The Secretary

Posted by jlubans on January 22, 2020  •  Leave comment (0)

I was thinking lofty thoughts.
It was by way of composing a tribute to the secretaries in my career.
All but one or two of a dozen were highly talented and capable people.
While I can still name several that I worked with – WITH was the operative word – two stand out. They were not only a great help to me – they made me look good. Both went on to advanced positions, one in law and one in higher education administration.
They balanced multiple demands never dimming their innate brightness, their calmness – their serenity. How did they make me look good?
Obviously, all their work was done in a professional way. Remember I began my career pre-internet, even pre-word processor.
Paper correspondence, including memoranda to staff – was typed from my handwritten drafts, put into envelopes and mailed out with carbon copies filed in long rows of upright file cabinets.
Pre-email, I had a large amount of professional and academic correspondence via surface mail and phone. And in my case as a quasi faculty member, there was research report preparation and distribution along with manuscript prep for publication.
One of the two was a graduate of a Manhattan secretarial school and knew how my office should appear to visitors. I had the most professional looking office on campus – everything was just so – no clutter. I yet remember the philodendron spreading gracefully across the credenza behind my desk; and, remarkably for an academic, my desktop gleaming proudly in its barrenness.
The appearance of efficiency was not imaginary, my work product really was efficient and of high quality thanks to my secretaries.
More importantly, while I was not very conscious of it, I am sure they guided me away from doing something stupid. I always felt like they were in my corner. Never, I believe, did they betray me nor align with negative factions. We were friends, good friends.
As I was reflecting on these two, along came a relevant, yet bittersweet, WSJ article: “The Vanishing Executive Assistant.
It describes how times have changed for this group of workers, mostly women. Technology has reduced the ranks of administrative assistants, executive assistants and secretaries. DIY - do it yourself – is now the norm for most managers when it comes to travel arrangements, communication and meeting scheduling.
The article explores how the secretarial path is no longer an entryway into the organization. It had been that once you got your foot in the door as a secretary, a young woman - often without a college degree - could demonstrate her talents and likely move up in the organization.
That door is now closed.
Recently I heard from a woman working for my financial adviser, a male. He is based in Portland, OR and his assistant called me from an office in Denver, CO where she lives and works. The WSJ notes this is a trend – no longer is one’s assistant nearby. Rather she (or he) may be far away and while they may appear to be dedicated to the one adviser, they are in fact handling scheduling duties for as “few” as 7 managers to as many as 70.
Indeed the workload is so dryly detailed, wearisome and task-oriented that there’s little opportunity for individual growth and movement. There’s no opportunity to shine.
No doubt the company has good economic reasons for this, but it can never be the same as the positive camaraderie that developed between assistant and boss from day to day contact. The camaraderie was apparent to visitors and to subordinates; it helped personalize work interactions.
For me, these assistants were exceptional people and it was highly positive that the organization provided this entry into the workforce.
Like my two, many young women have excelled as assistants and then gone on to higher careers.
Forlornly, the gains in technology have left behind a large number of people who could bring much to the organization.

© Copyright John Lubans 2020

Los Cabritos and Two Fables

Posted by jlubans on January 19, 2020  •  Leave comment (0)

This pastel by M. McAllister hanging in the pool area of my Todos Santos hotel (The Hotelito) reminded me of two fables.
(No, it wasn’t the tequila.)
I saw Aesop’s The Kid and the Wolf and also his THE WOLF AND HIS SHADOW.
In the close up we’ve got three goats, two on a staircase, with one goat casting a mighty shadow. Like Aesop’s wolf, he is overly proud of his magnificence.
The cabrito on the right is eyeing the goat below, and talking trash out of the side of his mouth, like the Kid on the roof of a house bragging and ragging at a wolf.
Not to be outdone, I can hear the targeted goat, retaliating with an “Oh, yeah! Come on down and I’ll show you something.”
Are there more fables in this picture? Let me know.
Aesop made good use of goats and saw in them our human frailties and other shortcomings.
© Copyright John Lubans 2020


Posted by jlubans on January 06, 2020  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Bad King John: more interested in hunting than governing.

There was once a certain King who did nothing but tyrannise over his people, ruining the rich and maltreating the poor, so that all his subjects, day and night, implored deliverance from his evil rule.
One day, returning from the chase, he called his people together and said, " Good people, I know that during my whole reign I have been a hard and tyrannical master to you, but I assure you that from henceforward you shall live in peace and at ease, and nobody shall dare to oppress you."
The people were overjoyed at this good news, and forbore to pray for the King's death as formerly.
In a word, this Prince made such an alteration in his conduct that he gained the name of "The Just," and every one began to bless the felicity of his reign.
One day one of his courtiers presumed to ask him the reason of so sudden and remarkable a change, and the King replied:
"As I rode hunting the other day, I saw a dog in pursuit of a fox, and when he had overtaken him he bit of one of his feet; however, the fox, lame as he was, managed to escape into a hole.
The dog, not being able to get him out, left him there ; but he had hardly gone a hundred paces, when a man threw a great stone at him and cracked his skull.
At the same instant the man met a horse that trod on his foot and lamed him forever; and soon after the horse's foot stuck so fast between two stones that he broke his leg in trying to get it out.
Then said I to myself, ' Men are used as they use others. Whosoever does that which he ought not to do, receives that which he is not willing to receive.'”
Most remarkable is the king’s decision to announce he was changing his ways.
Imagine any politician doing that? No, I am not talking about the phony contrition, apology, etc while the promised change never happens.
I speak of a sincere commitment to the golden rule and to listen and to work for the people.
Kind John, depicted, was termed a Bad King because he preferred hunting to governing.
So, a step toward self-government, not necessarily a bad thing. Like the frogs who wanted a king who truly would “govern” them, got what they wanted and then some: a frog-munching stork.
I recall one boss who was so full of idea – many good ones - I was happy, nevertheless, when he stayed away from the office – I finally got time to do my own work!

*Source: Aesop's fables by Aesop; Griset, Ernest Henry, 1844-1907
London ; New York : Cassell, Petter, and Galpin 1874

© Copyright John Lubans 2020