By Robert C. Townsend & Warren Bennis
The sub-title of this book sums it up pretty well: How to stop the corporation from stifling people and strangling profits. The ideas here are irreverent, humorous, and most of all, relevant. Creativity. Initiative. Boldness. These are the qualities that most professionals wish their employees and peers possessed. But too often, these same professionals never realize that it is the company or organization itself that stifles these important qualities. This book challenges readers to humanize business by bringing out the best in the people they work with by getting out of their way.
The views here aren't in any particular order because the book is designed to serve as a way to promote thought and to question the traditional workings of business. By opening any page, readers will find useful ideas and thought-provoking observations. A typical view from the author gives a great example of the tone throughout the book. Addressing the traditional perk of upper management and reserved parking places, he says:
“Get rid of it. If you are so bloody important, be the first one at work each morning.”
“Most people in big companies today are administered, not led. They are treated as personnel, not people.”
As long as companies treat employees as commodities instead of assets, progressive thinking and creativity will never happen. For employees to feel like they have a purpose, they need a leader who cares. For employees to feel like their contributions are appreciated, they need a leader who is involved and gives feedback. What employees DON'T need is administrators that simply police and regulate.
“If people are coming to work excited. . . if they're making mistakes freely and fearlessly. . . if they're having fun. . . if they're concentrating on doing things rather than preparing reports and going to meetings-then somewhere you have leaders.”
Too often, leaders and managers are so afraid to let go of the reigns, even for a moment. They seem to think that controlling people is the same as controlling the business, but it's simply not true. Only when a manager can create an atmosphere of creativity without judgment will employees find enthusiasm in their work. Employees want to work, and they want to contribute. They don't want their manager holding their hand or standing over their shoulder. Sometimes the best thing a leader can do is to just get out of the way.
“Managers must have the discipline not to keep pulling up the flowers to see if their roots are healthy.”
If an employee is performing their job well, why go digging? Some managers feel like they have to have to have their hands in everything, even when everything is going well. In the end, an employee's behaviors and results are all that really matters. Why someone does what they do, what they are thinking when they do it, and other underlying factors just aren't important when the results are there.
If it isn't broken, don't try to fix it.
"Top management is supposed to be a tree full of owls-hooting when management heads into the wrong part of the forest. I'm still unpersuaded they even know where the forest is.”
Real leaders have to be involved, and they have to understand what their employees deal with on a day-to-day basis. Unfortunately, the higher the level of management or leadership, the more out of touch leaders seem to be. If employees don't have a connection with senior leaders and their vision, how can they be expected to connect with the vision of the company?