The Un-extrovert

Posted by jlubans on November 28, 2010  •  Leave comment (0)

The December issue of the Harvard Business Review includes an interesting leadership study: “The Hidden Advantages of Quiet Bosses.
I took to the study less for its implication that a quiet boss can be superior to the extrovert but more for what the research has to say about leader and follower relationships. The researchers had small teams (N = 163 college students) doing a timed exercise in folding T-shirts.

“Each group had a leader and four followers, two of whom were research assistants posing as followers. To manipulate the behavior of the leaders, we had each read a statement before the activity began: Some read a statement extolling extroverted leaders (like … Martin Luther King, Jr.); others read a statement praising reserved leaders (like … Abraham Lincoln).”

“(And) … some of the researcher-followers stopped their groups after 90 seconds and suggested a better way to do the task. The groups with proactive followers performed better under an introverted leader—folding, on average, 28% more T-shirts.”

“The extroverted leaders appeared threatened by and unreceptive to proactive employees. The introverted leaders listened carefully and made employees feel valued, motivating them to work hard.”(Emphasis added, Ed.)

This study took me back to an outdoor learning experience I describe in Chapter 32 of my book: “Productivity in Libraries? Managers Step Aside!” One bright, crisp Fall day, we (a co-facilitator and I) were in the woods with a team of MBA students working through a day of team building and group problem solving activities. Of the ten students, two of the males dominated - a not atypical criticism of the overly extrovert leader. We muted both during a game called “Hot Stuff”, an intense activity requiring cooperation and creativity from everyone. With the two domineering extroverts muted, the group was now on its own in spite of the animated gesticulating by the silent extroverts. Not surprisingly, the person who had been most quiet that afternoon took part in the group discussion, analyzed the possibilities and came up with a very good solution. During the de-brief at the end of the activity, the two extroverts denied that the solution the group chose and implemented was the best one – instead they claimed had they not been muted their solution would have been better! Perhaps.
And, perhaps, after reflection, those two extroverts learned something about letting others take the lead.

When a manager asks me how to get reluctant followers to take part, to engage, to take responsibility I ask him or her to consider the library’s culture and values. Are experts more valued than workers? Are bosses expected to have the answers? Are workers respected and included in workflow design or is that work for managers only? What I try to get across is that we can say we want an empowered staff, but unless we demonstrate it - e.g. if extroverts/experts restrain themselves from hogging discussion and claiming credit – we will not achieve the full potential that resides in an educated and motivated work force.

"Then I Start Googling"

Posted by jlubans on November 25, 2010  •  Leave comment (0)

Not that long ago, a gripping article appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Written by one Ed Dante, it was a remorseless confession of a scholar-for-hire, more Madoff than Philip Marlowe. Over 530 readers have responded to “The Shadow Scholar: The man who writes your students' papers tells his story.”
Apart from the true crime intrigue one segment from Dante’s writing caught my eye. His go-to is Google.

“I haven't been to a library once since I started doing this job. Amazon is quite generous about free samples…. customer reviews and publisher blurbs. Google Scholar is a great source for material, providing the abstract of nearly any journal article. And of course, there's Wikipedia….“

This glimpse into Mr. Dante’s M. O. offers us a ready solution and a puzzle. The solution to stopping term paper mills is for teachers simply to require students to attach to their papers print outs of a book’s title page and/or of the first page of an article, ones actually used and cited, whether electronic or paper.

The puzzle? How did these faux papers pass the sniff test? Would there not be clues, hints that the wording is not the student’s? I have not reviewed any of the 530 reader responses, but I suspect there are a number of explanations (many self-serving I suspect) of how we got to this sad state.

No doubt Mr. Dante chose his pseudonym with care. I wonder what circle of hell Mr. Dante is in. The Sloth Circle? It’s as if Mr. Dante is selling indulgences to sinners; yet, unlike most indulgence sellers, he is actually trading his normal life to labor at a Sisyphean task, day in day out. The coffee he consumes is a luxury, but 72-hour writing stints sound a lot like the traditional punishment for the slothful: to run at top speed without rest. Cui bono, one wonders.

I cannot but help – forgive me – to link back to my recent story about the Boston Globe expose, “What happened to Studying?” How do students study less and yet grades continue to soar? Maybe Ed Dante - soon to get off his high-speed treadmill and ride off into retirement - knows. Perhaps new enterprises and adventures await Ed. He does know the name and e-mail of each of his clients, including the "lazy rich kid ... poised for a life of paying others and telling them what to do." Henning Mankell might have his next murder mystery here.

All libraries have attitudes. But we’ve got the ___?___ kind.

Posted by jlubans on November 15, 2010  •  Leave comment (0)

On the eve, so to speak, of my day-long Attitudes workshop in Atlanta on November 17, 2010, I am planning to use the “All Airlines Have Attitudes” poster from Southwest, the one from this blog on September 11.

I've added a simple exercise for libraries below the picture. Try it out.

Let me know how you fill in the blank.

20100911-Tude SWA medium.jpg

All libraries have attitudes. But we’ve got the ______ kind.

Gladys, the courageous

Posted by jlubans on November 13, 2010  •  Leave comment (0)

Along with the previously mentioned Nodder, I often ask my management students to read another Wodehousian selection: “Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend.”*

While some students can’t quite figure out why they should read this short story by the last century’s comic genius, most catch on. Lord Emsworth, the “dreamy earl” - a man who regularly flees from conflict - finally gets the courage to stand up to his overbearing gardener and to his sister’s hen-pecking. While Lord Emsworth is the master of Blandings Castle, sister Connie – when in residence – beleaguers the chumpish Lord into wearing top hats and tails, and celluloid collars. He’d rather be in his 15-year old patched shooting jacket and baggy corduroy pants pottering about the castle’s glorious beds of flowers and chirruping to his cherished Pig of pigs, the Empress of Blandings. Lord Emsworth is most comfortable and engaged when marveling at flowers and gazing, with adoring eyes, at the Empress’ snarfing up her daily 58,000 calories.

My students read about the earl just ahead of our class on conflict. The students take a conflict self-test and discover their preferred conflict behavior. Almost always the class - similar to most other groups - scores highest at avoiding, accommodating, and compromising. The low-end scores are in competing (win-lose) and (the most desirable) collaborating (win-win).

Most students come away from this lesson vowing to be more balanced in how they respond to conflict. All of us know how difficult it can be to be assertive - there are times when we should and we do; other times we choose the easy way out, slipping out the back door. Privately, we know we should have roared like a lion, instead we made mouse sounds. We flee to fight another day. Or do we?

Gladys, the little heroine in Wodehouse’s story is charmingly drawn. It includes, says biographer Robert McCrum, “one of the very rare, and lyrical, expressions of unfettered emotion in Wodehouse’s work.” (p.172**)

Gladys, one of the urban school children visitors to an open house at the castle, has serendipitously gotten to know the earl. He is bemused and charmed by her gaminish Cockney ways. It’s an adventurous day for Gladys.
When she takes two of everything in the treat tent, Sister Connie contravenes and puts her into a dark garden shed for what she grande damishly deems inappropriate behavior. Had only Connie asked, she would have learned that Gladys was not "pinching" but gathering the extra treats for her little brother, Ern, whom Connie had banished minutes from the castle for "biting 'er in the leg". Lord Emsworth, while avoiding the human hordes on the castle grounds, stumbles across and frees Gladys from her exile in the shed. He empathizes, calls for Beach, the butler, and makes sure he packs a basket of food and other treats, including a bottle of port, for Gladys and her brother.

Later, when Gladys is pursued by the castle’s gardener, McAllister, for picking "flarze" (flowers) – the earl had given her permission - Lord Emsworth finds himself in the line of fire. Gladys hides behind him. Lord Emsworth has had his moments with the gardener - a taciturn and formidable Glaswegian.

Today, facing the infuriated McAllister - with shaking knees and quivering soul - something different happens: ‘It was, in itself, quite a trivial thing, but it had an astoundingly stimulating effect on Lord Emsworth’s morale. What happened was that Gladys, seeking further protection, slipped at this moment a small, hot hand into his.” (p.157*)

The worm turns. Emboldened by Gladys’ gesture, the earl tells off his gardener.

On a roll, he ticks off the imperious Connie when she tries to brow beat him into making a speech to the assemblage on the castle grounds – something he has always detested. After meeting her “eye sternly”, he tells her with certainty: “I don’t care. I am not going to make any dashed speech….” He turns to Gladys and says that after he gets out of “these infernal clothes (into) something human … we’ll go down to the village and have a chat with Ern.”
It is, as Mr. McCrum writes, a lyrical, rare and unfettered expression of emotion not just for the earl, but for all of us.


As depicted, an all too decrepit top-hatted Lord Emsworth (he was in his 50s, not 90s!) but Gladys’ portrait amidst the flarze might just capture some of her je ne sais quoi. And, the background, (including a heroic statue of the Empress!), is said to be a close approximation of the property from which the fictional Blandings was drawn. (Illustration source: No date.)


*McCrum, Robert. Wodehouse – A Life. Viking Books, London, 2004.

**P. G. Wodehouse, “Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend” a selection from his Blandings Castle, NY: The Overlook Press (original copyright, 1935) 2002, pp.136-160.

The not so effective coach

Posted by jlubans on November 11, 2010  •  Leave comment (0)

While my recent “Committing to Magic” story tells of coaching that results in a higher level of musicality among student musicians - along with personal and team development - the reader probably knows that not all coaching is alike or at the same level. Not everyone has Coach Martha Caplin’s gift for relationship building.

So, it might be helpful for me to define the other end of the coaching spectrum: the not-so-effective-coach.

I’ve observed a rehearsal of student musicians when the coaching did not help; it may even have hindered the performance.

In the coaching chapters in my book and in my workshops I mention five essential elements* that are shared between the coach and the person(s) coached, in this case, the student musicians. Each shared element has an average range and can vary from below average to high above average.

A below average score indicates that the coaching could be better. I admit my index is imperfect and it is open to (mis)interpretation. I could be wrong in my observation of this one rehearsal, but here is what I learned about HOW NOT to coach,

Since using negative examples is not my favorite way to explain something, I’ll keep it brief:

- Be directive. Minimize interaction. Let them know who’s in charge through posture and the use of interrogation instead of conversation. Do not promote, demonstrate or suggest ways for the students to hear the music – among themselves or out front in the auditorium, listening and observing.

- Use up airtime; hold tight the (invisible) mike. Give long explanations of the piece being rehearsed. Tell the group, but do not encourage a response. You are the expert, you are the conductor. (Ooops! That slipped out.)

- If at first your technique for some musical point does not get results, try, try again. The players’ reluctance and lack of engagement means they are slow learners and do not fully understand what you are doing for them. Tell them they are “blessed” to be performing this piece; imply they need to step up their efforts.

- Ignore the work done in previous rehearsals. Be oblivious to the work of the student core group, those instrumental heads who have thrashed out the tempo and interpretation and mood of the piece. After all, you have played this piece many times and know how it should go.

- Do not expect to learn from the student players. Instead provide expert direction for them to imitate. As you know, the outside expert brings considerable expertise to solving problems. If the players have anything to teach you, there’d be no reason for you to be there.

- Finally, if the group is not talking, don’t stop the rehearsal to find out what is going on even if you are coaching them the Orpheus skills on how to be self-managing, self-directing, and self-sufficient musicians!

*James Flaherty. Coaching – Evoking Excellence in Others. Boston: Butterworth/Heinemann, 1999.
Elements of coaching:
1. Relationship
2. Pragmatic
3. Two tracks.
4. Always/already.
5. Techniques don’t work.