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Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

A detail from Ambrogio Lorenzetti's fresco Bad Government and the Effects of Bad Government on the City Life (1337-39), located in the Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, Italy.

Plato initiated the view that possession of absolute power inevitably has a corrupting effect.

Probably the most ancient expression of the idea that power has a corruptive effect appears in the parable of the Ring of Gyges in The Republic (c. 360 BCE) by Plato (c. 424-c. 348 BCE). In the parable, the otherwise virtuous Gyges indulges in corrupt behavior after finding a magic ring that renders him invisible.

However, the maxim “absolute power corrupts absolutely” originates much later, being a paraphrase of a letter written by Sir John Dalberg-Acton (1834–1902), a British Catholic historian better known as Lord Acton, to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887. Acton scolds Creighton in the letter for his suggestion, in previous correspondence, that the pope, king, or any other person holding comparably high station ought to be judged according to standards different to those applied to common men. Acton argues that, quite to the contrary, “Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

British politician and historian Lord John Dalberg-Acton The British politician and historian Lord John Dalberg-Acton famously wrote in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton (1887):

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. That is the point at which … the end learns to justify the means.

Acton, however, followed at least two distinguished persons in associating power with corruption: in a speech that was delivered in the British House of Commons in 1770, Prime Minister William Pitt, Earl of Chatham (1708–78), had claimed that, “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it; and this I know, my Lords, that where law ends, tyranny beginsl” Acton’s observation was also anticipated by French writer, poet, and politician Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine (1790– 1869), who, in his essay France and England: a Vision of the Future (1848), had claimed “It is not only the slave or serf who is ameliorated in becoming free … the master himself did not gain less in every point of view .. for absolute power corrupts the best natures.” Acton, too, believed that few could resist power’s corrupting effect, asserting, “Great men are almost always bad men.”

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Posted in Mental Models and Psychology

Five Tools & Techniques for Performance Improvement

Five Tools & Techniques for Performance Improvement If you are witnessing unhappy customers, uninformed employees, and mounting chaos in your company, you are experiencing a performance gap—the difference between the outcomes you expect and what you are getting. With today’s pressure for results, you’ll need fast, simple tools to close your performance gap. By applying such tools, you can reap big paybacks in the form of steady gains.

By performance improvement, I mean more revenue, lower costs, and more done in less time with fewer resources. Flexibility is needed to adapt to changing demands and to devise innovative methods for improving productivity and service quality. Customers who get more than they expect then tell their friends, and keep coming back.

Key to performance improvement are people who produce more with better information, greater clarity, and less interference. A performance improvement project is a related group of tasks resulting in measurable improvement. Most successful changes “bubble up” from the bottom. Building one by one may be more effective than a large-scale, top-down strategy. Investing in employee education is an important signal that the organization is committed to the personal growth of everyone on the team.

Already energetic characters on any large scale are becoming merely traditional. Improvement in the means of communication promotes it, by bringing the inhabitants of distant places into personal contact, and keeping up a rapid flow of changes of residence between one place and another. Not only that, but the best answer often changes over time.

Five Tools to Improve Employee Engagement and Performance

So here are five tips for how to accelerate your performance and reach your own peak sooner. Five tools will lead to desirable results and help you get to the right place:

  1. Measurable outcomes. This involves reliable measures such as revenue, cost, time, quality, and customer satisfaction. By documenting measures before, during, and after the project, you can gauge success. Qualitative measures must translate into observable behavior. Develop clear statements of what that measure means and specific actions needed to attain the goal. Know who will be affected and how, as well as what will improve, and by how much.
  2. Your plan. Write an airtight description of your project’s boundaries, benefits, costs, and risks—then name those accountable for results. For each task, you’ll perform five actions: complete, approve, support, consult with, and inform. Specify the person associated with each action. The faster you produce your desired outcome, the easier you will build momentum.

Measurable outcomes Improve Employee Engagement and Performance

  • Effective problem analysis of the selected performance. Break the problem down into smaller, simpler pieces, looking for a pattern. Formulate and test theories. Observe and collect data until you figure out what is going on and why. Don’t throw resources at your problem in a vain attempt to solve it by sheer luck. Avoid wasteful spending on training, software, and experts—the three sinkholes. A problem well defined is 75 percent solved! In some cases you are not dealing with a problem, but an unrealized opportunity to impact the organization.
  1. A reliable feedback system. People want to know what and how well they are doing. You could set up simple charts, one for each success indicator. Depict progress and downplay minor setbacks. Cumulative measures, for instance, may be better than daily, weekly, or monthly ones. Exchange feedback during one-on-one conversations, informal chats, and small-group meetings. Inspire confidence early and adjust as you go along.
  2. A system for collecting and applying what you learn about performance improvement. Know-how (in-house talent) is far better than “show-how” (pricey experts). Conduct an after-action review to convert real-time learning into practical knowledge. Work through answers to questions about what should and did happen during an event.

Techniques Used to Improve Employee Performance

Tips for Employee Performance Improvement Quickly build and transfer skills, so participants can see benefits right away. The tasks that find their way to the bottom are the ones that you should eliminate altogether. But too often we say it with a sigh, like it’s a sentence—or we’re a victim. It can easily become pessimistic, and nothing will kill your creativity, job performance, or relationships like going negative.

If the diagnosis of performance anxiety is correct, it’s astonishing how often paradoxical intervention works. This, even knowing as most of us do that facts and figures about past performance are often flawed indicators of future performance. With that kind of visibility and transparency in performance, it’s easy to call it the way you see it. Again, the combination of competitive insight and cost understanding drives efforts to reduce costs.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

Participative Leadership to Reduce Resistance to Change

Participative Leadership to Reduce Resistance to Change Resistance to change is observed by many as their biggest problem today. Why? Because change is constant, and yet most people get stuck. People resist changes done to them, but they develop a sense of ownership on the ideas they generate. So, I share a simple approach to reducing resistance to change by generating participative involvement and team support for new initiatives. Many teams and organizations tend to operate like the team below:

  • The person in front symbolizes leadership or management—anyone focused forward. Leaders get insulated by their rope to the bumps and thumps of many realities of the journey. They work hard to pull the organization ahead. Their intentions are positive.
  • The people in back represent frontline employees and supervisors who can’t see far ahead and feel every bump in the road. They push but have to trust the leadership to steer. They have no “big picture” of where they (or the wagon) are headed, but do what is expected of them. They lack perception and vision. Intentions are positive.
  • The body of the wagon is well made and sturdy, much like the basic core of any organization. It will do the job for which it was designed. Its nature makes changing direction quite difficult, but it works like it always has. We find that identifying and celebrating early adopters of the behaviors a company wants to instill can create positive infectivity.
  • The Square Wheels represent the traditions, the way things have always been done, systems and techniques to respond to quality and service initiatives, or other relevant issues to the group. They may also represent interdepartmental conflicts. They increase costs of doing business and are inefficient and ineffective.
  • The Round Wheels represent new ideas for innovation or improvement, coming from within the organization. Top management makes public the factors on which it will judge the team’s performance and how that evaluation fits into the company’s regular appraisal process.
  • Customers generally ride on the wagon, being aware of the thumps and bumps of the journey forward but often unaware of the specific causes. Often, they encounter policies and procedures that are not customer oriented. Occasionally, they may feel like they are under the wheels!

Companies make the mistake of worrying mostly about the time it will take to implement change programs. They assume that the longer an proposal carries on, the more likely it is to fail.

Nothing Happens Without a Readiness to Change

Nothing Happens Without a Readiness to Change A great deal has been said about middle managers who want to block change. We find that most middle managers are prepared to support change efforts even if doing so involves additional work and uncertainty and puts their jobs at risk.

On the whole, the visions about the journey forward are difficult to communicate effectively to everyone, and changing direction is hard. Yet continued motivation is necessary to keep pushing forward, and people must trust the leadership to lead the way. After approaching for a long time, however, people in the back may lose interest in where the organization is going or needs to go and become resigned to the Square Wheels. The organization crashes along, and most know it. In the process, we exposed a provocative lens and language to help change managers better understand their mission and methods. When I share this illustration with people, I hear such comments as:

  • Communication between pullers and pushers is difficult. The process of exploring one’s communication styles, behavior and fundamental aims in life is a overwhelming task for most people.
  • Shared vision is crucial. It is very interesting to observe that the essential role of a leader when progressing a shared vision is one of unselfish motives.
  • It’s difficult to change direction. It suggests that the configuration established by cooperation is an effective way to accomplish our goals on a fast-paced world.
  • Teamwork, trust, motivation, and collaboration are needed. Leaders can help people throughout the organization expound systemic comprehensions.
  • Measuring progress is part of individual and team motivation. Progress that is observable tends to be explicit, teachable, autonomous, attachable, it also easy for challengers to reproduce.
  • Issues of cost, productivity and quality are always present. A shared vision is fundamental on the productivity of any business where a leader has so many individuals and groups to attend to in a transparent and selfless manner.
  • Progress is generally not about people—it is about systems and processes. Every organization creates and uses this information. The dispute is that few seem to essentially learn how to manage it, apply it, mature through it and use it successfully.
  • Poor systems are like bumps that demotivate those trying to move ahead. On the other hand, when regarded in systems terms immediate improvements often comprise very substantial long-term costs.
  • Ideas for improvement always exist already within the wagon. Those actions comforted employees that the organization would challenge the layoffs in a professional and humanitarian fashion.

Another reality is that the round wheels of today become the square wheels of tomorrow. Improvement is about continuous improvement, since change is a continuous event—you can’t complete a change initiative.

Probability of Leadership Change Management

Probability of Leadership Change Management There are four things that successful change leaders do well. The probability of change is related to four factors:

  1. The current level of discomfort with the way things are now. This is all about people feeling that things could be different. If they are not satisfied, they are likely to change. If something gets acknowledged as a Square Wheel and not working properly, a Round Wheel possibility likely exists for making an improvement.
  2. The attractiveness of the vision of the future. This one is all about motivation and teamwork. The view from the front of the wagon is different than the view from the back; and apprehending goals and expectations will reduce resistance to change. If the vision is engaging, it is attracting. Making the vision more attractive is straightforward.
  3. The person’s or group’s previous success with change. If the last time people tried to change they felt successful and rewarded, they will repeat the behavior. What gets rewarded gets repeated. But if the most recent attempt was met with criticism and negative comments, they likely won’t be interested in trying again. The same thing happens with team-based initiatives.
  4. The peer or workgroup support for the change. Obviously, if others are supportive, it puts positive peer pressure on an individual to change. But, sadly, most organizations have a tendency to add “mud” to the journey of most teams, bogging things down and making progress even harder for teams struggling forward. The mud can be the bureaucracy, politics, measurement systems that don’t support the goals and expectations—any form of glop that hampers people and clogs systems.

Successful change leaders embrace these tensions even though they make the challenge more complex. This meant nothing short of building new organizational capabilities based upon collaboration and client-first thinking, which not only meant developing new systems and processes but building a collective mindset that would make aspiring to being a one-company culture a reality.

Enlisting People in Change Initiatives

Enlisting People in Change Initiatives So what do we do? Well, let me suggest a couple of simple scenarios.

The first idea is this: Get out of the ditch and get up on the road. This is simpler than you might think. I ask people what things get in the way of making progress, let them brainstorm, perhaps even vent a little, then I ask if there are any incomparable Mud Managers out there. This reframe causes people to consider what others in the workplace are already doing differently and what underlies high performance in an environment where there are two feet of ditch for every foot of road. Invariably, people can generate ideas that are already proven to work. It is not about inventing new ways of doing things as much as it is about identifying ideas and then doing something differently. This increased managers’ understanding of business conditions and boosted employee engagement—and sales rose.

Where you can go from here is a bit surprising: Roll your wagon backwards! Because you have begun to generate a little partner support, you increase the likelihood of change. Now, you should work with the group to generate a list of possible Square Wheels—things that work but that do not work smoothly.

After playing with these themes and asking about “mud,” generate a list of possible issues to address: things that do not work smoothly. Set the stage for some possibility thinking. Get a long list, but resist the tendency to straightaway start fixing things. A week or so later, select one of the Square Wheels and generate some possible Round Wheels to try.

The Hard Aspects of Change Management

The Hard Aspects of Change Management Let your team do the thinking—you focus on maintaining the focus. Paint a picture of what will be different if a few Round Wheels are implemented. You are creating some uneasiness with the way things are now as people discuss the things that can be improved and suggest ideas that they could try to make things work more smoothly. Corporations will always require a hierarchy, but peer role models can successfully lead projects within a change initiative.

You create a higher likelihood of change because people become less comfortable with the way things are and create an alternative shared vision of the future. They build on some feelings of previous success and they work together, as a group, to make things better. Celebrating the reversal of a relapse can help desired behaviors regain momentum.

Participative leadership can reduce opposition to change. Managing change is tough, but part of the problem is that there is little agreement on what factors most influence transformation initiatives. Visionary leadership is often vital for change projects, but not always.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

How American Express Realizes the Enormous Opportunity of eService

The internet represents an enormous opportunity to transform and improve old businesses and engage in new ones.

American Express is constantly transforming its business, eventually putting American Express’s old products out of business with new product innovations. All of its Internet initiatives are designed to accelerate its business transformation by capitalizing on interactive capabilities.

The assets that have made American Express one of the leading global financial services companies are highly relevant on the Internet.

American Express eStrategy #1: Become or Remain a Leader in Online Payments American Express has one of the most recognized and respected brands in the world, representing security, integrity and trust. American Express has a large card member base with 50 million cards in force worldwide. It owns or manages nearly $300 billion of assets for its 2.3 million financial services customers. In addition, it transacts with millions of merchants in over 200 countries and territories. It has a broad and diverse product set catering to the financial and travel-related needs of its consumer, small business, and corporate customers.

American Express provides superior value and service to its customers, and runs first-class operations that are nimble enough to conceive and launch major products in Internet time. The Internet is an extension of its business, and American Express believes the “bricks and clicks” strategy will ultimately prevail. In fact, an increasing number of online-only players have recently announced the desire to acquire physical assets as their virtual business models have run their course.

American Express’s eStrategy consists of four parts.

American Express eStrategy #1: Become or Remain a Leader in Online Payments

Currently, of the $5 trillion in consumer payments in the U.S., only about 30 percent occurs on card-related payment products. In addition, of this $5 trillion, less than 1 percent is transacted online. However, as a greater share of spending moves online, most spending will occur on plastic or its electronic cousins as consumers and merchants look for standard ways to transact in a secure fashion. The three key drivers of success as an online payments provider will be merchant acceptance, authentication, and security.

  • On merchant acceptance, American Express has 97 percent coverage of the 100 top e-commerce sites, which accounts for approximately 70 percent of all online spending. In addition, of the top 500 sites, American Express has 95 percent coverage.
  • On authentication and security, American Express’s Online Fraud Protection Guarantee, Private Payment, and Online Wallet allow customers to shop in a secure fashion. Private Payments provides customers with choice and protection when shopping online. Online Wallet offers one-click order fulfillment and form-fill capability that allows users to automatically and securely checkout virtually anywhere on the Internet. The Blue smart chip offers an extra layer of authentication and protection.

As corporations move their purchasing to dynamic online exchanges, they have a need for payment, financing, trust facilitation, and risk management products to support these transactions. American Express is positioning itself to support these types of transactions.

American Express eStrategy #2: Become a Preferred Ecommerce Destination

American Express eStrategy #2: Become a Preferred Ecommerce Destination Becoming a preferred destination for American Express’s current and potential customers who are looking for content, products, and services across financial services, lifestyle, and travel. AmericanExpress.com is the nexus for all of its product and service offerings. This website receives over two million visitors a month.

Many of the products it is developing—such as Membership B@nking and its Online Brokerage—require new skills and capabilities. To succeed, American Express has focused on simple product functionality with differentiating value propositions, all introduced in Internet time. American Express’s Membership B@nking offering includes no-fee interest checking and account access through the American Express ATM network, the second largest in the U.S. And American Express Brokerage offers free online trading for accounts over $100,000.

Despite American Express’s relatively light marketing efforts, response to these offerings has been extremely positive. This popularity attests to the power that an established physical world company can wield by extending the strength of its brand onto the Internet in a way that offers its customers something of value.

American Express has a comprehensive web offering. To simplify the interaction for customers, American Express gives them the flexibility to customize their on-line dealings with American Express through “My American Express.” It has also added Online Extras to The Offer Zone where customers can access savings with local restaurants, merchants, and online retailers.

Another feature is American Express Online Services, the common entry point to all of American Express’s card products and services. Upon authentication, Online Services allows customers to access their American Express accounts as well as special or new offers. Based on a customer’s preference, it can communicate offers, services, and information directly to the customer’s e-mail address.

Through the combination of American Express’s physical assets and web site, it can serve customers when, where and how they want. American Express is increasing share of wallet with customers and providing them with greater levels of service by broadening American Express’s relationships across multiple channels.

American Express eStrategy #3: Provide Online Service that American Express’s Customers Value

American Express eStrategy #4: Improve American Express's Operating Structures Provide online service that American Express’s customers value across all of its entire businesses and products. Online Services already has several servicing options including Bill presentment and bill payment, Membership Rewards account management and online redemptions, and online card applications. American Express also is continuing to develop its online services for merchant, small business, and corporate customers.

If a customer encounters a problem adding an additional card to their Online Services account, a pop-up button will appear that they can click on to reach a customer service representative in real-time to resolve the issue.

Another application, American Express @ Work, moves customer-servicing capabilities online. American Express’s goal is to make the interactive channel one of the preferred methods of servicing.

American Express eStrategy #4: Improve American Express’s Operating Structures

American Express eStrategy #3: Provide Online Service that American Express's Customers Value Use interactive capabilities to dramatically improve American Express’s operating structures through reengineering on the cost and revenue sides. American Express constantly reengineers its business activities to increase its value to American Express’s customers, employees, and shareholders and to develop new capabilities and products. Most of its online reengineering initiatives focus on using the Internet as an additional channel to conduct functions such as online account acquisition, program enrollments, order fulfillment, and targeted, customized marketing campaigns.

American Express’s eStrategy Integrates the Internet with Core Banking Operations

Going forward, American Express plans to use the Internet to change the way it interact with customers, which can have a substantial impact on its cost structure and business processes. American Express is moving to integrate the Internet more closely into its operations and redesign its processes to allow it to be more nimble and proactive in meeting the needs of its customers. Consumers today expect to pay less online for the same products and services they once received through physical channels. Reengineering enables American Express to adjust its cost structure to meet customers’ needs and ensure that they receive superior value.

Create and implement a plan to improve your eService. You might seek ways to use the internet to change how you interact with customers

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Posted in Investing and Finance Management and Leadership

Managers Struggle to Cope Well with Rapid Change

Managers Struggle to Cope Well with Rapid Change Many managers grapple to cope well with swift change. Some must work longer. Now what matters most to companies are such traits as flexibility, adaptability to change, and problem-solving capability. These changes in expectancies require a 180-degree shift in thinking.

Leaders must change themselves before they can be effective at leading change by example. The initiative achieved initial cost savings but hesitated as employees began to question the leadership team’s vision and dedication. Here’s a 6F model to describe how people respond to change.

  • The Foggies. They either work in a comparatively stable environment or they simply choose to ignore change. They are in a “fog” so to speak. The challenge for leaders is to communicate scrupulously to help everyone understand the business realities. The challenge for individuals is to stay up-to-date with trends and to take responsibility for managing their own futures. Individuals in this state mostly contemplate what is right for them individually, and they have trouble seeing the larger picture of what is right for the organization.
  • Fakers pay lip service to change management The Fakers. This group tries to convince themselves and others that they are with the “change program,” even though they have no intention of changing. They pay lip service to management and hope they can get away with just “talk” and no action. The fakers may want to change but don’t know how and are afraid to admit it. They do not internalize the change message. They may be more comfortable taking small, easy steps when faced with a change situation—first articulating how they feel about the change and what they can and will do.
  • The Faultless. They see the changes, don’t like them, complain, and see themselves as victims. They may blame their leaders. The problem with attributing blame for others to “fix” is that it doesn’t change anything. They must move to a model of shared responsibility and accept that there is no one individual or group to blame. They must assess their own situation, how they are responding, and take personal responsibility for what is in their control to change.
  • The Fearful. Downsizings, scandals, terrorism, mergers, and acquisitions cause many people in a constant state of fear. The fearful may engage in self-protectionist, cautious, even paranoid behavior as they try to avoid an undesired fate. To address problems, ask: “About what am I most afraid? What are the odds of this happening?” Often, our fears are irrational. Some say fear is: False Evidence Appearing Real. Identify the fear, then decide what to do to handle the challenges of the situation.
  • The Fighters. Those who fight for the status quo are typically long-term employees who protect tradition; those who fight for change often act as vanguards and are seen as firebrands. Status-quo fighters might say: “We have always done it this way” or “We tried that 20 years ago and it did not work.” Sometimes they use a faker approach to lead others to believe they agree with the changes; but they work behind the scenes to thwart new plans.
  • The Futurists. The futurists are adaptable, flexible, global in their thinking, experimental, and career-resilient. They have a high self-concept and believe themselves to be in control of their destinies. Futurists are not fearful because they believe in themselves and have a plan B and C when the current situation does not work out. They are ready for the unanticipated.

When external consultants are hired to fast-track change, these change agents usually encounter a resistant culture. The more they fight for change, the more the resistance. Many change fighters either bow out or get pushed out of the system. Leaders need to coach fighters.

Everybody responds to change differently. Leaders help people get in touch with their natural response to change and cope with how to go with the flow in the wake of new realities. For change to cascade down throughout the organization, groups and individuals inside the organization whose behaviors previously symbolize the desired state must be involved in the change process.

Change is tough; transformation is tougher still Change is tough; transformation is tougher still, whether it comprises an individual or an entire organization. By encountering reality and helping employees appreciate the necessity for change, leaders were able to encourage the organization to follow the new direction at the heart of the largest rationalizing in the company’s history. Communications emerge in from the bottom and out from the top, and are directed to make available to employees the appropriate information at the right time and to ask for their input and comments.

Most leaders contemplating change know that people matter. Full transparency is required. Change will come only when the people at the top look down and start insisting that others’ resources be handled like the scarce resource it is. The warnings of the urgent significances we face seem to be arriving with greater incidence and in ever more pressing rhetoric, but utilitarian progress is more objective than actuality.

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Aesop’s Fables

A bronze statue from between 330 and 100 BCE, that is believed to depict Aesop holding a papyrus scroll. Fables refer to the idea of presenting criticism or advice indirectly in a simplified, fictional setting.

A fable is a narrative, in prose or verse but usually simple and brief, that is intended to convey a moral lesson.

Fables frequently involve non-human characters-animals (real or mythic), plants, artifacts, forces of nature, and so on-that are represented as having human attributes. Fables are a common form of folk literature; the best-known fables of the Western world are credited to the legendary figure Aesop, who is supposed to have been a slave in ancient Greece sometime between 620 and 560 BCE.

Hellenistic statue claimed to depict Aesop from Rome's Art Collection of Villa Albani In the ancient classical world, fables were not considered as fare for children nor as works of literature in their own right. Rather, they were used as vehicles for indirect—and thus carefully polite—criticism and persuasion. For example, Xenophon (c. 430–354 BCE), in his Memorabilia (c. 371 BCE), describes Socrates advising a citizen named Aristarchus to tel l his ungrateful relatives—to whom he had provided capital for a business and who are now accusing him of idlenessthe fable of the dog and the sheep, concluding, “Tell your flock yonder that like the dog in the fable you are their guardian and overseer.”

Interest in fables remained high through classical antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance, with collections of fables—typically ascribed to Aesop—serving as the basisfor rhetorical textbooks and literary works. Jean de La Fontaine (1621–95) produced Fables (1668–1694), which are perhaps the most best-known original fables in modern times.

'The Classic Treasury of Aesop's Fables' by Don Daily (ISBN 0762428767) The English author and philosopher G. K. Chesterton wrote in his Alfred the Great (1908), “Fable is more historical than fact, because fact tells usabout one man and fabletells us about a million men.”

As literary tastes developed in sophistication, fables increasingly became the province of humorists such as George Ade and children’s writers such as Dr. Seuss—although the defamiliarizing effect of fables, with the artistic form being used to stimulate fresh perception of a familiar subject, is still deployed in books such as George Orwell’s criticism of Stalinism, Animal Farm (1945).

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The Controversial Differences of Opinion between Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi

Described as a “world poet,” Rabindranath Tagore is considered a mystifying ecumenical figure and an archetype of human creative possibility. Rabindranath Tagore bestowed the title of ‘Mahatma’ (“Great Soul”) on Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in 1915. Mahatma Gandhi called Tagore Gurudev (“Revered Master”) and he attained a certain classicality. Tagore’s literary works have universal appeal and that illuminates his complexity and “myriad-mindedness.”

Nevertheless, experts have said that although Tagore admired Gandhi, he differed with him on specific issues.

The Controversial Differences of Opinion between Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi

“Tagore admired Mahatma Gandhi immensely and expressed his admiration for his leadership time and again, but sharply differed with him when Gandhi was departing from adequate reasoning,” Nobel-prize winning economist Amartya Sen once said.

After the Nepal-Bihar earthquake of 1934, Gandhi credited the disaster to the custom of untouchability among Biharis. Gandhi had said the earthquake was “a divine chastisement for the great sin we have committed against those whom we describe as Harijans”.

Although Tagore was against untouchability, he found this line of reasoning on Gandhi’s part unfounded and irrational.

Apparantly, Tagore shot off a refutation on rationalist lines, with a appeal for it to be published in Gandhi’s periodical, Harijan. The correspondence expressed “painful surprise” at “this kind of unscientific view of things”. It was plainly erroneous, Gurudev argued, to “associate ethical principles with cosmic phenomena”:

In the Harijan issue of 16 February, 1934, Tagore wrote his article The Bihar Earthquake to which Gandhi wrote his rejoinder Superstitions vs. Faith (pp. 115-121). Tagore considered Gandhi’s view that untouchability had brought down God’s vengeance upon certain parts of Bihar in the form of an earthquake as ‘unfortunate’, ‘unscientific’ and “too readily accepted by a large section of countrymen” (pp. 115): “If we associate ethical principles with cosmic phenomena, we shall have to admit that human nature is superior to Providence that preaches its lessons in good in orgies of the worst behaviour possible” (p.116). This amounts to “making indiscriminate examples of casual victims…in order to impress other at a safe distance who possibly deserve severer condemnation” (p 116). He felt the kind of argument that Gandhi used by exploiting an event of cosmic disturbance far better suited the psychology of his opponents than his own; and, “We, who are immensely grateful to Mahatmaji for inducing, by his wonderworking inspiration, freedom from fear and feebleness in the minds of his countrymen, feel profoundly hurt when any words from his mouth may emphasize the elements of unreason in those very minds — unreason which is a source of all blind powers that drive us against freedom and self-respect”. (p117).

Differences of Opinion between Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi

To this, Gandhi had replied that he felt phenomena like droughts, floods, earthquakes et cetera, though they seem to have only physical origins, are somehow connected with man’s morality.

Gandhi replied by saying that he long believed phenomena produce results both physical and spiritual; and, “The converse I hold to be equally true … We do not know all the laws of God nor their working… I believe literally that not a leaf moves but by His will. Every breath I take depends upon His sufferance …. what appears to us as catastrophes are so only because we do not know the universal laws sufficiently … (catastrophic) visitations… though they seem to have only physical origins are, for me, somehow connected with man’s morals … My belief is a call to repentence and self-purification … even as I cannot help believing in God though I am unable to prove His existence to the sceptics, in like manner, I cannot prove the connection of the sin of untouchability with the Bihar visitation even though the connection is instinctively felt by me” (pp.118-l20). And the utilitarian then spoke and bared himself thus, “If my belief turns out to be ill-founded, it will still have done good to me and those who believe with me. For we shall have been spurred to more vigorous efforts towards self-purification…” (p.120). And answering Tagore’s stinging comment that “our own sins and errors, however enormous, have not got enough force to drag down the structure of creation to ruins” (p. 117), he said, “On the contrary I have the faith that our own sins have more force to ruin that structure than any mere physical phenomenon” (p, 120), And he concluded, ” …the connection between cosmic phenomena and human behaviour is a living faith that draws me nearer to my God, humbles me and makes me readier for facing Him”. Gandhi, in arguing thus, is proved one who must maximise utility and make use of every circumstance to forward ends he considers desirable. And his conviction about his belief obliterates from consciousness any apparent factual inconsistencies that his system of faith has with a physical phenomena as ordinarily understood. Both, in their own way, are relevant and unimpeachable.

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Knowledge is Never Really Acquired

A portrait statue of Socrates The famous statement, “All I know is that I do not know,” is attributed-questionably, according to some scholars-to the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates (c. 470-399 BCE), based on two dialogues written by his disciple Plato (c. 424-c. 348 BCE).

In The Republic (c. 360 BCE), Socrates concludes a discussion with Thrasymachus on “justice” by saying, “the result of the discussion, as far as I’m concerned, is that I know nothing, for when I don’t know what justice is, I’ll hardly know whether it is a kind of virtue or not, or whether a person who has it is happy or unhappy.”

In The Apology (399 BCE), Socrates says of a well-respected politician that “he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows; I neither know nor think that I know.” The resulting slogan was adopted by later thinkers and incorporated into the tradition that became known as “Academic Skepticism.” Rather than believing that it is impossible to know anything, Academic Skeptics actually claim only that we can know very little about reality—namely, truths of logic and mathematics. This contrasts with Pyrrhonian skepticism, which involves an attitude of doubting every positive judgment, including logic and mathematics.

A serious problem with Socrates’s statements is that he seems committed to an incoherent position. If he truly does not know anything, then it is false that he knows that; but if he does know he does not know anything, then it is false that he does not know anything. Thus, the claim “I know that I do not know” is self-defeating (resulting in the statement also being known as the Socratic paradox). In response, many scholars argue that this is an uncharitable reading of Plato. They contend that Socrates’s claims are expressed in a particular context, referring only to specific concepts and not to knowledge generally (“Justice” in The Republic, and “beauty” and “goodness” in The Apology).

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Posted in Education and Career Philosophy and Wisdom

Talented People Work for More Than Pay

Reevaluate your compensation and rewards to create a performance culture

Reevaluate your compensation and rewards to create a performance culture Many companies are changing how they pay to keep the people they need. People who want to remain on a fast career track need to monitor what is happening to pay and rewards. Companies no longer just use options to get and keep the best people. And, when they move to cash compensation, this creates tax problems for key people.

  • Options underwater? Don’t hold your breath for re-pricing options. But companies are making major option grants to key people. You may not get options on your company stock at the current price for a long time. So, if you are up for pay negotiations, it may be a time for more options.
  • 'Fearless Salary Negotiation' by Josh Doody (ISBN 0692568689) 2020 incentives sparse? Many incentive plans are based on earnings growth for their dollars. And some companies missed their goals near the end of 2020. It is time to look at the measures your incentive plan has for 2021. Do they start where the missed 2020 goals left off? Do you have financial goals that are realistic and based on what your company can do in 2021?
  • Base pay adjustments? This will probably be a 4 percent budget year for most companies. So you need to focus on variable pay in the form of incentives and stock options. Companies set their plans at the start of the year, and even if things get better, they don’t change their budgeting processes easily.

Paying Smart: Time of Transition

Talented People Work for More Than Pay This year will be a watershed year for pay and rewards. The game is changing fast. Leaders will have some critical decisions to make, as companies are transitioning from a period of economic growth to a time of uncertainty. In recent years, everything we did with pay and rewards seemed to work. Now companies need a powerful business case for everything they do. Pay and rewards must add value to the business—good news for a change. But people need to be agile and adaptable.

Hiring is changing—from recruitment that placed a premium on all skills to a situation where hiring is more selective. Companies should build a performance culture employment model. Rather than designing rewards to attract and keep everyone, now they need rewards that are attractive to people who add value. As businesses offer incentives and equity lower in the workforce ranks, it is important to link rewards to what drives growth. Use rewards as the engine to make the company grow again. We now know that stock options are not the “secret sauce” of financial rewards. This gives us a chance to restart equity-sharing strategies.

You need to know how to deal with a workforce that is more “pay and reward savvy.” We will now see a return to basic design elements, including workforce involvement, alignment with business metrics, win-win for company and people, and simplicity.

'Designing Effective Incentive Compensation Plans' by Sal DiFonzo (ISBN 0692568689) Companies need pay and reward solutions that are more cost justified and based on contribution to the business. Talented people work for more than pay: total rewards in the form of providing a compelling and attractive future; individual growth so people continue to add value and adapt as they grow in economic value; a positive workplace where people want to do well; and total pay comprised of base pay, incentives, recognition, celebration and benefits.

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Posted in Business and Strategy

What Makes an Introvert

Myths about Introversion

5 Myths about Introversion

Extraverted managers can be a obligation if the followers are extroverts, tending not to be amenable to employees who make suggestions and take initiative. Introverted managers are more likely to listen to, process, and execute the ideas of an eager team. This is well aligned with the advanced leadership skill of coaching (defined as asking thought provoking questions and then truly listening to the response). Whether introverted or extraverted, a manager who has the discipline to listen to what others has to say will engage a larger percentage of employees. Many introverts find it simpler to listen than extraverts. But it certainly is a skill that can be taught, trained and institutionalized.

'Introvert Power' by Laurie Helgoe (ISBN 1402280882) The greatest leaders are those who are able to leverage the talents of the people around them and raise each person to function closer to or at their full potential. Other critical attributes to leadership—authenticity, self-awareness and emotional intelligence—also have nothing to do with introversion or extroversion.

  • Myth #1: Being Introverted is the same as Being Shy: While there may be a number of introverts who are shy, there are also a number of extroverts who are shy. There is no absolute association. Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say “Hell is other people at breakfast.” Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.
  • Myth #2: Introverts are Socially Inept or Anxious in Social Situations: Again, while this may be true for some introverts, this can also be true for extroverts and is not directly related to one’s introversion. Extroverts therefore dominate public life. This is a pity. If we introverts ran the world, it would no doubt be a calmer, saner, more peaceful sort of place. Some people even describe themselves as ambiverts, smack-dab in the middle. Regardless of where you fall in this spectrum, it helps to be aware of how you operate and can best interact with others.
  • Myth #3: If I am Fearful of Public Speaking I Must be an Introvert: Studies show the fear of public speaking is the top fear people face, and that 75% of persons experience speaking apprehension. Yet less than half of all people are introverts. Again, there is no direct correlation and this affects extroverts in the same way it involves introverts. People will often use the word “introvert” as shorthand for a variety of negative stereotypes: loner, shy, socially awkward, wallflower, misanthrope. Of course, it’s possible for an introvert to be any of those things, but the same is true for an extrovert.
  • Myth #4: Introverts Have Communication Challenges and Difficulty Knowing What to Say: This is social anxiety, not introversion. If you research social anxiety you do not find references to introversion as a cause. The trick for introverts is to honour their styles instead of allowing themselves to be swept up by prevailing norms.
  • Myth #5: If You Act Like an Extrovert You Can “Overcome” Introversion: The truth is best summed up by an email I received from a companion executive: “I have spent the better part of a 10-year career turning introversion into extroversion via the same technique used by people to heal bad posture—over correct it long enough and the correct posture becomes natural. This approach was certainly unforgettable but I made a fool of myself more times than I can remember, which is not conducive to long-term connections.” Because of the more reserved, private nature of introverts, people can also think they’re aloof or arrogant.

Introverted managers work against their type in order to fit in with their extroverted colleagues. Not only do individual leaders suffer the energy drains of pretending to be more extroverted but also businesses miss out many of on the contributions that come directly from the introverted qualities they do have.

Ray Williams, a well-known executive trainer and leadership guide in Canada, observes how the introvert—extrovert gulf manipulates our standpoint toward leaders:

Movies, television and the news media have significantly influenced our popular images of leaders—from Clint Eastwood, to Jim Carey, Larry Ellison, and Donald Trump—for the past three decades. This stereotypical view of charismatic, extroverted individuals, often egocentric and aggressive, has been associated with what we want and expect in our leaders. Our culture, particularly in business and politics, seems to be in love with the charismatic leader—the guns blazing, no-holds barred, center-of-attention leader, who is a super-confident if not arrogant, aggressively decisive leader of a band of star-struck followers …. The status and reputation of quiet, introverted leadership is undervalued and under-appreciated. Despite decades of research on leadership pointing to other less demonstrative skills that are needed, extroverts are still favored in recruiting and promoting decisions. Yet recent research reveals that introverted, quiet leaders may be more suited for today’s workplace. If you want an example of a successful introverted leader, you need look no further than Warren Buffett.

What Makes an Introvert

What Makes an Introvert

'Quiet The Power of Introverts' by Susan Cain (ISBN 0803740603) Introverts’ listening skills can be an asset when leading teams. Making sure everyone feels heard, Yeager said, is a good way to secure buy-in. When you’re trying to gain consensus, give everyone the opportunity to voice their opinion. People will be more likely to go along with your decision, even if it’s not the option they preferred, if they feel like they were heard. Susan Cain in ‘Quiet The Power of Introverts’:

Solitude is out of fashion. Our companies, our schools and our culture are in thrall to an idea I call the New Groupthink, which holds that creativity and achievement come from an oddly gregarious place. Most of us now work in teams, in offices without walls, for managers who prize people skills above all. Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in…. This has led to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and happiness.

  • Careful thinkers who look before they leap
  • Usually only speak when they have something to say, after processing internally
  • Comfort with independent thought and action
  • Feel at their most alive and energized in quiet situations
  • Need solitude to balance out social time
  • Active inner life, imagination and a strong creative streak
  • Steady, balanced presence during turbulent times
  • Sharp observational skills
  • Capacity for active listening and connecting on an intimate level
  • Willing to put other people and their vision in the spotlight
  • Desire for focus and to develop a depth of understanding/mastery over a topic

Common Myths About Introverts

Some Common Myths About Introverts

'The Introvert Entrepreneur' by Beth Buelow (ISBN 0399174834) Though introverts may have a more reserved leadership style than extroverts, they possess many qualities that make them good leaders. Their capacity for listening and reflection, for instance, helps them forge strong relationships with colleagues and clients. Introverts have the ability to really take in what people are saying, process it, and come back to it in a meaningful way.

  • They are shy or antisocial. There are “social introverts” who are drawn to people byt need a higher ratio of solitude to social time. There are also those who more closely match the stereotypes of a strong loner.
  • They make poor leaders, and are best suited for jobs that limit contact with people. In fact, research shows introverted leaders often out-perform extroverted ones.
  • They’re always quiet and don’t talk
  • They’re depressed
  • They’re all bookworms and nerds
  • They’re arrogant, aloof or stuck up

It’s important for introverts to be strategic about how they use their time and energy. Decide in advance who you want to meet and which events you want to attend. Set a goal such as having lunch with a certain number of people this quarter. What I’ve learned is that I don’t have to talk to everyone in the room. Having two to four good, meaningful conversations is enough.

Establish an introvert-friendly environment:

  • Stop prejudging.
  • Learn the strengths and weaknesses of both.
  • Exploit strengths.
  • Find solutions as teams.
  • Give introverts emotional and physical space. Allow for pauses.
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Posted in Management and Leadership Mental Models and Psychology