Barnyard OD

Posted by jlubans on December 26, 2011  •  Leave comment (2)

I've used childrens’ books now several times in my teaching to illustrate organizational development and leadership concepts. Each time the response and result, regardless of audience, has been very good. (The blog has several entries on my previous uses of children's literature; use the search function to find these.)
At a workshop* on November 30, I used three children’s books, including Tippy-Toe Chick, GO! Groups of 4 or 5 participants followed these directions:
1. Read out loud to your group (as in story time!) one book.
2. Discuss:
Who are followers in this book? What kinds of following do you see?
What is the learning, the take away, the “So what?”, the “Now what?” from this book?
3. Create: a page of your key finding – use crayons and flip chart paper.
4. Present your group drawing to all.

The story: Hen takes chicks daily to a farm yard garden to snack on bugs. Little chick – the smallest is a wanderer and adventurer, not willing to settle for the daily routine. One day a tied-up growling dog won’t let Hen and her chicks into the garden. “We’re hungry”, whine –if chickens can whine - the chickens. Hen says, “We’re out of luck, we’ll never get past the dog.” Little Chick offers to help get pass the dog but her mother and bigger siblings pooh, pooh the offer, “Oh, no! You’re much too small.”
Big Chicken steps up and says “I’ll take care of it” and tries to reason with the dog. Woof! barks the dog. Big Chick skedaddles back to Mom. Then, Middle Chick threatens the dog. Woof! Middle Chick scurries behind Momma Chick.
Now, clearly upsetting the barnyard’s pecking order, Little Chick takes a turn and runs straight at the dog, stopping short when she feels the dog’s hot breath.
She runs sideways and the dog chases her until he is tightly wrapped around the tree.
“Time to eat”, proclaims Little Chick.
One of the November 30 small groups analyzed the story as a lesson in leading and following in the barnyard organization (I am translating from the Latvian):

BIG CHICK is like the “sheep” or “yes men” type of follower. Challenged, she is content to do the same work everyday - to accommodate circumstances.
She does think about the work, just does as habit dictates or as she is told.
She is too afraid (vs. the dog) to stand up for herself or to express her own point of view.

The mother HEN, is a “survivor” type of follower/leader. She worries about all the chicks, takes care of the chicks and is highly aware of her responsibility. Protecting the chicks is all important.

The DOG, a member of the barnyard organization, is the classic entrenched (or “alienated”) follower:
- Opposed to change – in fact is “tied” literally to the job.
- Not interested in other views
- Thinks and acts only for perceived self-interests
- Gets what he wants (through coercive power).
Little Chick, the “effective” follower
- Takes action, displays action
- Thinks for self and finds a solution
- Allows others to express ideas,

In the end, Little Chick, after considerable thought and observation, overcomes the alienated follower.
Telling it!

* Tippy-Toe Chick, Go!
Authored by George Shannon
Illustrated by Laura Dronzek
Published by Greenwillow Books
Suggested grade levels: 4’s –2nd grade
I used this book at my November 30, 2011 workshop in Riga for 25 participants from academic libraries across Latvia. The workshop was held at the Riga School of Law.

100,000 hits

Posted by jlubans on December 23, 2011  •  Leave comment (0)

The blog went over 100,000 hits as of today, December, 23. No telling what those hits are, since hits are not views nor are all views people actually reading the entries - spammers have been my most frequent commenters! So, I note the milestone fully appreciative of the blogger's adage: Never have so Many written so Much to be read by so Few.

Merry Christmas from Riga, Latvia. (Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus!)

Posted by jlubans on December 23, 2011  •  Leave comment (2)

Invisible Leader in Latvian

Posted by jlubans on December 14, 2011  •  Leave comment (0)

The chapter - The Invisible Leader: Lessons for Leaders from the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra - from Leading from the Middle came out this week translated into Latvian. It appears in the magazine Library World (BIBLIOTĒKU PASAULE) Nos. 54/55 (2011).

The translation includes some excellent photos of Orpheus and some photos from my Riga Fulbright class earlier this year.

A Dog and His Bone.

Posted by jlubans on December 12, 2011  •  Leave comment (0)

Insert flow faucet from desk top:
A friend, knowing my interest in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow” concept, sent me a quote from the artist Henri: "Love your work as much as a dog loves to gnaw on a bone."

What about flow – those fleeting or lasting moments of loving our job - and work? How do we turn on the flow faucet?

Flow helps explain when and why work feels good or not. When challenge and skills are near equal, then we can experience something similar to Henri’s dog. And, when challenge and skills are clearly out of sync, (for example, high challenge with low skills or low challenge with high skills) then we can experience frustration, boredom and apathy.
This is a picture of my Riga students – on the first or second day of the class earlier this year - figuring out how to wrap a raw egg so it will survive a drop from a height of 10 feet onto a hard floor.
20111212-egg.jpegThese students are engaged, they lean in to the task. Their facial expressions suggest a playfulness and interest in the task – however puzzling it may be. My class pictures during the final exam are different – the students appear anxious, worried, regardless of how much I assured them of the fairness of the test, that it would be in English and in Latvian, etc. All did well, they met the challenge but I would hardly call taking the test a flow experience. Perhaps flow comes through experience, of mastering challenges for which one feels slightly less than prepared. Perhaps one aspect of flow is the pleasant post-realization of survival!

Csikszentmihalyi’s 1990 book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience includes his thinking on flow in the organization.

“In theory, any job could be changed so as to make it more enjoyable by following the prescriptions of the flow model. At present, however, whether work is enjoyable or not ranks quite low among the concerns of those who have the power to influence the nature of a given job. … This is regrettable, because if workers really enjoyed their jobs they would not only benefit personally, but sooner or later they would almost certainly produce more efficiently and reach all the other goals that now take precedence.”

Can we job design Flow?
Csikszentmihalyi cautions us that… “it would be erroneous to expect that if all jobs were constructed like games, everyone would enjoy them.” There is no guarantee that everyone loves games. I have certainly observed the reservation – even disdain – that a few display during my workshops when I use “games” to illuminate some point.

He further complicates the idea of on-the-job flow with examples of three people (a shepherdess, an all-purpose factory worker and a butcher) doing seemingly mundane work. Yet, each worker gains the highest level of self-satisfaction. Each approximates what Maslow called “self actualization”. They love what they do and they do it masterfully.
So, for Csikszentmihalyi, it matters greatly how a person perceives the task. Mary Poppins would agree. In the film’s Spoonful of Sugar sequence, she shows the children how a positive attitude can make boring work like picking up one’s room, a fun experience.

Flow comes to the person open to it. Csikszentmihalyi terms that person “autotelic” – someone that is goal-oriented and able to discipline self to do whatever needs doing.

The autoelic person may well be another term for the effective follower – an independent and critical thinker, goal-oriented and self-motivated. As we know, the effective follower is someone often perceived as a threat by bosses and co-workers. They label the effective follower as out-of-step and not a team player. Csikszentmihalyi offers sage career advice to the effective follower: Yes, set challenges for reaching your goals but do so “while helping the boss and colleagues reach theirs; it is less direct and more time consuming than forging ahead to satisfy one’s interests regardless of what happens to others, but in the long run it seldom fails.”

Labas rytas! "Wearing Holes in Borrowed Shoes!"

Posted by jlubans on December 05, 2011  •  Leave comment (0)

This is the text of my talk from my December 2, 2011 talk in Vilnius Lithuania*.

Labas rytas! (Good morning!)
My talk today is largely based on my new book, Leading from the Middle.
1. Meaning
2. Experience
3. Implications.

I have added a country western song as a sub-title: "I Borrowed the Shoes But the Holes Are Mine." The sub title recognizes what others have done in thinking about the democratic workplace and that I am building upon those ideas. Yet, I am putting my own holes in those borrowed shoes!
You get the idea?
1. What is the Meaning of Leading from the Middle?
My book promotes a democratic, empowered work place. I argue in the book that the best work places give staff the freedom to achieve their full potential. The less command and control, the better. The book also reveals how I lead, how I manage, so it is not all theory. Please do not think that I am advocating anarchy, however interesting it might be to find out how an anarchous library would function.

Frankly, there was some resistance to publishing the book, but what bothers me most is our superficial thinking about good leadership, about being productive, and about managing for best outcomes. It seems like none of this is especially important to us and that good leadership is something that happens somehow without our having to think too much about it. Leadership comes with the title on the door! Right? Where does bad leadership come from? How do bad followers come about? Good followers? Most of us know a few good and many bad leaders. What sets them apart? Is it really all happenstance?

I think the democratic work place – the one espoused in the book – appeals especially to the younger, newer professional. Our new librarians – the best ones in my classes in the US and in Riga - are demanding a say, they yearn for something more. Will we – today’s leaders – give them what they want?

I’d like to talk about my U of L class and how it learned to self-lead. My model for the class was that of a student orchestra learning how to play without a conductor modeled after the conductor-less Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. I have studied this self-managing group for over a decade and continue to marvel at their accomplished playing. Here is a picture. What or who is missing?
INSERT Carnegie Hall pics

My University of Latvia students responded very well. Not only did they excel at three team projects they also made connections between theory and practice, linking lessons and concepts learned in group activities to lectures and readings and to their own experience.
We know the hierarchy prevails in Latvian culture, as it does in the USA and I believe it does in Lithuania. I expect these students when given leadership opportunities will modify work place cultures toward the more democratic and less bureaucratic.
At the end of the class the students told me what worked and what did not: Self-management in a group is no easy task. While pleased with the results, many issues (storming) had to be resolved before the groups could produce an end product, one that met a minimum standard of acceptance.
More than once each group wished for the intervention of a strong leader – deus ex machina- like - to take over decision making, to tell them what to do. Informal leaders did appear and they made a difference.
I asked: Are effective teams more productive than the boss led variety? The answer: It depends.
A quintessential lesson from my students - I did not fully appreciate this until a recent panel presentation by three of my students ( from left, Edite Maliseva, Inara Kindzule, Aija Uzula)
(Insert picture from panel)
at my November 30 Riga workshop: Assign or have groups clearly spell out, early on, individual roles and expectations, including leadership, very much like the concert master that takes responsibility for each piece of music performed by Orpheus.
2. Now, I’d like to talk about the Experience
I have empirical evidence that empowerment, when done in a genuine and supportive way does result in a more creative and productive work place than does the hierarchy. I have seen it happen, I have been involved with it.
Still teamwork is not for everyone. Some of my library groups were unhappy with empowerment and were passive about sharing power.
Real empowerment works. Not just in libraries: in business and in music and there is much research to support the notion of freeing up people to do their best, to be all they can be.
Is Teamwork natural?
Well, apparently so: Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson was quoted in the, April 17, 2011 issue of the Boston Globe:
“Under certain circumstances, groups of cooperators can out-compete groups of non-cooperators, thereby ensuring that their genes — including the ones that predispose them to cooperation — are handed down to future generations….
(This) is what forms the evolutionary basis for a variety of advanced social behaviors linked to altruism, teamwork, and tribalism.”
(Centuries before, Adam Smith wrote about man’s inherent altruism; now even some Darwinists appear to accept his idea that people like helping others simply for the pleasure derived from their kindness.)

And, the honeybee has much to teach us about collaboration in the workplace. Bees are leaderless – despite popular belief, the queen has no executive role. How then does a swarm of 10,000 bees survive?
How does the swarm select a new home from dozens of options?
How do the bees choose the one best site with an accuracy rate of 80%?
The recent book, Honeybee Democracy – Medus bite Demokratija - offers a fascinating look at democracy in the world of the honeybee.
Scout bees, when home hunting:
1. Identify a diverse set of options,
2. Freely share the information about these options,
3. Aggregate this information to choose the best option.
“Remarkably the scout bees do all these things without working under the guidance of a leader.”
3. So, what are the Implications of the concept of leading from the middle?
Leading from the middle creates new expectations among students and I was obliged to try different ways of teaching, e.g. I used children’s books and other activities
to make points about effective followers, about least likely followers, about resourcefulness, and about attitude.
Likewise, different power dynamics come into play for leaders and followers. Leaders in an empowered organization need people skills (and a strong sense of self value and confidence) to get the most from library staff, to enable staff to reach high levels of achievement.
It’s easy to talk about empowereing staff but much harder to carry out. It can be difficult to turn people loose for real. What happens? What does it mean for a manager, for a leader? When the group takes off – when the orchestra is “unleashed” what happens to the conductor? When I did it, my traditional supervisory leader role changed. It changes vastly for the better in my eyes, but it can be scary and can make a leader vulnerable, something I personally discovered. When followers become leaders, that raises questions about our leadership role and necessity as leaders and managers. Do we have a job? Of course we do. We learn to lead more and manage less.
I have a challenge for you. Be more bee-like!
Thank you!

*NOTE: "Leading from the Middle: ‘I Borrowed the Shoes But the Holes Are Mine’”
was Presented December 2, 2011 at Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania at the conference, "Library science and practice: yesterday and tomorrow", the 80th anniversary of the Lithuanian Society of Librarians.