Skip to main content

Nine Lies About Work

I'm a big fan of Marcus Buckingham's work, teachings and books, so I was eager to read his book, co-authored by Ashley Goodall.

Titled, Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader's Guide to the Real World, the book debunks what we've come to believe as basic truths in the workplace. What at first may seem provocative and counter-intuitive, you'll learn why the nine lies "cause dysfunction and frustration, ultimately resulting in workplaces that are a pale shadow of what they could be," explain the authors.

Keep an open-mind as Buckingham and Goodall take you through these nine lies (each a chapter in the book) with engaging stories and incisive analysis as they reveal the essential truths behind these lies:
  1. People care which company they work for
  2. The best plan wins
  3. The best companies cascade goals
  4. The best people are well-rounded
  5. People need feedback
  6. People can reliably rate other people
  7. People have potential
  8. Work-life balance matters most
  9. Leadership is a thing
Buckingham and Goodall answer the following questions about their book, which piqued my curiosity to read the book and to discover more about the lies, distortions and faulty assumptions.

Question: Lies is a strong, loaded word. Why did you choose it rather than misconceptions or myths to describe the disconnect between the way we know we work best and the ways we’re told to work?

Buckingham/Goodall: First, the wrong-headed ideas that we have about work are so strongly ingrained—try telling a leader that critical feedback isn’t helping his or her people grow, and watch his or her reaction!—that we wanted a strong word to push back against them.

Second, as someone once said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” In that sense, what we’re writing about are very much lies—they’re the fake news of work, and we’re suffering, today, because of them. We wrote the book to point the way to what actually works, at work.

Question: The revelations in the book are grounded in a wealth of data. Could you give us a sense of the research behind your book?

Buckingham/Goodall: We both know that if anything we suggest is to have value, it has to be grounded in the real world, and we’re both students of the real world. There’s a lot of pseudo-research in the world of work, sadly—a lot of theorizing about what we should do—that is strangely untethered from proof and falsifiability. Very few organizations can measure knowledge-worker performance, for example, and so pronouncements about what leads to it are invariably wrong-headed.

The research in the book is the latest installment in a body of work stretching back decades that both of us have been part of, first at Gallup and then at ADP (Marcus) and at Deloitte and Cisco (Ashley). This research is the most precious knowledge we have about what animates great teams and their leaders, and is the foundation of the book. 

 Marcus Buckingham

Question: What’s fundamentally wrong with our current emphasis on workplace culture?

Buckingham/Goodall: It’s just not particularly helpful to the people who actually create our experience at work—our teams and their leaders. The idea of culture is abstract and high-level, whereas real work in the real world is neither of those things. And the idea of culture presumes the experience of work at a particular company is uniform—that everyone has a similar experience—whereas the data tells us that the opposite is true. Whether your work lifts you up or pulls you down; whether you’re supported by your peers; whether you’re learning new ways to do what you love; whether you’re productive; whether you’re innovative: all these depend not on company culture but on the team you’re on.

In emphasizing broad ideas about culture instead of trying to understand how to make more great teams, we’re missing what’s most valuable to our companies and our people.

Question: How can we figure out where we want to work if a company’s culture isn’t a good barometer?

Buckingham/Goodall: The best question to ask of a company is this: “What do you do to build great teams?” If the answer is generic or fuzzy, move on. If a company can tell you what it knows about its best teams, what it does to support each team, and how it plans to invest more, then that’s a very good sign.
  
Question: What’s the harm in pushing people to improve their weaknesses?

Buckingham/Goodall: Simply this—that shoring up your weaknesses, if you’re even able to, results at best in adequacy. Excellence doesn’t result from removing the most shortcomings—it’s the result, instead, of figuring out what works for you and turning that up to 11. Focusing on weaknesses is fine if we want to be in the business of adequacy; to get into the excellence business we need to uncover, for each person, their moments of weird brilliance, and amplify those.

Question: How exactly does feedback, even when intended as constructive, hinder learning and performance?

Buckingham/Goodall: First, it puts the brain into flight-or-fight mode, which actually impairs learning rather than impelling it. Second, it imagines that learning is a question of telling you what you can’t do, rather than helping you understand in more detail what you can. And third, it presumes that excellence is the same for everyone, so we can give you feedback on how you fall short of it, whereas the lesson from the real world is that excellence is profoundly and wonderfully different for each of us.

Ashley Goodall

Question: Why do you take issue with placing a priority on “work-life” balance?

Buckingham/Goodall: To be clear, in a world where busy is the new black, and where to maintain our sanity we need some way to stem the never-ending tide of emails and action items and urgent requests, talking about how to preserve a place for our own interests and obligations outside of work is surely a good thing. But we’ve been talking about it for a long time, and things don’t seem to have improved very much, if at all. 

We argue that this is because we’ve got the categories wrong. If we treat work as generally bad, and life as generally good, and imagine that somehow we can balance these two out, we’re embarking on an impossible mission. If, however, we focus on doing more of what we love, and less of what we loathe, at home as well as at work, then over time we can express more of what we value in the world in more ways. That’s a more achievable and ultimately more rewarding goal.

Question: How can every leader, at any level in any type of organization, begin to engage and motivate his or her team? 

Buckingham/Goodall: Get curious about the people on your team. Ask what lights them up and what they run towards; ask what they’re doing when time seems to fly by; help them uncover what’s going on in their heads when they do something brilliantly well. Pay attention to who they are, and how they express that through their work, each and every day. And then help them make their essence and their loves a bigger and bigger part of their work.

Whether you are at a large company or small, wherever you are on the career ladder, the truths Buckingham and Goodall uncover are what you need to perform at your best and find fulfillment each day at work.

Buckingham is the author of best-selling books, First, Break All the Rules (coauthored with Curt Coffman; Now, Discover Your Strengths (coauthored with Donald O. Clifton; and The One Thing You Need to KnowHe addresses more than 250,000 audiences around the globe each year.

Goodall is Senior Vice President of Leadership and Team Intelligence at Cisco. He is the coauthor, with Buckingham, of "Reinventing Performance Management," the cover story in the April 2015 issue of Harvard Business Review.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

6 Ways To Seek Feedback To Improve Your Performance In The Workplace

Getting feedback is an important way to improve performance at work. But sometimes, it can be hard to seek out, and even harder to hear.  “Feedback is all around you. Your job is to find it, both through asking directly and observing it,” says David L. Van Rooy, author of the new book,  Trajectory: 7 Career Strategies to Take You From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be . As today's guest post, Van Rooy offers these  six tips for how to get the feedback you need to improve performance at work . Guest Post By David L. Van Rooy 1.       Don’t forget to as k :  One of the biggest mistakes people make is assuming things are going perfectly (until they make a catastrophic mistake). By not asking, you’re missing out on opportunities for deep feedback: the difficult, critical feedback that gives you constructive ways to improve. 2.       Make sure you listen :  Remember, getting feedback is about improving your performance, not turning it into a “you versus the

Sample Of Solid Business Guiding Principles

I really like these  10 guiding business principles  that San Antonio, TX headquartered insurance company  USAA has lived by: Exceed customer expectations Live the Golden Rule (treat others with courtesy and respect) Be a leader Participate and contribute Pursue excellence Work as a team Share knowledge Keep it simple (make it easy for customers to do business with us and for us to work together) Listen and communicate Have fun Too many companies don't make it simple for their customers to do business with them. Is it easy for your customers to: Buy from you? Make returns? Get pricing and terms? Receive timely responses to their e-mails? Quickly get answers when phoning your company? You can find more examples of companies with impressive guiding principles in the book,  1001 Ways To Energize Employee s .

Good Sample Business Principles

I really like these 10 guiding business principles that San Antonio, TX headquartered insurance company  USAA  lives by: Exceed customer expectations Live the Golden Rule (treat others with courtesy and respect) Be a leader Participate and contribute Pursue excellence Work as a team Share knowledge Keep it simple (make it easy for customers to do business with us and for us to work together) Listen and communicate Have fun Too many companies don't make it simple for their customers to do business with them.  Is it easy for your customers to: Buy from you? Make returns? Get pricing and terms? Receive timely responses to their e-mails? Quickly get answers when phoning your company? You can find more examples of companies with impressive guiding principles in the book, 1001 Ways To Energize Employees .

A Headhunter’s 11 Strategies To Get Hired Now

  Headhunter, Rob Barnett , distills everything he’s learned about getting hired into his new book, Next Job, Best Job .  His timely 11 strategies will take you from any current state of confusion about what’s next to a new destination that will become clear and achievable as you seek your next best job.   Candidly and step-by-step, with a book chapter devoted to each of the 11 strategies, Barnett teaches you how to:   Regain confidence and optimism after a job loss. Create a focused job search game plan. Clearly communicate your career goals (your true North Star). Brand and market yourself with a unique resume and strategic LinkedIn profile. Navigate and effectively incorporate social media during your job search. Master networking. Score a perfect 10 interview in-person and online. Get immediate replies and callbacks. …and then Pay it forward.   Rob Barnett Today, Barnett answered these questions for us:   Why did you write your book,  Next Job, Best Job ?   Barnett : W

The Four Components That Create Customer Satisfaction

Great customer service tips from author Micah Solomon's new book, High-tech, High-touch Customer Service : You provide value when you deliver the four components that reliably create customer satisfaction : A perfect product or service Delivered in a caring, friendly manner On time (as defined by the customer) With the backing of an effective problem-resolution process Micah has been named by the Financial Post as “a new guru of customer service excellence.” He is a keynote speaker and consultant on customer service issues, the customer experience, and company culture.  He previously coauthored the bestselling Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit .      

From The Bench To The Boardroom

  In the new book, From the Bench to the Boardroom , Michael MacDonald shares his journey from humble beginnings in the outskirts of Philadelphia, to his college basketball career at Rutgers, to executive positions at Xerox and Medifast. The book (co-authored by Dick Weiss ) chronicles Michael’s story of going from an underdog athlete to a turnaround CEO, and how he took his student-athlete experience and translated those learned lessons to successes in his career. As a basketball player, Michael learned teamwork, courage, adaptability, and much more. As an business executive, he found the perfect environment to apply these skills. Michael’s inspirational and motivational story is filled with lessons for making the most of your opportunities, achieving success, staying relevant, leading with passion, and building your legacy .   Today, Michael shares these additional insights with us: What inspired you and Dick to write the book? Michael : I was inspired to write the book

Effective Listening: Do's And Don'ts

Here are some great tips from Michelle Tillis Lederman's book, The 11 Laws of Likability .  They are all about: what to do and what not to do to be a leader who's an effective listener : Do : Maintain eye contact Limit your talking Focus on the speaker Ask questions Manage your emotions Listen with your eyes and ears Listen for ideas and opportunities Remain open to the conversation Confirm understanding, paraphrase Give nonverbal messages that you are listening (nod, smile) Ignore distractions Don't : Interrupt Show signs of impatience Judge or argue mentally Multitask during a conversation Project your ideas Think about what to say next Have expectations or preconceived ideas Become defensive or assume you are being attacked Use condescending, aggressive, or closed body language Listen with biases or closed to new ideas Jump to conclusions or finish someone's sentences

The Importance Of Employee Engagement

Debbie Laskey is my trusted resource for expert advice on marketing, customer service and leadership. I've had the honor of featuring her on my blog in the past. And, today, Debbie shares her keen insights on  the importance of employee engagement . As background, Debbie has nearly 20 years of marketing experience and an MBA Degree. She developed her marketing expertise while working in the high-tech industry, the Consumer Marketing Department at Disneyland Paris in France, the nonprofit arena, and the insurance industry.  How do you define employee engagement? Debbie : Erika Andersen (@erikaandersen on Twitter), author and leadership expert, defined employee engagement in a post for  Forbes , and it has stuck with me:   “If a company’s focus is ‘How can we give our customers what they want,’ then that company needs great employees to come up with the ideas, to make the great products, to interact with the customers. Employees aren’t a begrudged necessity in that kind of company –

The Seven Roles Of Being A Collaborative Leader

  Edward M. Marshall 's book,  Transforming The Way We Work -- The Power Of The Collaborative Workplace , remains relevant today, more than a decade after Marshall wrote it. Particularly useful is the book's section that teaches readers how to be a collaborative leader . Marshall says that there are  seven different, important roles and responsibilities of collaborative leaders when leading teams , and those leaders should select the appropriate style to meet the team's needs. The seven roles are : The leader as sponsor  -- You provide strategic direction, boundaries and coaching for the team. You also monitor progress and ensure integrity in the team's operating processes. The leader as facilitator  -- You ensure that meetings, team dynamics, and interpersonal relationships function effectively. You also ensure internal coordination of activities among team members. The leader as coach  -- You provide support and guidance and you serve as a sounding board. The leader a

How To Be A High Performing Team

According to  Ron Ricci  and  Carl Wiese , authors of the book,  The Collaboration Imperative , high-performing teams have the following characteristics: People have solid and deep trust in each other and in the team's purpose--they feel free to express feelings and ideas. Everybody is working toward the same goals. Team members are clear on how to work together and how to accomplish tasks. Everyone understands both team and individual performance goals and knows what is expected. Team members actively diffuse tension and friction in a relaxed and informal atmosphere. The team engages in extensive discussion, and everyone gets a chance to contribute--even the introverts. Disagreement is viewed as a good thing and conflicts are managed.  Criticism is constructive and is oriented toward problem solving and removing obstacles. The team makes decisions when there is natural agreement--in the cases where agreement is elusive, a decision is made by the team lead or executive sponsor, aft