In two previous articles, I presented the 6 lies and 6 truths about work described by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall in their book “Nine Lies About Work. An Unconventional Guide for the Critical Thinking Leader.” Here is a brief reminder:
1. people care about what team they work for, not what company they work for.
2 The best intelligence, not the best plan, leads to success.
3. the best companies cascade meaning, not goals.
4. people are unique, not versatile.
5. people need attention, not feedback.
6 People can reliably evaluate their own experiences, but not other people’s.
Today, the last 3 lies and truths described in the book.
Lie 7: People have potential.
Buckingham and Goodall do not believe in the existence of a general characteristic called potential. They believe that this belief is the result of the organizations’ desire to control everything and intolerance for individual differences. For the authors, having potential simply means being a human being who, like everyone else, has the ability to learn, develop and improve. Therefore, pigeonholing people as having high or low potential is immoral for them and leads to stigma. What’s more, they believe that dividing people in this way leads to a loss of the diverse capabilities hidden in the minds of all team members.
What are they proposing in return? According to the authors, it is much more useful to believe that people have momentum. By asking them the right questions, you can determine how quickly they are acting and in what direction. Help them identify which elements of their current career are a function of who they are as people and on which they can build, and which are situation-dependent and subject to change if they so choose. It can be a topic of constant conversation, making people feel understood. So instead of assessing potential, Buckingham and Goodall suggest that leaders gain as much knowledge as possible about human development and talk to employees about their careers in terms of momentum – who everyone on the team is and how fast they are going through the world.
Truth 7 is that people have momentum.
Lie 8: The most important thing is work-life balance.
The authors refer to the usual polarization, where hard work should be balanced with something better, namely life. To simplify – if we are trying to survive at work, life should give us a breather. Work consumes our resources, while life allows us to rebuild them. Because of this, the concept of life-work balance emerged. However, the authors doubt whether anyone has managed to capture this balance in the real world. They believe that balance as an ideal becomes a Sisyphean strategy for dealing with the unworkable. Therefore, according to Buckingham and Goddall, we need a new way of thinking about work and life. They propose replacing the pursuit of balance with the pursuit of eudaimonia – a state in which we feel we are flourishing, full of vigor, and by doing something worthwhile, we do not lose energy, but gain it. We are close to that state when we are happy doing our work, when we feel love for what we do. At the same time, for them, love is not just “doing what you love” (as you’ve probably already read or heard about many times from motivational speakers), but the ability to find love in your own work.
Is the organization’s interest in “spreading the love” real? After all, it is more common to hear “do your job” from your boss than “do what you love”. However, according to the authors, even the most practical and performance-focused organizations desperately want people to find a deep love for what they do at work. The only problem is that they don’t call it that. They prefer to use terms more suited to the business world, such as commitment, motivation, dedication, extraordinary effort.
If organizations want people to flourish, be creative, engaged, generous and resilient they must help them seek a state of eudaimonia. Love can be found at work, the authors say, and the word should not be avoided. It can be woven into the work regardless of the position held. And what does it look like in reality? According to the survey, only 16-17% of employees believe they have the opportunity to use their strengths at work, while as many as 72% say they have the opportunity to shape their duties to better match their strengths. How to change it? For example, using the method of intentionally and responsibly weaving love into the work.
Let’s remember truth #8 – The most important thing at work is love.
Lie 9: Leadership is something concrete and tangible.
Despite the plethora of books and studies on leadership, there is no single, consistent definition of it. There is also a lack of consensus on clearly defining the qualities necessary to be a good leader. That’s why Buckingham and Goodall doubt that leadership is something concrete and tangible, it’s more a set of feelings and experiences in contact with it. According to them, a leader is someone who has followers – someone people want to follow, and by interacting with him or her they can be part of something bigger. Equally important is the sense that the leader knows them, values them for who they are and considers them exceptional individuals.
The main task of a leader is to create a team and lead it towards a better future. Despite the fear and apprehension (justified or not) of employees, he must be able to face the unknown and be able to turn fear into courage. If he accomplishes this, people will follow him, his confidence, his faith, his uniqueness, his mastery of what he does.
There’s no denying it. We follow extraordinary people. That’s right No. 9.
I am very happy to have come across this book, which looks at work in such a human way. In it I found confirmation for many of my doubts from my time in HR. I remember discussions with experienced managers and their frustrations with some of the company’s processes and policies. The truths about labor captured in this book give it a human dimension. The authors clearly convey how extremely important it is to treat people subjectively, individually, taking into account the uniqueness of everyone. This outlook is extremely close to my heart, which is why we have been promoting it for years, working with organizations as Kingmakers coaches and trainers.