving in and out around pedestrians.
After you are brushed back or run over, would you not expect the e-scooter driver to apologize?
Not in Latvia.
Instead of an apology the riders’ go-to phrase is in the title, “It’s your own fault! You got in my way!”
While I experienced this in Latvia, blame-shifting is not somehow unique to nations still hung over from decades of totalitarian rule. Back then, passing the buck was one way to survive.
But, such behavior is not limited to scooter/pedestrian interactions. I'm thinking I could develop a customer service training session with the “PATS VAINĪGS” theme.
After my summer travels I (and thousands of other stranded fliers) received letters from the CEOs of Delta, KLM and AirBaltic. Each CEO profusely apologized and expressed deep regret for the current international travel mess.
All three admit their business was not ready for the unexpected surge in holiday and summer travel.
Inexplicably, not one of the three refers to why - with generous governmental support – most, if not all, airlines chose to reduce payrolls.
They opted to reduce staffing during covid (DC) not just through normal attrition but through lay-offs, furloughs and by encouraging retirement and early retirements.
Instead of retaining staff - repurposing them, retraining and recruiting for the future - each of the CEOs took draconian steps to cut staff.
When travel demand returned sooner than expected, they raised prices and canceled flights, but they’d already sold too many tickets.
So, while my CEO letters do not explicitly claim it’s the travelers fault, they do claim that the sooner-than-expected-demand exacerbated staffing shortage.
No one fesses up:
“I made a big mistake. I, along with every other CEO in the airline industry, reduced staffing far too drastically.
As a leader, I should have been skeptical of industry projections and not signed on with the “gradual return” theory.
My decision to protect the bottom line caused this mess.”
Instead of an honest admission, it’s the traveler’s fault for wanting to travel sooner than airlines guessed.
Get it?
Nor is there any mention, in these contrite letters, of monetary compensation. Ever-mindful of the bottom line they are not about to take a loss.
It’s much cheaper to offer words of apology for this summer’s missing baggage, missed connections, scrambled reservations, and all the other high anxiety situations found at most airports.
But, they add, we want you to know we are working as hard as we can to remedy matters!
Here's a personal example of the “It’s your fault” style of customer service.
I was at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam on July 20th. My flight from Riga was on time for my connecting flight to the USA, but I did not yet have a boarding pass.
I went directly to KLMs Gate C7, the gate for my USA plane.
The blue uniformed staff at C7 told me to return in an hour and a half; they were leaving and made no effort to find out what I wanted.
Ninety minutes later I returned to C7; then I got a jolt. They said I had no reservation and that I had missed an earlier plane!
Worse, the KLM staff were adamant there was nothing they could/would do."It's your problem, deal with it!" (PATS VAINĪGS all over again!)
When I persisted, they directed me to a Transfer station (presumably a variety of a customer service counter), back in the concourse.
Arriving there I explained my situation to one of the KLM staff, a tall woman who seemed to be the lead person among a group of 4 or 5 blue-uniformed minions.
After hearing my brief explanation she asked me, “What is your question?” as if she were working a mall’s information desk.
Perhaps it was the sweltering temperatures inside the terminal that made her passive/aggressive?
She could/would do nothing and the only people to help were those back at, you guessed it, gate C7!
So, I trudged back.
This time C7 was more accommodating and said I could wait to see if a seat came open on the next flight to the USA.
I sat down.
As sometimes happens, it all worked out.
Out of the blue, a young man in a red jacket (and wings) appeared and told me there was a 1PM plane to Portland with a seat for me.
Did I want it?.
PS. Travel hassles to continue, as reported August 13-14, 2022 in the WSJ, "Travel Woes in Europe Won’t End This Summer" and shows that July was the peak month for disruptions. One Airline CEO says that "some of these disruptions will continue to surface for many years." The story makes no mention of the airlines colossal miscalculation about traveller demand and their subsequent reduction-in-force.

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And, don’t forget Lubans' book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle

© Copyright text by John Lubans 2022

KEEPERS

Posted by jlubans on July 04, 2022  •  Leave comment (0)

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Netflix has gotten some recent notice.
First was the corporation’s rejecting internal censorship of a production deemed offensive to transgenders.
Netflix’s response was notable since it was opposite to what many corporations do when confronted with a social issue campaign: Fold.
Netflix, in keeping with its public stand on what it expects of its “Dream Team” members, offered no abject apology. Instead they said No to the censorship.
Doing so, they referenced their public statement on “Netflix Jobs”:
“As employees we support the principle that Netflix offers a diversity of stories, even if we find some titles counter to our own personal values.
Depending on your role, you may need to work on titles you perceive to be harmful.
If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.” (Emphasis added)
It’s the italicized last several words that got attention.
Of more interest to me was their revealing something they call a “Keeper Test”.
“To strengthen our dream team (s), our managers use a “keeper test” …: if a team member was leaving for a similar role at another company, would the manager try to keep them?
Those who do not pass the keeper test (i.e. their manager would not fight to keep them) are given a generous severance package so we can find someone even better for that position—making an even better dream team.”
Well, in the places I’ve worked (large research libraries) more than half of the staff would fail the keeper test.
Now, I understand, research libraries are not for-profit (un-competitive), nor are they centers of innovation.
Many of us appreciate job security and in return make a decent contribution to the well-being of our organizations; but few of us give much thought and effort to being the best.
Also, any of us that have worked in research libraries or any large bureaucracy (education or government) have to deal with the employees we inherit, some good, some not so good.
Whether its our innate kindness or fear of conflict, the “deadwood” employee is rarely told "Adios!"
Netflix’s keeper test reminds me of the much ballyhooed “rank and yank” process at General Electric. Each manager, each year, had to grade his/her team members and the bottom ten percent were shown the door.
GE no longer does this but then GE is a failing dinosaur thrashing about to survive. Did the rank and yank process work? Hard to say. One might say that rank and yank (fear) led GE to its present unhappy state.
Back to the keeper test. I have been known to offer contrarian views:)
One such view is that when a star worker comes to me with a job offer, I shake them by the hand and wish them well.
I would fail Netflix’s keeper test since I would not fight hard for any employee who wants to leave. I am not going to play the game.
Instead, I see a star’s departure as an opportunity to find another star, someone with a new perspective and energy.
Alas, I know this is not how it works.
If you have read this blog you know I detest performance appraisal (PA) systems.
Not a one has been shown to have positive effects on job performance and is largely something endured rather than embraced.
PA gives managers something to do to appear in control; that seems to be the main rationale for why so many organizations have PA.
In reading about Netflix I did come across an idea I wish I had used when I was managing/leading a dozen or so direct reports.
As part of the performance-development role of a manager (in lieu of the dreaded sit-down annual appraisal),
“Ask every manager to check in with each team member for 15 minutes every single week. In the check-in they’ll ask just a couple of questions:
What did you really love doing last week, and what did you loathe?
And,
What are your priorities this week and how can I help?
I may have done some of that with my stars but I should have been doing it with all team members.


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And, don’t forget Lubans' book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle

© Copyright text by John Lubans 2022

Surviving the Epidemic: The Martin’s Bakery Experience

Posted by jlubans on June 28, 2022  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: The Old Riga Martin’s bakery, photo by author, June 2, 2022.

Once I landed in Latvia in April 2022 – after an absence of three years - I wanted to see how one of my favorite places in Riga (Martin’s Bakery) was surviving the virus and its damaging economic effects.
For over a decade, I’ve been a regular, stopping in weekly for tea and my favorite pīrāgi (bread rolls filled or topped with a variety of flavors, some sweet, some savory).
Within a day or two of arrival, I ambled from my apartment over cobble stone streets to their old town shop.
I was dreading some possibly drastic change after a year and a half of shutdowns, quarantines, social distancing, masking, and curfews.
My firsts bite told me little had changed! I smiled and savored the flavor.
Still the best.
My assessment has a baseline: a 2019 interview with two of the three business partners, Martins and his mother, Vija Kalniņš (the founder).
That essay, “We Don’t Make Brownies” (or Cupcakes, or Bagels, or Muffins) explored how Martin’s Bakery kept its consistently high quality and good prices.
On May 25 of this year, I interviewed Dins Kalniņš, the third member of the executive team.
What he told me can be distilled into fundamental business wisdom for when disaster strikes.
“Keep to classical values and don’t change just to change”. In the bakery, those values permeate the organization and are visible daily for survival into the future..
What are some of those values or concepts?
1. Do what you do best, maintain high quality, attractive food at reasonable prices.
Their piragi recipe dates back 30 years, unchanged. So, they’ve stayed with known recipes producing quality items folks want to buy.
Of course, you have to adjust as trends shift. While the epidemic is momentarily in retreat, a recent
consumer study found that “nearly 80% of the (Latvian) population currently stick to food purchasing and eating habits developed in the last two years and only 4% plan to return to their initial behavior.”
Further, the study predicted that as the 2022 winter approaches, (with inflation rising and the Ukrainian war raging) people will spend less on entertainment … because they will have to think about how to pay … heating bills.”
The study’s economist predicts “that people (will) eat less outside their home and buy more food and prepare themselves”.
This would suggest that a return to business as usual is not just around the corner.
Dins has observed behavioral changes among bakery clients; namely, that when there’s money in a person’s pocket, there is a tendency to entertain outside of the home, to go to restaurants more and pick up fewer items at a bakery for home use.
But, when one is counting pennies, then the tendency turns toward entertaining at home. With inflation at 8.5%, buying baked goods for entertainment at home may boost the bakery business. But, “people will consume less processed products with lower prices." In other words, the consumer may have only enough money to buy raw ingredients to prepare in his/her kitchen.
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Caption: As alluring as ever, but not as plentiful as in pre-epidemic times. Photo by author 2022.

2. Tread carefully when adjusting prices. Keep in mind that Latvia’s average monthly income is one thousand euros (USD $1058), even while Latvia’s economy has been steadily improving since the 2007 crisis and after 50 years of Soviet/Marxist repression and economic bungling.
Martin’s raised prices twice last year by 10%. Each increase was followed by a 5% drop off in business and then a slow creeping upward, a flattening over all.
So, while prices have risen, the clientele is still there, as the following photo shows.
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Caption: Like old times, a line, not quite out-the-door but almost. Photo by author 2022.

3. Decentralize and empower local decision-making.
Dins travels to all locations, often daily, and meets with the branch managers.
Each branch managers has the authority to make decisions, recruit, retain, discipline, and to solve problems. There are frequent after work meetings to consider what’s good, and what’s been less good during the day.
Adjustments often flow from these meetings.
When necessary, the three partners will make a core decision, top down, that effects all the branches, but that is a rare event. The partners’ preference is for the local manager and his/her team to make decisions that effect the work of the branch.
At the same time, when a corporate decision has to be made among the three partners, they may have differences but manage to reach a conclusion and speak in a single voice.
A footnote from Dins when it comes to policy making: With his mom’s less active leadership, she now has to convince him of a policy change whereas before he was having to convince her!
4. Retain your talented and loyal employees.
Due to historicaly positive people policies, Martin’s is blessed with very low turnover. The most recent manager hire dates from 8 yrs ago.
Half of the 6 managers are from the start of the business, each with 20 years or more experience!
A personal example is one of the counter staff at the old town bakery who has always been patient and pleasant with me, humoring my attempts at the language.
While customer service has improved from the Soviet era, it still has a long way to go in Latvia, so someone with a sense of humor, kindness, and willingness to lean toward the customer is to be treasured.
N.B. I want to thank my cousin, Dace Lubane, for once again providing translating support during this interview just as she did when I interviewed Dins’ brother and mother.

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And, don’t forget Lubans' book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle

© Copyright text and photos by John Lubans 2022

Aesop’s The Boy and the Nettle*

Posted by jlubans on June 13, 2022  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Nettle Bread

A Boy was stung by a Nettle. He ran home and told his mother, saying: "Although it pains me so much, I did but touch it ever so gently."
"That was just it," said his mother, "which caused it to sting you. The next time you touch a Nettle, grasp it boldly, and it will be soft as silk to your hand, and not in the least hurt you."

Whatever you do, do with all your might.

_____________

Well, sure when it comes to nettles.
But, there’s no one way for all “whatever(s) you do”.
The wise person knows when to be gentle and when to be strong and assertive.
It’s situational and it takes experience and skill to know what you are up against and what your approach should be.
Emulating others who have had success (like the mother) and also practicing different techniques will help you build your arsenal.
Be multi-faceted in your dealings.
Unless it’s imperative, it might be best to stay away from nettles.
But, if you are collecting nettles to make nettle bread, then follow what Momma says.
I recently had some nettle-seasoned sourdough bread, baked in the Latvian countryside. I bought it an outdoor crafts fair. How did I know to buy bread at that stand among dozens of other bakers? The long line!
My purchase stayed moist for days and had a subtle, likable flavor to the very end.

*SOURCE: Aesop's Fables: A New Revised Version From Original Sources” WITH ILLUSTRATIONS
BY HARRISON WEIR, JOHN TENNIEL, ERNEST GRISET
AND OTHERS” New York : Frank F. Lovell & Company, c1884

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Copyright. John Lubans. 2022

Defect or Effect, That Is the Question

Posted by jlubans on June 08, 2022  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Mosaic Tile by Gaudi.

My attorney cousin related to me her participating in a discussion while she was touring a new corporate property in Barcelona.
The tour group consisted of the builders and architects and, my cousin, representing the corporate client.
She noticed a wall with several holes and asked why this was not finished, you now, like patched, sanded, smoothed and painted over to blend with the rest of the wall?
The group erupted (in Spanish) into a debate about whether these holes were indeed defects or, more likely, desirable and fitting effects, appropriate to the design of the space.
Obviously, the client’s wishes take priority, but the aesthetes in the group felt obligated to protest that these holes were effects as in “something designed to produce a distinctive or desired impression.”
Well, OK. Barcelona is the home of many iconoclastic and magnificent works by Gaudi (depicted tile). And, let’s not forget Salvador Dali’s limp watches! Nor, Picasso and his incoherent, at times, outpourings.
And, if we want to get any more quixotic, there’s my hero the Don, and his sidekick, Pancho Sanza who may still be wandering around Andalusia battling windmills.
So, I get the impulse.
In my career, I’ve worked in places where arguments over quotidian points would consume weeks.
Like a dog chasing its tail, there was no sense of urgency – other than for catching the tail.
Instead of resolution, there was yet another argument, yet another reason for more exploration and discussion.
What’s the leader’s role?
Surely, there is one. Or, is it to await a group’s decision, however interminable the wait?
No, a leader’s role is to make things urgent.
There is a time to call a halt and declare:
“Basta! Vote!
Hands up for defect. Hands up for effect.
If you do not vote, I will make the decision.”
I do not know the outcome of the Barcelona imbroglio but am hopeful the wall got painted.

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Copyright. John Lubans. 2022.

Lessing’s THE OSTRICH*

Posted by jlubans on June 06, 2022  •  Leave comment (0)

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THE arrow-swift Reindeer once saw an Ostrich, and said: "There is nothing remarkable about the way in which the Ostrich runs.
But it is quite likely that he flies much better."
At another time the Eagle saw the Ostrich, and said:
"To be sure the Ostrich cannot fly, but I dare say that he may run rather well."
____________

How often do we see this in the workplace?
When I mentioned how something I did was well received one supervisor responded: “Oh., yeah, what you do there is notable, (adding sotto voce) but not much else”.
The hand writing was on the wall, as they say and it was more like what you find on the side of passing boxcar than on a certificate of merit.
In the theater of the absurd which we call Performance Appraisal, there’s even a label for this systemic error: Self Serving Bias.
Generally, I’ve used the term to describe the not unusual phenomenon in which the evaluator inflates the evaluation scores of his employees to gain credit himself for their performance. “See, my team is really hot stuff”
Lessing’s high-flying eagle - seeing as how the ostrich can’t fly - is magnanimous in suggesting the ostrich runs well.
But, the swift (and jealous) reindeer minimizes the ostrich’s excellent running speed, instead, suggesting the ostrich “flies much better” even though he can’t.
Self-serving bias on display.

*Source: Lessing, Fables, Translated by G. Moir Bussey in 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, don’t forget Lubans' book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle

© Copyright text by John Lubans 2022

Lubans’ The Birds Talk Turkey

Posted by jlubans on May 31, 2022  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Bird Convention Hotel. Photo by author. 2022

At the annual birds convocation – with invited guests of other species – there was a panel on the limits of expression. Should there be censorship of views one finds personally abhorrent or should all reasonable speech be permitted?
The Sloth was the first to speak: “Animals I disagree with need to be censored – their views are counter to mine, untrustworthy and dangerous.
However, I am highly offended when my speech is censored or ridiculed; it matters not if I am wrong or right. I mean well and should always be heard out.”
The Vulture chimed in: “I am often restricted in speech because of my reputation for eating carrion. Somehow, while I perform a valuable public health service, my opinion is worth less than, say, that of the Owl who sits in a tree and hoots, however serenely.”
To that, one could hear gasps and giggles from the audience.
The Ow blinked omnisciently but did nothing more.
The Eagle offered up his bird’s eye judgement: “Just as on earth there are people who insist their’s is the only valid opinion, there are animals who believe the same.
They abhor being countered and when in possession of power seek to limit others and demean them as undeserving and incapable of discerning between fact and fiction.”
Peacock strutted his stuff: “Listen up. Censorship is necessary because birds and people - at least half - are bird-brained (present company excepted) and cannot tell a lie from the truth. They must be guided by someone like me who knows better. Indeed, when I can shut down someone I disagree with, I am doing a great good by protecting the most vulnerable among us.”
“Hear, hear!” muttered a few, amidst several snickers at the peacock’s latest display of pomposity.
Then, Chipmunk chattered: “Am I hearing that I cannot be trusted to understand for myself? That I must be told; that I cannot judge for myself by myself?”
“If so, Up yours!”
With that, he scampered off to his little house among the roots of a very wise and towering tree.
Maybe, just maybe, some of that tree’s wisdom had seeped into the chipmunk’s thinking.

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And, don’t forget Lubans' book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle

© Copyright text and photo by John Lubans 2022

Lubans’ Adaptation of “Wonderbread”

Posted by jlubans on May 18, 2022  •  Leave comment (2)

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A classic Latvian folk tale is entitled Brīnumskapis* (magic cabinet) but the English translation makes no mention of a cabinet or wardrobe.
Instead of “magic wardrobe”, the English translation calls it “Wonderbread”.
Any American will tell you that is the name of a highly popular spongy, sliced, white bread found in every grocery store.
I have not had a slice in 60 years, but at one time thought it was the best bread imaginable.
My tastes have changed!
As for magic, the tale does depict a loaf of bread spinning over hill and dale with a small boy in hot pursuit.
In brief the story is about a boy, in his 6th year, declining to walk.
His hapless father is beside himself and begins to haul the kid around in a wheeled cart.
A neighbor farmer (Latvian farmers all have good sense) sees what is happening and invites the father and the boy into his kitchen.
He tells the petulant young boy - still in the cart - that the beautiful round loaf of bread on the table is his to eat.
He tells the father, the loaf is not for you; you must not touch it.
So, the youngster wants the bread and thrusts out his hands, demanding it.
The farmer says, “Get it yourself!”
A number of tantrums by the hungry 6-year old gets the same result.
The father remains silent.
Then, remarkably, one of the boy’s legs appears over the side of the cart.
Then, the other leg follows.
Soon the little boy is at the table eagerly reaching for the bread.
But, the bread jumps up and rolls off the table and out the open door. The little boy is disappointed but sets off in earnest pursuit. No falling down and kicking his heels. He wants that bread and aims to get it!
Alas, after a merry chase through fields and forests, the bread rolls into a river and disappears. The boy is sad.
Don’t cry, all is well. The farmer puts food on the table and they all enjoy a meal together with a pitcher of amber ale.
From that day on the little boy behaves responsibly and becomes a helpmate to his father.
____________
How many of us have been helped by not getting what we wanted? Ah, adversity! Sweet, someone said, are thy uses.

*Source: Latvian folk tales (in English). Told by Astrida B Stahnke. Riga, Latvia: Star ABC 1998
133 pages
ISBN: 9984047571

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And, don’t forget Lubans' book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle

© Copyright text by John Lubans 2022

“The Introvert at Work” Revisited

Posted by jlubans on May 09, 2022  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Jimmy Buffett: If The Phone Doesn't Ring, It's MeMore country: “If the Phone Don’t Ring, It’s Me”

If you’ve been taking memory pills, you may recall my writing about introverts.
That essay was inspired by an article put out by the BBCs Christine Ro: “Latvia: Europe’s nation of introverts.
Ms. Ro was intrigued by a stand-out exhibit at the London Book Fair. It was the highly imaginative #iamintrovert campaign put on by “Latvian Literature”, the cultural agency in charge of promoting Latvian authors and books.
Given the great deal of notice by the press and other media, the introvert theme appeared to resonate for many. It did more than resonate! Many of us with the least bit of introversion could put ourselves in “I” the introvert’s shoes.
We’ve been there.
I was among those who found the exhibit refreshingly innovative and also relevant to the debate about introverts and extroverts in the workplace.
Prior to the epidemic, I had scheduled two of the principals behind the exhibit to speak to my University of Latvia class, Leadership and Literature.
I invited them because while their campaign was specific to authors and other book people, I thought the class would enjoy and learn from a discussion about introversion and leadership.
I wanted the students to consider how introverted leaders and followers help or hinder an organization.
If the “quiet people” have something to offer, how do we, as leaders or effective followers involve them in an organization's decision making?
I have workplace experience that the folks who do the least talking often give us the greatest insights into what we should be doing.
At the far end of the continuum, the extrovert can often dominate discussion at the expense of shutting down other ideas.
Well, here we are, it’s 2022 and I am back in Latvia.
It was natural (if extroverted) to talk with some of the people at Latvian Literature. I recently met with Anete Konste, Rita Dementjeva and Ildze Jansone.
Why the campaign? I asked.
The LL staff in brainstorming on the London Book Fair exhibit design had something like an epiphany, a good humored realization:
“We decided to stop pretending who we are not, and start to be proud of what we are. We’re better at writing than doing small-talk.”
Therefore, they proclaimed: “WE ARE PROUD TO BE INTROVERTS”
In other words, flipping what many – including introverts - perceive to be a weakness into a strength.
Their manifesto: “The world is a perfect place for extroverts. For the kind of people who know how to start a relaxed conversation with a stranger, perform in front of an audience, …. But we are different. Latvians can feel deeply confused when kissed on both cheeks.
… If someone compliments a Latvian, he will turn red white red.
Latvia is one of the world’s most introverted nations. And so are our writers, of course.
And we are proud of that.
We allow our books to speak for us, since literature is the perfect world for introverts.”
I wanted to talk with the creators about how to adapt that to the workplace, the very place that appears to reward the loudest voices and those most able to make impromptu speeches and to stand in the limelight. It’s not that they always speak with substance – it’s the “standing out from the crowd” that counts for the extrovert.
So, with the introvert “cat out of the bag” – the manifesto - it made sense to me to include what they did in the Leadership class.
Now, if you think this is all a flash in the pan, a “15 minutes of fame” ephemera, let me tell you how well Latvian Literature has done in accomplishing its goals.
Other countries are looking more closely at Latvian literature. In less than 6 years or so it has increased grants to editors and translators from 10 editions in 2016 to 50 editions in 2020.
There is also an uptick of interest among translators and editors.
In 2020 there were 53 Translator applications and 36 were approved. The previous year it was 31/27.
For editors there were 75 applications with 42 approved. The previous year, there were 31 editor applications with 29 approved.
But this is not to suggest that the introvert campaign is primarily responsible for the strong gains.
Anete Konste emphasized: “There is hard work in book fairs, literary visits, festivals behind it. The (introvert) campaign is only one part of our activities. It attracts attention and builds our brand, but nobody decides to translate or publish something just because of it.”
Agreed.
While the introvert theme has an appeal among book people, the notion of reversing negative perceptions of introversion can also apply to workplaces.
It begs the leader’s responsibility to free-up ideas in the organization – unless, of course, you are one of those leaders who have a monopoly on good ideas!
I have numerous examples that not infrequently the best ideas, the ones that solve problems, that enhance a product, that fix what needs fixing, often come from the quietest members of a staff, but only if they are prompted, if they are given the freedom and opportunity to express, to speak up.
What do you as a leader do to elicit ideas from the introverted?
When the Latvian Literature staff comes to my class, I hope they will address some of the above and other questions like,
How do you assure unspoken ideas become spoken?
What steps can the leader take to make sure that happens?
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Caption: From the #iamintrovert campaign, by the Latvian artist Reinis Pētersons and publicist Anete Konste. Used with permission. 2022.

“Nightmare” brings to mind my own experience with introversion. I was to be recognized for writing a quarterly column for a professional journal.
The ceremony would be at the annual convention in front of some several hundred members and the executive board.
I was flattered; I’d worked hard, took great care with what I wrote, and brought my own style to each essay. Feedback had been consistently positive; my column, readers said, was the first item they looked at.
But, as it turned out, the ”Board” belatedly decided to give awards to all the columnists not just to me!
So there would be four awards not just mine! My recognition award had been downgraded to a participation award!
At the ceremony, all of us were called to the stage and presented with plaques. The presenter then asked if we had some impromptu comments for the audience.
I waved to the audience and declined. It was, to paraphrase the Latvian manifesto, letting my written work speak for itself. The only one to speak was the columnist whose work was frequently the most rushed and least thought out. For me, she was an extrovert.
Not to be mean-spirited, but her speech was simply rubbing it into us introverts who took our writing seriously.
She would, by the way, eventually be elected to the board.

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And, don’t forget Lubans' book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle

© Copyright text by John Lubans 2022