Lubans’ The Birds Talk Turkey

Posted by jlubans on May 31, 2022  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Bird Convention Hotel. Photo by author. 2022

At the annual birds convocation – with invited guests of other species – there was a panel on the limits of expression. Should there be censorship of views one finds personally abhorrent or should all reasonable speech be permitted?
The Sloth was the first to speak: “Animals I disagree with need to be censored – their views are counter to mine, untrustworthy and dangerous.
However, I am highly offended when my speech is censored or ridiculed; it matters not if I am wrong or right. I mean well and should always be heard out.”
The Vulture chimed in: “I am often restricted in speech because of my reputation for eating carrion. Somehow, while I perform a valuable public health service, my opinion is worth less than, say, that of the Owl who sits in a tree and hoots, however serenely.”
To that, one could hear gasps and giggles from the audience.
The Ow blinked omnisciently but did nothing more.
The Eagle offered up his bird’s eye judgement: “Just as on earth there are people who insist their’s is the only valid opinion, there are animals who believe the same.
They abhor being countered and when in possession of power seek to limit others and demean them as undeserving and incapable of discerning between fact and fiction.”
Peacock strutted his stuff: “Listen up. Censorship is necessary because birds and people - at least half - are bird-brained (present company excepted) and cannot tell a lie from the truth. They must be guided by someone like me who knows better. Indeed, when I can shut down someone I disagree with, I am doing a great good by protecting the most vulnerable among us.”
“Hear, hear!” muttered a few, amidst several snickers at the peacock’s latest display of pomposity.
Then, Chipmunk chattered: “Am I hearing that I cannot be trusted to understand for myself? That I must be told; that I cannot judge for myself by myself?”
“If so, Up yours!”
With that, he scampered off to his little house among the roots of a very wise and towering tree.
Maybe, just maybe, some of that tree’s wisdom had seeped into the chipmunk’s thinking.

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And, don’t forget Lubans' book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle

© Copyright text and photo by John Lubans 2022

Lubans’ Adaptation of “Wonderbread”

Posted by jlubans on May 18, 2022  •  Leave comment (2)

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A classic Latvian folk tale is entitled Brīnumskapis* (magic cabinet) but the English translation makes no mention of a cabinet or wardrobe.
Instead of “magic wardrobe”, the English translation calls it “Wonderbread”.
Any American will tell you that is the name of a highly popular spongy, sliced, white bread found in every grocery store.
I have not had a slice in 60 years, but at one time thought it was the best bread imaginable.
My tastes have changed!
As for magic, the tale does depict a loaf of bread spinning over hill and dale with a small boy in hot pursuit.
In brief the story is about a boy, in his 6th year, declining to walk.
His hapless father is beside himself and begins to haul the kid around in a wheeled cart.
A neighbor farmer (Latvian farmers all have good sense) sees what is happening and invites the father and the boy into his kitchen.
He tells the petulant young boy - still in the cart - that the beautiful round loaf of bread on the table is his to eat.
He tells the father, the loaf is not for you; you must not touch it.
So, the youngster wants the bread and thrusts out his hands, demanding it.
The farmer says, “Get it yourself!”
A number of tantrums by the hungry 6-year old gets the same result.
The father remains silent.
Then, remarkably, one of the boy’s legs appears over the side of the cart.
Then, the other leg follows.
Soon the little boy is at the table eagerly reaching for the bread.
But, the bread jumps up and rolls off the table and out the open door. The little boy is disappointed but sets off in earnest pursuit. No falling down and kicking his heels. He wants that bread and aims to get it!
Alas, after a merry chase through fields and forests, the bread rolls into a river and disappears. The boy is sad.
Don’t cry, all is well. The farmer puts food on the table and they all enjoy a meal together with a pitcher of amber ale.
From that day on the little boy behaves responsibly and becomes a helpmate to his father.
____________
How many of us have been helped by not getting what we wanted? Ah, adversity! Sweet, someone said, are thy uses.

*Source: Latvian folk tales (in English). Told by Astrida B Stahnke. Riga, Latvia: Star ABC 1998
133 pages
ISBN: 9984047571

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And, don’t forget Lubans' book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle

© Copyright text by John Lubans 2022

“The Introvert at Work” Revisited

Posted by jlubans on May 09, 2022  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Jimmy Buffett: If The Phone Doesn't Ring, It's MeMore country: “If the Phone Don’t Ring, It’s Me”

If you’ve been taking memory pills, you may recall my writing about introverts.
That essay was inspired by an article put out by the BBCs Christine Ro: “Latvia: Europe’s nation of introverts.
Ms. Ro was intrigued by a stand-out exhibit at the London Book Fair. It was the highly imaginative #iamintrovert campaign put on by “Latvian Literature”, the cultural agency in charge of promoting Latvian authors and books.
Given the great deal of notice by the press and other media, the introvert theme appeared to resonate for many. It did more than resonate! Many of us with the least bit of introversion could put ourselves in “I” the introvert’s shoes.
We’ve been there.
I was among those who found the exhibit refreshingly innovative and also relevant to the debate about introverts and extroverts in the workplace.
Prior to the epidemic, I had scheduled two of the principals behind the exhibit to speak to my University of Latvia class, Leadership and Literature.
I invited them because while their campaign was specific to authors and other book people, I thought the class would enjoy and learn from a discussion about introversion and leadership.
I wanted the students to consider how introverted leaders and followers help or hinder an organization.
If the “quiet people” have something to offer, how do we, as leaders or effective followers involve them in an organization's decision making?
I have workplace experience that the folks who do the least talking often give us the greatest insights into what we should be doing.
At the far end of the continuum, the extrovert can often dominate discussion at the expense of shutting down other ideas.
Well, here we are, it’s 2022 and I am back in Latvia.
It was natural (if extroverted) to talk with some of the people at Latvian Literature. I recently met with Anete Konste, Rita Dementjeva and Ildze Jansone.
Why the campaign? I asked.
The LL staff in brainstorming on the London Book Fair exhibit design had something like an epiphany, a good humored realization:
“We decided to stop pretending who we are not, and start to be proud of what we are. We’re better at writing than doing small-talk.”
Therefore, they proclaimed: “WE ARE PROUD TO BE INTROVERTS”
In other words, flipping what many – including introverts - perceive to be a weakness into a strength.
Their manifesto: “The world is a perfect place for extroverts. For the kind of people who know how to start a relaxed conversation with a stranger, perform in front of an audience, …. But we are different. Latvians can feel deeply confused when kissed on both cheeks.
… If someone compliments a Latvian, he will turn red white red.
Latvia is one of the world’s most introverted nations. And so are our writers, of course.
And we are proud of that.
We allow our books to speak for us, since literature is the perfect world for introverts.”
I wanted to talk with the creators about how to adapt that to the workplace, the very place that appears to reward the loudest voices and those most able to make impromptu speeches and to stand in the limelight. It’s not that they always speak with substance – it’s the “standing out from the crowd” that counts for the extrovert.
So, with the introvert “cat out of the bag” – the manifesto - it made sense to me to include what they did in the Leadership class.
Now, if you think this is all a flash in the pan, a “15 minutes of fame” ephemera, let me tell you how well Latvian Literature has done in accomplishing its goals.
Other countries are looking more closely at Latvian literature. In less than 6 years or so it has increased grants to editors and translators from 10 editions in 2016 to 50 editions in 2020.
There is also an uptick of interest among translators and editors.
In 2020 there were 53 Translator applications and 36 were approved. The previous year it was 31/27.
For editors there were 75 applications with 42 approved. The previous year, there were 31 editor applications with 29 approved.
But this is not to suggest that the introvert campaign is primarily responsible for the strong gains.
Anete Konste emphasized: “There is hard work in book fairs, literary visits, festivals behind it. The (introvert) campaign is only one part of our activities. It attracts attention and builds our brand, but nobody decides to translate or publish something just because of it.”
Agreed.
While the introvert theme has an appeal among book people, the notion of reversing negative perceptions of introversion can also apply to workplaces.
It begs the leader’s responsibility to free-up ideas in the organization – unless, of course, you are one of those leaders who have a monopoly on good ideas!
I have numerous examples that not infrequently the best ideas, the ones that solve problems, that enhance a product, that fix what needs fixing, often come from the quietest members of a staff, but only if they are prompted, if they are given the freedom and opportunity to express, to speak up.
What do you as a leader do to elicit ideas from the introverted?
When the Latvian Literature staff comes to my class, I hope they will address some of the above and other questions like,
How do you assure unspoken ideas become spoken?
What steps can the leader take to make sure that happens?
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Caption: From the #iamintrovert campaign, by the Latvian artist Reinis Pētersons and publicist Anete Konste. Used with permission. 2022.

“Nightmare” brings to mind my own experience with introversion. I was to be recognized for writing a quarterly column for a professional journal.
The ceremony would be at the annual convention in front of some several hundred members and the executive board.
I was flattered; I’d worked hard, took great care with what I wrote, and brought my own style to each essay. Feedback had been consistently positive; my column, readers said, was the first item they looked at.
But, as it turned out, the ”Board” belatedly decided to give awards to all the columnists not just to me!
So there would be four awards not just mine! My recognition award had been downgraded to a participation award!
At the ceremony, all of us were called to the stage and presented with plaques. The presenter then asked if we had some impromptu comments for the audience.
I waved to the audience and declined. It was, to paraphrase the Latvian manifesto, letting my written work speak for itself. The only one to speak was the columnist whose work was frequently the most rushed and least thought out. For me, she was an extrovert.
Not to be mean-spirited, but her speech was simply rubbing it into us introverts who took our writing seriously.
She would, by the way, eventually be elected to the board.

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And, don’t forget Lubans' book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle

© Copyright text by John Lubans 2022

Posted by jlubans on May 09, 2022  •  Leave comment (0)

Barkis is willin'; no more than Bridger!

Posted by jlubans on May 01, 2022  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption. Bridger In “Come on, let’s go!” mode. (John Lubans photograph)

A Latvian professor, colleague and friend – I am in Latvia for late spring and early summer - introduced me to the new-for-me expression from Charles Dickens, “Barkis is willin’ “
Mr. Barkis is a stagecoach driver in the novel David Copperfield. Mr. B is persistent in his courtship of another character in the novel and is known for his optimistic, oft-repeated phrase “Barkis is willin’.”
It leads me once again* back to an Aesop fable:

A CERTAIN Man was setting out on a journey, when, seeing his Dog standing at the door, he cried out to him,
"What are you gaping about?
Get ready to come with me."
The Dog, wagging his tail, said, "I am all right. Master; it is you who have to pack up."
____________

I was on tenterhooks, as they say.
Well, as much as a phlegmatic, if serene, personality like mine can be.
I had a new boss.
My previous boss - the one who hired me – had been pushed aside by his new boss and the governing board.
Prior to his departure, he told me that there were people on the board who, at the urging of an outside consultant, wanted me gone.
This consultant had engineered my boss’ early retirement.
The board left it up to the new leader to drop the hammer on me.
So, would the new boss give me the boot?
Remarkably, I did not get fired.
Another leader – a less ethical one - in the same situation would likely have pulled the plug to score points.
And so it turned out years later. If you are going to rock the boat, wear a life jacket.

*This is the fourth time I’ve written about this fable. You can see the 2012 version here
and the 2016 one here.
And, setting the scene for 2021:
Should I stay or should I go?

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And, don’t forget Lubans' book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle

© Copyright text and photo by John Lubans 2022