Posted by jlubans on December 28, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Ruffin McNeill (L) with OU’s Head Coach. Lincoln Riley. Interestingly, Mr. McNeill was Mr. Riley’s boss at East Carolina University.

I first heard “FIDO” in a post Vietnam War song sung by Johnny Cash: Forget it, “Drive on – It don’t mean nothin’, drive on”. FIDO for short.
More recently, I heard it during the 2018 football season, American football.
FIDO means make a mistake, learn from it and move on. In other words, don’t dwell on it so much you wind up doubting yourself. It’s a favorite refrain for Ruffin McNeill, Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator at the #4 ranked University of Oklahoma.
N. B. In case you agree with the snide sports writer that FIDO is just another clichéd business term, like a Wal-Mart motivational poster, do consider the context in which it is applied and used.
Mr. McNeill took over coaching OUs defensive platoon in mid season after an upset loss to the University of Texas Longhorns team.
He was hired to instill confidence (belief in self) and to ameliorate self-doubt. Is not communicating trust and confidence a leader’s key role?
In American football, the offense - the 11-member team that has the ball - is composed of different players from those on the defensive "eleven" that tries to stop the other team’s offense.
Unlike OUs number one ranked offense, the defense has been much criticized. One kindly writer called it “porous”.
Complicating this is the new strategy of “spreading the field” - distributing players far apart so there’s more acreage to defend. If defense is “porous” on both teams then some games devolve into what are called, “shoot outs”, with 50 points each team!
Most American football games finish in the low 20s.
Since Mr. McNeill’s been in charge of the defense (coaching and anticipating what the other team might do), there’s been some noticeable improvement.
While the OU offense continues to rack up touchdowns the defense has tackled better, and has made some momentum-swinging interceptions and forced fumbles.
Mr. McNeill – ever mindful of the importance of player confidence – attributes the improvements to the FIDO mantra.
Do your best. When you make a mistake or the other team does something brilliant, forget it and drive on and do better the next time.
If you do something brilliant, savor it, then move on to the next play.
Mr. McNeill’s confidence in his players is evident in his demeanor.
In the Big12 championship game, when an OU defender sacked the Texas quarterback in the end zone for a game changing “safety” (2 points for OU), TV cameras showed McNeill's reaction to the play, “except there was no reaction — not even the slightest of smiles or fist pumps.” He was saying by not saying, “No surprise! It’s what I know you can do. Now move on.”
His predecessor, Mike Stoops, was far more excitable.
Often the TV cameras showed Mike, up in the coach’s booth high above the field, jumping out of his chair and letting fly with some rapid fist pumping.
Mike sure had enthusiasm, maybe too much of it. How long can players buy into extreme external emotion and keep it at fever pitch during 60 minutes of play (approximately 3.5-4 hours on the field)?
The unanswered question under Mike was “How do you invert that external emotion into an internal motivator for the player?
Mr. McNeill’s way is to offer steady guidance and positive feedback.
If you have the best people, you can implicitly count on them to do their best and when they mess up, remember FIDO.
In a way, the fiery locker room speech is a lack of confidence, a holding on instead of letting go. It is the coach doing the inspiring not the players from within themselves.
Mr. McNeill’s quiet enthusiasm in the coaching booth may do more for the players’ confidence than were he to run up and down, with hair on fire, fist bumping everyone in sight.
In press conferences, it is not unusual for Mr. McNeill to mention the names of his defensive coaching team and how they contribute to the defense getting better.
While many coaches (and bosses) fail to name their assistants, Mr. McNeill is deliberate in spreading confidence among his team, players and coaches.
You don’t think his positive sharing of success makes it back to the players (and the coaches)?
Of course, FIDO has relevance to the work place. When things go awry for good people, ask them to reflect, learn and move on.
Don’t stop making the extra effort; don’t cave in; don’t worry about what the boss thinks. You already know he thinks you will do the best you possibly can.
When things really click and hum along, enjoy it, reflect, and drive on.
OU plays the “Crimson Tide” of Alabama this Saturday, January 29 in the Orange Bowl down in sunny Miami, Florida.
I’ll be watching.

PS. Dec 30.
OU lost to a well balanced U of A team. After a weak start, OUs offense and defense got much better but the deficit was too great to overcome.
Apart from football, Mr. McNeill's coaching of these young men will influence them in positive ways for the rest of their lives.

My book, Fables for Leaders is only a click away:

Also, My 2010 book, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018


Posted by jlubans on December 22, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Drawing by Nathan Altman, 1969.

A MONKEY, which had grown weak-sighted in old age, remembered having heard men say that this was not a serious misfortune, but only made it necessary to wear glasses.
So the Monkey provided himself with half a dozen pairs of Spectacles, and after turning them this way and that, tried wearing them first on the top of his head, and then on the end of his tail, smelled of them and licked them, but all to no purpose.
The Spectacles did not help him to see any better.
"Good gracious," cried the Monkey, "what fools people are to listen to all the nonsense that they hear.
All that I have been told about Spectacles is a pack of lies.
They are not a particle of use to me!"
And hereupon the Monkey in his vexation flung the Spectacles down upon the ground so violently that they were broken to pieces.

Too great an impatience and an unwillingness to ask for help just might doom one to a lonely life, not only without books, but without friends.
Of course, if you can find like- minded friends, i.e. those whom agree with your myopic view of the world, well you won’t be alone but you also won’t appreciate different perspectives.
Group think (actually un-think) is the greatest drawback I believe to human advancement, or more humbly, to an organization’s ability to roll with the punches and to take what comes and make it better.
Christmas tidings to the battlers of unthinking, the contrarians, among us!

*Source: Krilof and his fables, by Krylov, Ivan Andreevich, 1768-1844; Ralston, William Ralston Shedden, 1828-1889. Tr. London, 1869.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

Doing by Not Doing

Posted by jlubans on December 16, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Who’s in charge?

A recent TED Talk,Lead Like the Great Conductors” by Itay Talgam claims, rightly so, that the way conductors lead is relevant to non-musical bosses.
Talgam, a former conductor, is now a self-professed “conductor of people in business.”
I’ve long been interested in the topic, e.g. my articles about how Simone Young led her orchestras when she was in Sydney, Australia and then in Hamburg, Germany. My book, Leading from the Middle, has a chapter on Simone.
I found her to be a splendid example of a collaborative conductor: her’s was a partnership with the musicians. I never observed her browbeating anyone or refusing to see an opposing view.
While she may well have been the brightest person in the room, I never got the sense that she would reject other musical views simply because she knew best.
Talgam, in the TED talk, shows via video well known successful conductors. The first is Carlos Kleiber who with his body language appears to invite the musicians’ continuous involvement in making the music. How hands off is he? Hard to tell but he does seem to enjoy very much the sound he is hearing and the musicians do see his enjoyment.
Perhaps they build on that.
I might call Kleiber’s leadership style laissez faire. If you have very good people in your organization who want freedom and accept responsibility the hands-off approach might get very good results.
In counter point, Talgam is not so impressed with conductors like the controlling Ricardo Muti, nor the distant Richard Strauss nor Herbert von Karajan, who we see with eyes closed simply enjoying the music and expecting the musicians to keep at it with zero intervention from the podium.
Muti is unquestionably an autocrat. I am not sure how to characterize in management talk the other two. But, before we dismiss the command and control conductor type, remember there are people (many or few depending on the organization) who want to be told what to do. They do not want to think for themselves - it's not in their job description, as they will remind you.
And, rehearsals would likely see a very different – versus the actual performance - musical leadership from Strauss and von Karajan. I like to think that neither conducted rehearsals with their eyes closed.
Also, I am certain Muti laid down the law as to what the sound and tempo were going to be. Any problem with that?
Talgam’s ideal conductor is “Lenny” – his nickname for his mentor - Leonard Bernstein.
Indeed Mr. Bernstein does empower his musicians so that they apparently do achieve very good music. Possibly, Mr. Bernstein is a democratic leader.
Talgam’s TED talk features a video of Lenny letting go completely, we are led to believe. He puts down his baton and simply uses facial expressions to show his delight with what he is hearing. This we are told is a perfect example of “Doing by Not Doing”, the Taoist paradox.
Talgam fails to mention the conductor-less Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (depicted above). There’s a relevant quote from Herbert von Karajan :
"The worst damage I can do to my orchestra is to give them a clear instruction. Because that would prevent the 'ensemble', the listening to each other that is needed for an orchestra."
Listening to each other is wha the egalitarian Orpheus does better than any other orchestra.
At one Orpheus rehearsal I met a student conductor. He told me that observing an Orpheus rehearsal taught him more about conducting than his classes did!
The Talgam tape of Mr. Bernstein letting go of the reins, so to speak, reminded me of something that happened when the violinist Itzhak Perlman guested one night with Orpheus at Lincoln Center.
Most guest artists enjoy playing with Orpheus since doing so gives them unprecedented freedom of expression. If there’s a conductor involved, regardless of who, there will be constraints.
Unlike Mr. Bernstein and his facial expressions, when Perlman sat out a piece - telling the audience that Orpheus was fully capable in DIY mode - he sat there, fiddled with the sheet music, pulled up his socks all the while simply enjoying the music. This was really doing by not doing!
When I show the Lincoln Center tape, some of my students fail to see this, and criticize Perlman for being a distraction. Hardly, he truly lets go and Orpheus fails him not.
Perlman looks truly apart from the music, leading by not leading at all. He sees the musicians as they are – no pandering or patronizing or permission giving.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

Sale extended for Christmas and New Year's

Posted by jlubans on December 01, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Another reason to get your copy of Fables: Because it is illustrated by the illustrious Béatrice Coron! See her fabulous animated art for Dave Mathews with the songs “That Girl Is You” and “Again and Again”.
So, due to popular demand (see how easy it is to slip into advert talk?) act now and take 30% off your order of Fables for Leaders, through December, by clicking on this button:

Or, you can buy a full price copy at AMAZON.

My 2010 book, Leading from the Middle, is also available at Amazon.