The Accidental Fare Evader (a la Krylov's Fables)

Posted by jlubans on April 24, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

In Eastern Europe, during Soviet times, a tourist found himself on a city bus without a ticket.
As happens, the bus police boarded, demanding to see tickets.
The tourist, along with a few villainous looking individuals was escorted off the bus.
“The fine is 5 kopecks,” said the guard. “Plus 15 kopecks for infrastructure.”
The tourist was amused. “You mean streets and schools and so on?” The guard nodded.
Handing over the obvious bribe, the tourist couldn’t help himself, adding sarcastically “Maybe even the Opera House?”
No, not the Opera House.
Fine paid, the tourist asked to buy another ticket for the next bus.
“OK. 5 kopecks for the ticket and another 15.”
“What! More infrastructure?”
“No” the guard responded, with a straight face, “for the Opera House.”

So, when you are being robbed, better to keep your hands up and your mouth shut.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

Phaedrus. The Stone and the Man*

Posted by jlubans on April 20, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Aesop was sent one day by his master Xanthus to see what company were at the public bath.
He saw that many who came stumbled, both going in and coming out, over a large Stone that lay at the entrance to the bath, and that only one person had the good sense to remove it.
He returned and told his master that there was only one man at the bath. Xanthus accordingly went, and finding it full of people, demanded of Aesop why he had told him false.
Aesop thereupon replied that only he who had removed the Stone could be considered a man, and that the rest were not worthy the name.
One moralist sums it up neatly: “A true man helps others.”
Why does the one man do what he does? He could, like the others, step over the stone and forget it.
Why does this “true” man take ownership and move the stone?
When I suggest you (the worker) should act like an owner, what is your response?
Hell, no! I am not paid enough to worry about anything outside my job.
Not my job!
In the workplace, the “true” person is one who - seeing something to be done - does it, regardless of his/her job description.
Humans helping (cooperating with) others make us unique and, while not everyone acts like an “owner” many do.
These many “owners” often make the difference in how an organization is perceived.
Hire “owners”; let others hire workers.

*Source: AEsop's fables / illustrated by Ernest Griset; with text based chiefly upon Croxall, La Fontaine, and L'Estrange. REVISED AND RE-WRITTEN BY J. B. RUNDELL.
London, New York: Cassell Petter and Galpin, [1869]

For more fables to guide one’s leadership or followership – and how to deal with the stones in your path - get your copy of “Fables for Leaders” at Amazon.
For the cooperative reader, ask your library to order a copy!

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

“Who’s Gonna Feed Them Hogs?”

Posted by jlubans on April 17, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Steel Roofing Nail

The resolution of Tom T. Hall’s mournful song about a hospitalized pig farmer set me to thinking about work, the dignity of work, and perspectives on work. The song ends:
“Well, the doctors say they do not know what saved the man from death
But in a few days he put on his overalls and he left.”
(All to feed and care for them hogs!)
The song’s about work’s dignity and its life-giving purpose.
Given work’s power, it’s positive influence on all of us – but for the most derelict - why is one type of work presumably better than another? Why the demarcation between blue collar vs. white collar?
The blue collar ones are the people who do things. They work with their hands, mind and muscle, yet, somehow our culture diminishes the importance of their contribution.
The most important worker, I was told by the deli counter manager at NYCs famous Zabar’s grocery store, was not the owner Saul Zabar, but the guy hauling away the trash!
These are the people that keep your car running, clean your office, paint your house, clear the stuck drain, and renovate your house.
Sure, you might think you can do it yourself, but most of us can’t nor do we want to.
We want, if we can afford it, for someone to come in and do it right the first time.
And, if a blue collar career is managed right, one can make a living from doing what others don’t want to, don’t have the time, or are not bit by the DIY bug.
The Wall Street Journal focused my attention several months ago on the topic of celebrating unheralded work: “The Thrill of Victory in Welding, Baking and Bricklaying”. The article talks about going for workplace gold: with over 1200 young workers showing off their vocational skills” in 51 jobs.
Bricklayers, cooks and florists may be unsung jobs, for sure, but are they not mainstays in our economies?
In my business, I was most drawn to the “support staff” doing the work. I turned to them for ways to improve.
While some, due to poor leadership, were reluctant to speak up, I was able to convince more than a few to share what they thought.
These ideas, coming from the people doing the work, helped clear major roadblocks and bottlenecks.
Certainly, a professional – those someones we pay to think – may come up with an idea, but often, lacking will it may go unimplemented or, worse, it may, when adopted, only aggravate the bottle neck or create a new one.
Have you found yourself marveling at how a craftsman can quickly, skillfully, assess and zero in on a problem?
I recall a leaky roof; do I ever!
Replacing the roof did not fix it. Nor did caulking or creative ways for draining water off the roof.
The leaks stopped when a master roofer traced the leaks by deftly lifting up a dozen row of shingles, and then looking for the likely source: rusty nail heads. I was on the roof and got to see what he was doing.
The first row of shingles did not reveal what he was looking for, the second ditto, but the third row, was the Aha!
There were the rusty nail heads, driven though the rubber plenum.
Once the heads rusted out (from earlier leaks), the water followed down the nail shaft into the house.
That skilled craftsman solved a chronic problem and I was able to sell the house with a clear conscience. I did not have to be like Frank Lloyd Wright who famously responded to an owner complaining about the leaky roof:
“So? It’s a Frank Lloyd Wright house!” In other words, get used to it.
Getting back to my line of work, I often wonder what it was that I brought to the organization.
Many people I supervised did things far better than I ever could.
So, how did I add value? Well, there were my ideas on what we should be doing a la the big picture.
I demonstrated and promoted innovation.
I made a contribution, but as for the day-to-day, the bread and butter of our work, I contributed seemingly little.
I was an asker of questions and I queried what customers were thinking and brought those answers to the workplace. Sometimes those questions and answers led to improvements, but only if the people doing the work did something about it.
Unlike most of my peers, I was not very good at exerting the types of power that come with a name on the door and a rug on the floor.
One way my leadership helped was through freeing up people to think about what they did and how to improve it, no small accomplishment.
When those ideas were forthcoming, they made a big difference to the organizations.
How does an organization quantify the result when a leader frees up people?
Or does the organization - made up of would be experts – recoil at the very idea. As experts, my freeing up workers was giving away their jobs!
So, I am left wondering if those of us who liberate workers are not perceived to be like the comical slacker philosopher in Jerome K. Jerome’s novel, Three Men in a Boat:
“I can’t sit still and see another man slaving and working. I want to get up and superintend, and walk round with my hands in my pockets, and tell him what to do. It is my energetic nature. I can’t help it.”
For more insights into the work world, buy Lubans’ new book“Fables for Leaders” at Amazon. Or, be frugal and get your library to order a copy! Just tell them you want it.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

Phaedrus’ “Aesop and the Writer”*

Posted by jlubans on April 13, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)


(On a bad author's praising himself)

“A man had recited some rotten writings
To Aesop, containing some excessive compliments
To himself, at elaborate, infelicitous length.
So, eager to elicit the old man’s opinion,
He asked anxiously, “Am I being arrogant?
I trust no. I ‘m confident in my talent.
Aesop, exhausted by interminably listening
To such sorry stuff, said in reply,

“I approve of your lavishing praise on yourself.
From no other quarter will it conceivably come.”
As an indie auth
or, a self-promoter and self-booster of his own book - Fables for Leaders - Phaedrus’ words from the first century do sting a bit.
Many reviewers – dismissively unwilling to review an indie book – might turn to Aesop as justification:
“Go right ahead and praise yourself, since no one else is likely to!”
Yes, the truth hurts.
Such are the life and times for the indie author.
But, there is a difference between my book and the “sorry stuff” from the first century.
Most would agree that Fables for Leaders is a beautifully designed (Alise Šnēbaha) and creatively illustrated (Béatrice Coron) book.
My contribution, the content, may not meet your eclectic tastes but the book itself is a splendid object.
In the workplace – since this blog is about working – we may not have self-congratulating authors, but we certainly have a goodly number of people who let everyone know how important they are to the organization, if only it would listen.
Unappreciated, unrecognized.
Alas, so it will be until “praise comes from another quarter”. If that fresh breeze from halcyon fields never springs, you can take pride in doing a good job, whether anyone hits the like button or not.

*Source: The Fables of Phaedrus Translated into English Verse. Phaedrus. Christopher Smart, A. M. London. G. Bell and Sons, Ltd. 1913.

Speaking of moderate self promotion, here’s the Fables for Leaders Library of the Week:
Radford University McConnell Library, Radford, Virginia, USA

“A valuable book.”
And, amidst this noisy tooting of my own horn, comes an unexpected and unsolicited positive note from Creighton University’s distinguished Fr. Fred Carlson Fable Collections:
“I enjoy this book and even find John Lubans something of a kindred spirit. The heart of the book, I would say, is a collection of traditional Aesopic fables. To these Lubans adds a number of things. First of all there are what I would call ruminations, reflecting well on how the fable applies to life. Then there are fables from others, including especially himself. My hat is off to anyone who, after the thousands of fables that have been created in our literary tradition, makes a new one. I do note that Lubans' fables seem longer than the traditional Aesop fables he uses. To these texts are added simple, pleasing silhouettes, like the dramatic gesture outlined on the cover. The book also makes room for personal notes from readers. It all adds up for me to a valuable book. The fables are grouped by themes under seven chapters, with two to eight themes per chapter. Bravo, John Lubans!”

© Copyright John Lubans 2018