My notes – Nine Lies At Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World

Nine Lies About Work.jpg

An excellent thought-provoking book to read. Challenging some preconceived ideas and views practiced for several years by the HR Organizations.
I loved the lies Lie # 9 – Leadership, and Lie # 5 – Feedback. Wish this book was available when the first time I was given leadership responsibility.

  1. I am really enthusiastic about the mission of my company.
  2. At work, I clearly understand what is expected of me.
  3. In my team, I am surrounded by people who share my values.
  4. I have the chance to use my strengths every day at work.
  5. My teammates have my back.
  6. I know I will be recognized for excellent work.
  7. I have great confidence in my company’s future.
  8. In my work, I am always challenged to grow. If we put you in a good team at a bad company, you’ll tend to hang
    around, but if we put you in a bad team at a good company, you won’t be there for long. The team is the sun, the moon, and the stars of your experience at work.

“To love the little platoon we belong to in society is the first principle (the germ, as it were) of public affections. Edmund Burke

while people might care which company they join, they don’t care which company they work for. The truth is that, once there, people care which team they’re on.

  1. virtually all work is in fact teamwork
  2. if you do happen to work on a team you are twice as likely to score high on the eight engagement items
  3. those team members who said they trusted their team leader were twelve times more likely to be fully engaged at work

The more frequent sense-making rituals you establish on your team, the more information you will liberate, the more intelligence you will generate, and the more trust you will engender. Trust can never emerge from secrecy. Frequency creates safety.

The good news in all this for you, the team leader, is that what people care most about at work is within your control. You might not be able to weigh in on your company’s parental-leave policy, or the quality of its cafeteria, but you can build a healthy team—you can set clear expectations for your people, or not; you can position each person to play to his or her strengths every day, or not; you can praise the team for excellent work, or not; you can help people grow their careers, or not. And you can, over time, build trust with your people, or not. Of course, given the “always-on” nature of your daily work, attending to each of these is challenging, but at least they are indeed part of your daily work.

Things That Are Valuable Because We All Agree They Are to Things That Are Valueless Because Some Of Us Don’t.

What are our intersubjective realities in the world of work? One, obviously, is the idea of the company. We can’t touch it; it exists only in the realm of laws (another intersubjective reality), and when we stop agreeing it exists, it ceases to exist. Obviously, the stock-market value of a public company is another example. As is that company’s brand and brand value. And its bank balance. All of these are useful—essential, even—to our ability to organize lots of people to achieve complex and enduring goals. Without them, and the many other intersubjective realities in the world of work, we would have none of the things that “companies” have produced since we invented them. But that doesn’t make them real, in the sense that gravity is real, or in the sense that a toothache is real. Or in the sense that the other people at work—your team—are real.

Teams simplify: they help us see where to focus and what to do. Culture doesn’t do this, funnily enough, because it’s too abstract

Teams make work real: they ground us in the day-to-day, both in terms of the content of our work and the colleagues with whom we do it. Culture doesn’t.

There are three things for you to do as a leader of a team

  1. you should know the answers to the eight questions for your team, all the time
  2. read on to understand more clearly how to build a great team, and how the lies you’ll encounter get in the way of that.
  3. when you’re next looking to join a company, don’t bother asking if it has a great culture—no one can tell you that in any real way. Instead, ask what it does to build great teams.

The defining characteristic of our reality today is its ephemerality—the speed of change.

Book: Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal

even if you do weave together the most carefully filigreed plan, your people inevitably chafe at being told what to do in the context of something so static, so conceptual, and potentially so out of touch with the real world they face.

It’s not true that the best plan wins. It is true that the best intelligence wins.

What can you do as a team leader to create such an intelligence system for your team?

  1. liberate as much information as you possibly can. Think about all the sources of information you have, and make as many of them as possible available to your team, on demand. Make sure your team is swimming in real-time information, all the time.
  2. watch carefully to see which data your people find useful. Don’t worry too much about making all this data simple or easy to consume, or about packaging it for people, or weaving it together to form a coherent story.
    the biggest challenge with data today is making it accurate—sorting the signal from the noise.
  3. trust your people to make sense of the data. “In the old model, subordinates provided information and leaders disseminated commands. We reversed it: we had our leaders provide information so that subordinates, armed with context, understanding, and connectivity, could take the initiative and make decisions.”

information grows stale fast, and must therefore be shared fast

Leaders have a brief check-in with each team member, during which they ask two simple questions:

What are your priorities this week?

How can I help?

The generalizations that emerge once the passage of time has blurred the details are not the stuff of good sense making. So, doing a check-in once every six weeks or even once a month is useless, because you’ll wind up talking in generalities.

the most important insights shared by the best team leaders: frequency trumps quality

In the intelligence business, frequency is king. The more frequently and predictably you check in with your people or meet with your team—the more you offer your real-time attention to the reality of their work—the more performance and engagement you will get

Twice-a year super-high-quality teeth-brushing is as absurd as it sounds. So is twice-a-year super-high-quality intelligence. A team with low check-in frequency is a team with low intelligence.

The data reveals only that those team leaders who check in every week with each team member have higher levels of engagement and performance, and lower levels of voluntary turnover.

I would love to check in with my people every week, but I can’t. I’ve simply got
too many people!

Span of control, in other words, isn’t a theoretical, one-size-fits-all thing. It’s a practical, function-of-team-leader’s-capacity-to-give-attention thing. Your span of control is your span of attention.

if ever you become a leader of leaders, you’ll need to ensure that your leaders know that this check-in is the most important part of leading. Checking in with each person on a team—listening, course-correcting, adjusting, coaching, pinpointing, advising, paying attention to the intersection of the person and the real-world work—is not what you do in addition to the work of leading. This is the work of leading. If you don’t like this, if the idea of weekly check-ins bores or frustrates you or you think that once a week is just “too much,” that’s fine—but, for the love of Hugh Dowding, don’t be a leader.

team members don’t know how to support one another, because they don’t know what’s going on in enough detail to offer assistance. If they don’t know what one another is doing, how can each learn what the others truly value? Likewise, if they don’t know what work each is engaged in, how can any one of them feel safe? You can’t watch someone’s back if you don’t know where his or her back is.

give your people as much accurate data as you can, as often as you can—a real-time view of what’s going on right now— and then a way to make sense of it, together. Trust the intelligence of your team.

Lie # 3 The best companies cascade goals

What are the purposes for goal setting?

  1. goals stimulate and coordinate performance by aligning everyone’s work
  2. tracking goals’ “percent complete” yields valuable data on the team’s or company’s progress throughout the year
  3. goal attainment allows companies to evaluate team members’ performance at the end of the year

companies invest in goals because goals are seen as a stimulator, a tracker, and an evaluator—and these three core functions of goals are why we spend so much time, energy, and money on them.

no research exists showing that goals set for you from above stimulate you to
greater productivity. In fact, the weight of evidence suggests that cascaded goals do the opposite: they limit performance. They slow your boat down.

this pressure to achieve company-imposed goals is coercion, and coercion is a cousin to fear. In the worst cases, fear-fueled employees push and push and, falling short, resort to inappropriate and sometimes illegal tactics in order to meet their goals.

Book: The Progress Principle by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer

humans love to track their progress and that they derive joy from each achievement; and even though, in the last few years, we have seen more goal tracking and not less; none of this tracking does what it is intended to, for the simple reason that your progress toward a goal is not linear.

All goals, at least in the real world, function in this same way. You are either done, or you are not done: goal attainment is binary. You might want to set some intermediate goals along the way, and tick these goals off as they are done (or not done). But you won’t ever be able to assign a “percent complete” to your bigger goal as you tick off these mini-goals. And if you attempt to, or if your company asks you to, you will only be generating falsely precise data about the state of your progress.

goals, and cascaded goals in particular, have an intuitive appeal to many leaders who find themselves in search of ways to ensure efficient and aligned execution in their organizations. And, at the same time, it also remains true that for those of us in the trenches, our experience of goals feels nonintuitive, mechanical, fake, even demeaning.

While your boss may imagine that you’re engaging in honest and earnest reflection on the year gone by, you’re probably trying to find the elusive sweet spot between, on the one hand, saying that you hit all your goals out of the park, by which you’d risk seeming arrogant or deluded, and, on the other, acknowledging that some things didn’t go as planned, by which you’d risk giving your boss —or some unseen higher-up—an excuse to decrease your bonus.

Self-evaluation of goals isn’t really about evaluating your work, in other words: it’s a careful exercise in self-promotion and political positioning, in figuring out how much to reveal honestly and how much to couch carefully.

In the real world, there is work—stuff that you have to get done. In theory world, there are goals.

Work is ahead of you; goals are behind you—they’re your rear-view mirror. Work is specific and detailed; goals are abstract. Work changes fast; goals change slowly, or not at all. Work makes you feel like you have agency; goals make you feel like a cog in a machine. Work makes you feel trusted; goals make you feel distrusted. Work is work; goals aren’t.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Goals can be a force for good.
Your goals define the dent you want to make in the world.

a goal is going to be useful, if it is going to help you contribute more, then the only criterion is that you must set it for yourself, voluntarily. Any goal imposed upon you from above is an un-goal

The best companies don’t cascade goals; the best companies cascade meaning.

Many of the best leaders are storytellers, not in the sense of writing a novel or a screenplay, but because they cascade meaning through vignettes, anecdotes, or stories told at meetings, on email chains, or on phone calls.

Goals set by others imprison us.

Lie # 4 The best people are wellrounded

A strength, on the other hand, is an “activity that makes you feel strong.

While you are doing it, time seems to speed up, one moment blurring into the next. And after you’ve done it, while you may be tired and not quite ready to suit up and tackle it again, you nonetheless feel filled up, proud.

“You will never feel proud of your work if you find no joy within it. Your best work is always joyful work.” Stevie Wonder

When your leaders say they want you to be creative and innovative and collaborative and resilient and intuitive and productive, what they are really saying is, “We want you to fill your working hours with activities that bring you joy, with tasks that delight you.”

“I have the chance to use my strengths every day at work.”

the team leader is able not only to identify the strengths of each person but also to tweak roles and responsibilities so that team members, individually, feel that their work calls upon them to exercise their strengths on a daily basis.

Each of us possesses certain unique predispositions and recurring patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior, and the overwhelming evidence is that, while each of us can learn over time to be more intelligent and effective at contributing through these patterns, the patterns themselves persist throughout our lives.

the truth about competencies such as strategic thinking, political savvy, or any of the others is that they are a haphazard mix-up of states and traits.

excellence is idiosyncratic

In the real world each of us learns to make the most of what we have. Growth, it turns out, is actually a question not of figuring out how to gain ability where we lack it but of figuring out how to increase impact where we already have ability. And because our abilities are diverse, when you look at a great performance you see not diversity minimized but rather diversity magnified; not sameness but uniqueness.

the best people are spiky, and in their lovingly honed spikiness they find their biggest contribution, their fastest growth, and, ultimately, their greatest joy

“Pain + Reflection = Progress” ~ Ray Dalio

The pain of working on our deficits seems like a worthy pain, a way to pay our penance and make our restitution with the world, and we are drawn to its salutary austerity.

“There is no way to ‘get better’ other than to first do it, however poorly you do,” Charlie Kim CEO Next Jump

Failure by itself doesn’t teach us anything about success, just as our deficits by themselves don’t teach us anything about our strengths. And the moment we begin to get better is the moment when something actually works, not when it doesn’t

a strength is not where we are most “finished” but in fact where we are most productively challenged

performance is most impactful and increasing

three strategies we’ve seen used by the best team leaders.

  1. Get into the outcomes business
  2. fit the work to the person, and not the other way around, so as to maximize person-outcome fit
  3. Use team technology. To help you address everything that needs to be addressed, the real world has devised a supremely effective technology for integrating people’s wonderfully imperfect capabilities in the service of a given objective. It’s called a team, and the essential magic of a team is that it makes weirdness useful.

we are to achieve results that demand more abilities than any of us has alone. And this means, in turn, that the more different we are from one another, the more we need one another.

The more diverse the team members, the more weird, spiky, and idiosyncratic they are, the more wellrounded the team.

Lie # 5 People need feedback

One of the inconvenient truths about humans is that we have poor theories of others, and these
theories lead us, among other things, to design our working world to remedy or to insulate against failings that we see in others but don’t see in ourselves.

The truth, then, is that people need attention—and when you give it to us in a safe and nonjudgmental environment, we will come and stay and play and work.

People don’t need feedback.They need attention, and moreover, attention to what they do the best. And they become more engaged and therefore more productive when we give it to them.

I have the chance to use my strengths every day at work. a focus on strengths is what creates growth

Time and attention devoted to contributing to your strengths intelligently will yield exponential return now and in the future

Recent studies have shown, the brain—though it goes through its most frenzied periods of synapse growth and synapse pruning during childhood and adolescence—never loses its ability to create more neurons and more synaptic connections between those neurons. This is referred to as “neural plasticity,” and it’s often pointed to as a sign that, since the brain can keep mutating through life, we should keep telling people what’s wrong with them so that they can fix themselves, so that they can learn to do it right.

“Brain growth is like new buds on an existing branch, rather than new branches.” ~ Joseph LeDoux

“the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones”

Get into the conscious habit of looking for what’s going well for each of your team members.

People, by contrast, are in a constant state of learning and growing, and, as we just saw, they grow the most under positive attention and the least under negative feedback.

when someone says to you “I want to know where I stand” she doesn’t actually mean this, and you, frankly, are in no position to tell her—you are not the ultimate and definitive source of truth for where she stands. Instead, what she means is “I want to know where I stand with you.” And happily, here your truth is unimpeachable.

The nature of your attention is key. If a team member screws something up, of course you have to deal with it. But remember that when you do, you’re merely remediating—and that remediating what’s wrong, so a mistake won’t happen again, moves you no closer to creating excellent performance.

To conjure excellence from your team requires a different focus for your attention. If you see somebody doing something that really works, stopping them and replaying it to them isn’t only a high-priority interrupt, it is arguably your highest-priority interrupt. Get into this habit and you’ll be far more likely to lead a high-performing team.

Definition of Advice: “The Recitation Of A Set Of Tactics That Work For Me And Only Me”

“performance transfusions”: To succeed,they depend on how individuals make sense of what they’re hearing—how they metabolize it, and hook it into their own patterns of thought and behavior. Performance-transfusing
advice, in other words, starts with the performer, not with the advice.

insight— “a feeling of knowing generated from within”

Start with the present. If your team member approaches youwith a problem, he is in it now. He is feeling weak, broken, or challenged, and you have to address that. But rather than dealing with it head-on, ask your colleague to tell you three things that are working for him right now. These “things that are working”
might be related to the situation, or they might be completely separate from it. They might be significant or trivial. It doesn’t matter. Just ask for three “things that are working.” In doing that, you’re priming his mind with oxytocin—what we sometimes call the “love drug,” but which here is better thought of as the
“creativity” drug. By getting him to think about some specific things that are going right, you are deliberately altering his brain chemistry so that he can be open to new solutions, and new ways of thinking or acting.

“When you had a problem like this in the past, what did you do that worked?” Much of our lives are lived through patterns, so it’s highly likely that he has encountered this problem before and found himself similarly stuck. But on one of these occasions he will almost certainly have found some way forward, some action or insight or connection that worked for him and enabled him to move out of the mess.Get him thinking about that, and seeing it in his mind’s eye: what he actually felt and did, and what happened next.

Finally, turn to the future. Ask your team member, “What do you already know you need to do? What do you already know works in this situation?” In a sense you’re operating under the assumption that he’s already made his decision—you’re just helping him find it. At this point, by all means offer up one or
two of your own paintings, to see if they might clarify his own. But above all keep asking him to describe what he already sees, and what he already knows works for him.

Lie 6 # People can reliably rate other people

Forced curves are no one’s idea of fun, but they are felt to be a necessary constraint on team leaders, and a way of ensuring that rewards are appropriately
“differentiated,” so that high performers get much more than low performers.

This race to real-time ratings appears as inevitable as it is frenzied, and all of it is in service of the organization’s interest, which is to answer the question, “When it comes to our people, what do we really have here?”

The effect that ruins our ability to rate others has a name: the Idiosyncratic Rater Effect, which tells us that my rating of you on a quality such as “potential” is driven not by who you are, but instead by my own idiosyncrasies—how I define “potential,” how much of it I think I have, how tough a rater I usually am

Idiosyncratic Rater Effect applies regardless of thegender, race, or age of both the rater and the person being rated. The idiosyncrasy of the rating pattern stems from the uniqueness of the rater, and doesn’t appear to have much of anything to do with the person being rated. In fact, it’s pretty much as though that person isn’t there at all

Business acumen is keenness and speed in understanding and deciding on a business situation . . . people with business acumen . . . are able to obtain essential information about a situation, focus on the key objectives, recognise the relevant options available for a solution, [and] select an appropriate course of action

The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, published in 2004, is a book written by James Surowiecki about the aggregation of information in groups, resulting in decisions that, he argues, are often better than could have been made by any single member of the group. The book presents numerous case studies and anecdotes to illustrate its argument, and touches on several fields, primarily economics and psychology.

Noise plus noise plus noise never equals signal; it only ever equals lots of noise. In fact, the truth about data is that noise plus signal plus signal plus signal still equals noise, because the tiniest amount of bad data contaminates all the good data.

1) human beings can never be trained to reliably rate other human beings, that
2) ratings data derived in this way is contaminated because it reveals far more of the rater than it does of the person being rated, and that
3) the contamination cannot be removed by adding more contaminated data.
And this means, in turn, that ratings-based tools, be they annual engagement surveys, performance-rating tools, 360-degree surveys, or any of the many other varieties at large, do not measure what they purport to measure.

garbage data in, garbage discoveries out.

Until we come up with a reliable way to measure individual knowledge-worker
performance—whether this means the performance of a nurse, or a software developer, or a teacher, or a construction worker—any claim about what drives performance is not valid. No one knows, and anyone who claims to know simply doesn’t know good data from bad.

You don’t want someone to be in any room pretending that they have a reliable measure of who you are.

you want to be represented by data that simply, reliably, and humbly captures the reaction of your team leader to you.

Lie 7 # People have potential

“Our people are our greatest asset” applies to all of the people in the company

Definition of High potential by Harvard Business Review

High potentials consistently and significantly
outperform their peer groups in a variety of settings
and circumstances. While achieving these superior
levels of performance, they exhibit behaviors that
reflect their companies’ culture and values in an
exemplary manner. Moreover, they show a strong
capacity to grow and succeed throughout their careers
within an organization—more quickly and effectively
than their peer groups do.

It’s not true—or, indeed, useful—to think that people have potential. Instead, the truth is that people have momentum. Potential is a one-sided evaluation. Momentum is an ongoing conversation.

Addressing their momentum makes them feel understood. More important, it helps them understand themselves, by encouraging them to consider where they are, right now—not as a point of stasis, but as a unique human being moving purposefully through the world.

Invest in helping our team leaders do what we need them to, by
1) getting rid of ratings of “potential,”
2) teaching team leaders what we know about human growth, and
3) prompting them to discuss careers withtheir people in terms of momentum

—in terms of who each team member is, and in terms of how fast each is moving through the world. This is harder, of course, than buying the latest piece of
enterprise software and then imploring our people to use it, but it’s the right hard thing to do.

Lie # 8 : Work-life balance matters most

Work is even a distraction from work. When we need to get something important done, we recognize that it will be hard to do unless we can somehow make our escape from the daily grind, and so we go on a leadership retreat to get away from the noise and stress of work, to better focus on other work.

Neither you nor your life are in balance, nor will you ever be. Instead you are a unique creature who takes inputs from the world, metabolizes them in some way,
produces something useful, and does so in such a way that you can keep doing it. At least, you are when you’re healthy, when you’re at your best, when you are contributing all that your talents allow you to. When you’re flourishing you are acting on the world and it on you. Your world offers up to you raw material
—activities, situations, outcomes—in all parts of your life, and some of this raw material invigorates you and gives you energy.

eudaimonia – “the fullest and purest expression of you in your most elevated state.”

more than striving for balance between work and life—love-in-work matters most.

Love-in-work is less of a mouthful than eudaimonia, for sure, but it might also sound soft, idealistic, and far removed from the real-world pragmatism of the freethinking leader.

Twice a year, spend a week in love with your work. Select a regular week at work and take a pad around with you for the entire week. Down the middle of this pad draw a vertical line to make two columns, and write “Loved It” at the top of one column
and “Loathed It” at the top of the other.* During the week, any time you find yourself feeling one of the signs of love—before you do something, you actively look forward to it; while you’re doing it, time speeds up and you find yourself in flow; after you’ve done it, there’s part of you looking forward to when you can do it again
—scribble down exactly what that something was in the “Loved It” column.

What we all wrestle with every day inthe real world is not so much work and life as it is love and loathe.

Technical mastery absent love always equals burnout. Burnout isn’t the absence of balance but the absence of love.

Youtube Video : Hozier’s “Take Me to Church.”

Lie #9 : Leadership is a thing

leadership is enduringly fascinating to us and that we believe it to be critically important at work.

For leadership does not live in the abstract, does not live in the average. It lives, instead, in the real world.

This is the true lesson in leading from the real world: a leader is someone who has followers, plain and simple. The only determinant of whether anyone is leading is whether anyone else is following.

we follow leaders who connect us to a mission we believe in, who clarify what’s expected of us, who surround us with people who define excellence the same way we
do, who value us for our strengths, who show us that our teammates will always be there for us, who diligently replay our winning plays, who challenge us to keep getting better, and who give us confidence in the future.

We follow people who are really good at something that matters to us. We follow the spikes.

The truth that leaders are not good or bad—they are just people who have figured out how to be their most defined selves in the world, and who do so in such a way that they inspire genuine confidence in their followers. This isn’t necessarily good
or bad. It just is.

Because what never, ever happens in any of these courses is our starting with the question: Who are you? Not, who are you in comparison with some model involving abstract words in little boxes, but who are you as a living, breathing, growing, worrying, joyous, uncertain, loving, striving, messy, and yes, spiky human being? We never ask why, given your particular jumble of characteristics, anyone would follow you. We never ask how—given that one-of-a-kind mixture of states and traits that makes you who you are—you would use those things to create an experience for the people around you, and use what you have to help them feel better about the world you’re all walking through together, and, while we’re at it, how we might give you some measure of that so you can adjust your course as you go.

we need to stop with the models. Stop with the 360-degree assessments. Stop with the minute and meaningless parsing of how to move your “effective communications” score from a 3.8 to a 3.9, while also figuring out why your peers gave you a 4.1 on
“strategy” yet your boss gave you a 3.0. Stop with the endless lists of abstractions. Stop debating whether it’s authenticity or tribal leadership or situational leadership or level-five leadership or whatever the latest leadership-nirvana thing is. Stop with the one-size-fits-all.

And let’s follow our own reactions to real people in the real world. When we feel uplifted by what someone does or says, we need to stop and ask why. When we feel a fresh rush of energy after talking with someone, we need to stop and ask why. When
we feel, in response to another human being, that mysterious attraction tugging on us—like a fish on a line, or like a needle twitching in a compass, an attraction that says Here, something is happening, something true and visceral and substantial,
something that will change, however slightly, the arc of our future—we need to stop and ask why

Leading and following are not abstractions. They are human interactions; human relationships. And their currency is the currency of all human relationships—the currency of emotional bonds, of trust, and of love. If you, as a leader, forget these
things, and yet master everything that theory world tells you matters, you will find yourself alone. But if you understand who you are, at your core, and hone that understanding into a few special abilities, each of which refracts and magnifies your
intent, your essence, and your humanity, then, in the real world, we will see you.And we will follow.

People care which team they’re on
(Because that’s where work actually happens.)
The best intelligence wins
(Because the world moves too fast for plans.)
The best companies cascade meaning
(Because people want to know what they all share.)
The best people are spiky
(Because uniqueness is a feature, not a bug.)
People need attention
(Because we all want to be seen for who we are at our best.)
People can reliably rate their own experience
(Because that’s all we have.)
People have momentum
(Because we all move through the world differently.)
Love-in-work matters most
(Because that’s what work is really for.)
We follow spikes
(Because spikes bring us certainty.)

The book critiques the operating assumptions behind popular HR practices and how these flawed assumptions, affects the quality of outcomes that most organizations seek- be it greater productivity, service excellence, leadership bench-strength or engaged workforce. Let us consider the assertions made in the book, on the basis of experiments done at CISCO and also taking inputs from research elsewhere:

1: People care for the Mission of the company and its Future…..The talk about company culture is good to convey some of the beliefs to outside world and helps attract the right fit among the potential employees. Once in, the most employee cares about is the team he works with- its shared values, practices and mutual trust. Author suggests taking team as unit of analysis for diagnosis, and interventions more often than is prevalent today. This would allow for greater insights and more nuanced intervention designs- which would off-course involve team leader at its core.

  1. Best crafted plan rarely wins, as it is based on fleeting reality and general assumptions- and expects adherence by team members who know that realities are continually changing. Plans often dictate sequencing of activities and timings, resources allocation, and member roles, which bring in certain structure and predictability in the execution. To keep plans relevant, companies do undertake periodic revisions at regular intervals. Alternately, author talks about broad plans that are detailed on weekly basis and primarily driven by sharing of intelligence and data among all and relying on users’ ability to make sense of the data or new intelligence. Weekly check by team leader leads to 13% increase in team engagement while monthly check in decreases engagement!

3 Basic assumption behind emphasis on top-down cascading of goals, is that the deficit in performance is on account of misaligned efforts and actions by the team. Is it really so? Goals are seldom able to influence performance, although they help predict performance at aggregate level! Associated with the goal exercise is the calendar based tracking and evaluation system- which has some obvious limitations. Author professes the need to align meaning, purpose, mission across the organization hierarchy and teams instead of only goals for enhancing the engagement level among teams.

4 While competencies framework aims to create well-rounded managers and templated leaders, the excellence comes from people who have spiked personalities with clearly supreme abilities and associated idiosyncrasies. High performers understand their unique and distinct skills and cultivate these skills intelligently. If leaders are in outcome providing business, should find ways to exploit team members’ uniqueness and not make each to focus on personal deficits. Competencies profiling at team levels may be a better option.

  1. Ability to provide negative feedback is an important skill and that employees finally gain from such candid feedback- goes the prevailing corporate wisdom. Neurologically speaking, we are more comfortable in learning in areas, where we are already good. People gain lot more, if they are interrupted when they deliver their best, help them analyze their own flow and push them to extend that state in other new and adjacent areas. Do not confuse social media behavior of the millennium as need for feedback for improvement, it is for attention and positive reinforcement.

6 Rating others objectively on abstract parameters like business acumen, suffers from various limitations including raters own bias, limited data availability and often lack of shared meeting of the term being evaluated. Decisions based on such flawed assessments about someones’ potential are questionable. And if the errors are more systemic, then averaging assessments of multiple raters won’t help. Author suggest that to make the data about people more reliable, valid and variable, questions needs to be reframed in a way that managers respond basis their experience and intend then overall raring the person. Instead of asking how collaborative person is, ask how comfortable team feels when he is the part of the team! How often you ask a team member for suggestion instead of rating member on his innovation competency!

7 Is potential a trait in a person with which one is born or a state, which is an outcome of what he has learnt and experienced before? And if potential is linked to learning and performing, then each has its own areas where he can be better at and none of us can rewire our brain to be excel at everything. As value maximization machines, organizations need to extract maximum potential from all then only from those in labeled Hi-Po. Authors suggest that instead of potential, we should look at individual momentum, which included his inherent strength as mass, and learnt skills and experiences as velocity (with defined direction) which allows individual to herald with certain momentum in one directions than another. This allows for constructive dialogue around selecting appropriate career paths that capitalizes on the current momentum of an individual.

8 Work is inherently bad and you get compensated for indulging in work and that compensation help you live life…is the prevailing assumption behind the work-life balance dialogue. Not all work is boring and not everyone finds excitement in the work in a particular way. Everyone may love some dimension of his work, that component needs to be consciously enhanced and interspersed, so that everyone can get to spend time in love with work. Instead of get work done through people, get people discover self through work!

9 Leadership is best described in terms of felt experience of followers on their ability to be collective and individual best, when associated with a particular leader. Leading isn’t a set of characteristics but a series of experiences seen through the eyes of followers.. Leaders are not followed for they have no faults or gaps but they have something unique and deep that we value. And as followers, we are fairly forgiving to the flaws of a leader, so long as he brings confidence and certainty to us on the dent of unique and personal mastery.

Authors, through this provocative book tried to bring forth the flaws in our ways of thinking and managing people growth and performance challenges at workplace, by labelling them a lies. They have also provided alternate truism against each lie, and to some extent also shared ways to manage basis the alternate trues.

At the core, author wants organizations to: give more recognition to individual uniqueness then template-driven predefined clustering of employees; use teams as unit of analysis and intervention more often than individuals and organization; introduce life in work; and stop developing perfect leaders.

Sane advice, worth remembering, always! ~ By Thushar Khosla

Pic Credits:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s