Believe In The Future
This is one of the cartoons I did for my client, the Rackspace Cloud.
It’s a riff on the famous Gandhi line, “Become the change you want to see.”
In other words, the Rackspace cloud doesn’t matter; it’s what you can do with it that matters.
And that’s an interesting discussion- and interesting discussion that’s still in its infancy.
One thing I notice about this Internet-enable world of ours: It’s so very, very new, and yet we already take it for granted.
That’s a mistake….
* * *
I urge you to check out Hugh MacLeod’s two books (Ignore Everybody and Evil Plans) as well as the wealth of resources at his website, including an online gallery of art works that are of high quality and yet priced reasonably.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall….”
Note: One of my passions in life is to help promote and (yes) celebrate business books that are “classics,” deserving far more attention than they currently receive. That is certainly true of StrengthsFinder 2.0.
You will probably find no head-snapping revelations in this book if you have already read Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman’s First, Break All the Rules and/or Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton’s Now, Discover Your Strengths (especially the latter). Nor does Tom Rath claim to offer any. Rather, this is a new and upgraded edition of the Gallup organization’s previous online test (StrengthsFinder 1.0) that enables those who take it to identify and measure their talents relative to “more than 5,000 new personalized Strengths Insights that we have discovered in recent years.”
In Rath’s two previously published books, How Full Is Your Bucket? co-authored with Donald O. Clifton and Vital Friends, he shares his own reactions to an abundance of research data that reveal the importance of two separate but related forces that have profound impact on the workplace: getting strengths in alignment with work to be done and then developing them even more with strategic delegation and close supervision.
What we have in this book, Strengths Finder 2.0, is a wealth of new research material that Rath examines with exceptional precision and uncommon eloquence. I strongly encourage each reader to take full advantage of the self-diagnostic opportunities that both Rath and the Gallup organization generously offer. Of course, once various exercises are completed, a significant challenge remains: to take effective and productive action to apply what has been learned. It is helpful to be aware of what Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton so aptly characterize as the “knowing-doing” and “doing-knowing” gaps. It is also helpful to recall Peter Drucker’s observation more than 40 years ago: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”
Presumably Rath agrees that, more often than not, the Yoda is right: “Do or do not. There is no try.”
“Organizations themselves are mindless, so if people don’t repair them, no one will.”
Regrettably, the old rules of employment have created in many organizations a serious crisis that is the result of command and control management, hierarchical structure, bureaucratic swamps, and dueling silos. According to Joel Kurtzman, “When an organization inhibits the ability of a group of people to achieve its goals, it must be reformed. When an organization consistently raises up leaders who suppress, demean, or nullify the productivity of others, swift action must be taken to right this situation.”
The new rules of employment that Kurtzman endorses are by no means new. Consider these observations by 3M’s then chairman and CEO, William L. McKnight, in 1924: “If you put fences around people, you get sheep. Give people the room they need.” Kurtzman wholeheartedly agrees, noting that “people have a need to be heard, to be respected, and to control their space.” The results of hundreds of major research studies, involving millions of workers throughout the world, reveal that “feeling appreciated” is ranked either #1 or #2 among what is most important to them.
I agree with Kurtzman that common purpose requires common goals as well as leadership (at all levels and in all area) to generate and energize sufficient support to achieve those goals “that are beyond the capability of an individual to accomplish alone. [Structures, strategies, and policies] are methods for aligning groups of people so they can achieve common goals.”
In Good to Great, Jim Collins observes that Level 5 leaders are to their companies what Abraham Lincoln was to the nation. The key to a Level 5 is ambition first and foremost for the cause, the company, the work — not any individual — combined with the will to make good on that ambition. “In looking at the data, we noticed that leaders in our study had significant life experiences that might have sparked or furthered their maturation…I believe — although I cannot prove — that potential Level 5 leaders are highly prevalent in our society. The problem is not, in my estimation, a dearth of potential Level 5 leaders. They exist all around us, if we just know what to look for. And what is that? Look for situations where extraordinary results exist but where no individual steps forth to claim excess credit. You will likely find a potential Level 5 leader at work.”
Kurtzman asserts (and I agree) “when it comes to common purpose and resonant leadership, one size does not fit all. People are individuals, and those who thrive in one firm might not thrive in another. Chemistry, fit, values, and many other qualities are in the eye of the beholder.” It is important to keep in mind that a common purpose that unites and motivates one group of people may not appeal to – or “fit” — others. That is why Zappos offers a bonus to all new hires after they complete a two-week training program. They are told, “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you’ve worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus.” Zappos actually bribes its new employees to quit. Why? Because if you’re willing to take the company up on The Offer, you obviously don’t have the sense of commitment they are looking for.
It is rare but nonetheless possible for those who comprise a segment within an organization – Disney and Pixar animation teams, Lockheed’s “Skunk Works,” and researchers at Xerox PARC — to share a common purpose that can produce “an almost palpable sense” of what defines the entire enterprise. “It is the feeling that we’re all in this together and that we all know and understand what to do, why we’re here, and what we stand for…Common purpose is the goal of great leaders and great leadership. It is the way a group of free agents is transformed into a cohesive, orderly group – an organization – aligned around a common set of goals in a way that makes defeat almost impossible.”
How specifically to achieve and then sustain a common purpose? Read the book.