Book Review: The Three Signs of a Miserable Job

November 29th 2010

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Author : Patrick Lencioni

This book is another to add to Lencioni’s great collection and this one tackles employee satisfaction and job fulfillment.  A topic not easy to write a story around I’m sure yet Lencioni does it again with his usual collection of strong characters and an interesting plot to demonstrate that a complex business issues such as employee satisfaction can in fact, be outlined and modeled.  The story itself is about a retiring CEO who finds himself mindlessly bored without some problems to fix in his retirement and ends up committing into a little local restaurant wanting to help turn it around from a place of misfit employees who really don’t care or even like their work to a thriving business and environment where those same employees not only like their jobs, but also learn to excel at them and maintain the desire to do well in their roles on their own.

I think the book is worth reading for anyone leading or managing in a company with employees and for anyone who works in a cubicle environment or any work environment where they really don’t feel a passion for their work, but don’t know why.  This book will help develop that level of engagement needed to excite employees and to teach some basic principles that work at all levels of an organization to make improvements in work culture and environment.

If you haven’t read any of Lencioni’s books, you are missing out on his fantastic fables and story telling he has become one of my favorite authors because of that.  I find I learn so much from his books and he drives home specific models and applications of the model through examples that it is easy to have applicable take aways from his books.  This one covers a simple model to use for recognizing the 3 signs of a miserable job:

  • Anonymity – people need to understand their jobs are important and necessary for the business and for other people or clients in the business.
  • Irrelevance – a danger when an employee does not know why their job is important, what impact it has or why it matters as some contribution to others.
  • “Immeasurement” – when people do not know how or simply do not measure their own outputs in their job, they cannot have a high level of job satisfaction since their is no output realized.

With the high ratio of dissatisfied and unhappy workers in today’s workforce, I think this book is really important for managers, team leaders, executives and anyone with the ability or desire to drive some change, make a better workplace for themselves and colleagues and to understand some of the important factors that do make a job more enjoyable.  Lencioni’s story is one I’m sure many can relate to because of the dynamic characters and I especially like the point of irrelevance.  The way his characters solve this is by looking not at what a person’s job does for themselves, but how it contributes to others people in their work or to clients.  Encouraging people to measure the impact they have on others and empowering them to seek ways to contribute to a clients life in some simple yet impactful way, really sends a strong message about how people work and how they think about people in their roles.  So, I encourage you get this book and any other of Lencioni’s books (here are my other book reviews of Lencioni’s work), as they are all wonderful stories and train each subject very well.

Posted by Mike King under Book Reviews | 1 Comment »

Mountain Unicycling. Now that’s An Engaging Activity!

October 4th 2008


Note : Click ANY images to see larger!!!

Something that always amazing me is how quickly I find that others are interested in one of my favorite past-times, extreme mountain unicycling.  It’s a sport that hardly anyone does yet nearly everyone who sees and hears about it is immediately more engaging than normal.  People become instantly inquisitive and puzzled when the topic comes up and I always get bombarded with questions about the sport.  Things like:

  • Why someone would ride a unicycle?
  • How its even possible to ride one?
  • When did you learn?
  • How long did it take to learn?
  • Can you teach someone else?
  • How much does a unicycle cost and where can you buy one?
  • Where do you ride?
  • Who do you ride with?
  • What can you do on a unicycle?

I’ve answered some of those very questions here on this mountain unicycling page since I’m sure many of you are just as curious as others I encounter about the sport.  However, I wanted to cover the subject specifically from the perspective of what about it that makes it so engaging to others and how you can use that to actually engage others more in your own life.

What Makes People be Engaged About Unicycling?

This question is a good question to ask anytime you encounter seeing something that really engages people.  Whether you are curious from the perspective of a company leader for employee engagement, a parent wanting to engage their children more or part of a group or organization where you want to have more activity in it through engaging others, understanding this question will help to create the atmosphere and interest that you want for engaging others.

So, I think there are 3 things that answer this question about why mountain unicycling is so engaging.

  • It’s unique and intriguing
  • It’s difficult and seems dangerous
  • Special skills and talents are needed

Unique and Intriguing

The first reason is because mountain unicycling is very unique.  It’s something not many people have even heard of let along seen it before.  Unicycling on its own is a rare occurrence so the idea of taking own off-road and into the mountains is hard to believe!  That highly interests people and so their curious nature leads them to find out more and ask questions.

The whole idea of riding a unicycle is intriguing because it is not immediately obviously and certainly not well known how to ride one and how you can keep it balanced upright.  The fact of it being unique is that when you do encounter someone on a unicycle or talk about unicycling, you better get engaged at the time since you likely won’t have too many more opportunities to find out more since the chances of finding someone else on one are slim.

Difficult and Dangerous

Another reason people are so engaged about mountain unicycling is because it is so difficult.  To learn takes hours of practice and it is a sport that requires great balance.  No one can simply start unicycling without practice and that difficult nature about it makes it something of interest.

If unicycling on its own isn’t enough, taking one off-road and into the mountains certainly adds a new element of danger to the sport.  Riding down a rocky slope some people would dare to walk on, has that risk factor that attracts people’s attention.  People love to watch risky things and the possibility of someone injuring themselves adds to the addictive nature of it.  I can’t say that mountain unicycling is any more dangerous than mountain biking or other extreme sports as it doesn’t have the speed factor of other sports.  What it does have however, is a very high chance of a crash and their are often amusing and sometimes painful wipeouts to see.  I’ve learned out of necessity to wear proper armor and body protection so I don’t get hurt but I still know the crashes are why most people want to watch!

Special Skills and Talents

Finally, the last reason that mountain unicycling is so engaging to people is because of the special skills and talents it requires.  People want to know how you learned one and why you do it.  What would motivate a person to learn to ride a unicycle in the first place?  It’s these types of special skills that interests people and leads their questioning.

What do You Have to Engage Others With?

Looking at these three areas about mountain unicycling should give you some ideas about areas in your own life that you have to help engage others in.  Any unique and uncommon activities is obviously a great place to start.  Look at the activities and sports you do, perhaps you have things that are especially difficult or dangerous that would interest others.  And finally, look at things you are involved with that require special skills and talents.  Anything that is difficult to learn and takes practice, is a great topic of discussion.  All of these things can help you to engage others in conversations and to know more about you if you are involved with those.  Use them to help engage others and look for the same areas in other people to be more engaged with them and their activities.

Posted by Mike King under Life | 5 Comments »

Book Review: The Dream Manager

August 2nd 2008

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Author : Matthew Kelly

Well I’ve had this book on my  bookshelf for a few months now as I’ve been catching up my backlog of books and I’m so happy to have finally read it.  I have read a few other recent reviews lately and while they outlined a bit of the content covered in the book, they never expressed a lot of personal effect the book had.  I want to share mine and my main comment is that this is a fantastic book.  Not only for a manager but anyone wanting to manage their lives and the lives of those around them better.  From the title, I expected the book to teach me how to be the dream manager, which I thought would be one that people would dream to have or the best possible manager.  The funny thing is as I started reading and found out quickly what the dream manager was, the book wasn’t directly teaching that at all.  I love the ideas and as I got further into the book and realized that the concepts put in practice do need to be in place by any  manager, I fell back to thinking and definitely think it now, that doing what this book teaches, will make you the dream manager.  A manager who puts the dreams and ambitions of an employee first in order to build them up only on the hope and knowledge that that will pay back more in the future really is what the ideal manager is.  As I continue to learn in so many ways, put people first and the rest falls into place.  The story is captivating as I couldn’t put the book down wanting to find out the impact of the new initiatives and programs put into place in the story.

The book is written as a fable (my favorite style of business book as I find it far more applicable to real life) about a janitorial services company struggling with a massive turnover problem.  An innovative approach that is used and demonstrated in the story is that of a dream manager program.  The program all started out by the company doing a survey to find out what the employees think causes the high turnover.  This led to recognizing some common goals among the employees and the idea that a dream manager hired on at the company could help to facilitate the dreams of the employees.  This would in turn help employees feel like the organization truly valued them and that they would ultimately feel more loyalty to the company and be more productive with their work.  The presented concept in the story delivers many times over with the turnover problem and the company sees massive improvements in employee productivity and profits.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is,

Our employees are our first customers, and our most important customers.

Anyway, I put a lot of value on the ideas presented and to the extent the dream manager program were taken in the book.  I personally believe 100% in developing people first and seeing the results of that back to the organization second and this message is clear through the story.  The book has given me a new spark to maximizing the use of my own one on one times with my team to look at new ways to explore their dreams and help them achieve them.  I definitely want to look for ways to bring this into other practice with other managers and the book provides a number of techniques to start doing this, all of them realistic and quite practical.  The other thing that Kelly does very well with the book is that he adds a practical handbook section after the end of the fable to explore ways to put this into practice.  The best part of this is that he doesn’t limit it to managers.  He covers ways to start no matter where you fit into an organization and even more unique in a “business book” is that he looks and discusses how this can be used in other areas of your life with family and friends.

This is definitely one of the top books I’ve ever read for business and management and it was highly useful and will definitely make an impact on my work and more importantly, the work of others that I manage.  I can’t wait to put some of these into practice and see the effects it will have in the workplace.  I absolutely recommend this book, especially for any manager!

What’s your dream?

Posted by Mike King under Book Reviews | 4 Comments »

Promoting Employee Engagement in the Workplace

June 14th 2008

I’ve been thinking a lot more about the topic of employee engagement. David Zinger sparked the label in my mind some time ago when he started up the employee engagement network along with his active discussions and wise words on the subject. There is a huge level of job dissatisfaction in today’s workplace and there is an equal level of disengagement from workers. Perhaps they go hand and hand? I think so.

There are a number of things that can help to get people more engaged with others and I wanted to outline some of the ones I’ve learned from my experience and what I’ve encountered reading and discussing the topic with others.

Human Diversity

There needs to be some diversity to bring about a healthy level of differences. These are everything from cultural and societal to personality and motivation. Having diversity with people will bring out questions, differing opinions, curiosity, conflict, and perhaps even personality clashes. All of these are useful at a reasonable level to promote engagement. If everyone was the same, there would be little reason to even discuss anything and so communication wouldn’t be all that important and that can’t be true since its my next item on my list.

Open Communication

Communication that is open is really about an environment or attitude about the communication that is comfortable in an organization. It should be welcoming to new ideas, disagreements and opinions while being presented with sincerity, respect and an intent of trust. If these things are not there with communication, then the employee engagement suffers as that is when communication will begin to break things down. An appropriate style and expectation for communication needs to be presented and more importantly, demonstrated by the leaders in an organization.

There are many ways to bring about more communication and they all work in different situations and with different people.  They might include any forms such as common chit-chat, sharing of stories and experiences, discussing lessons learned, collaborative tools to allow individual content, a feedback system with regular reviews, suggestion boxes (NOT anonymous), and a willingness of any leader to accept feedback from others including their directs without judging it or holding it against that person.  There is much in the topic of communication that they deserve several other articles just on there own, so I’ll leave it at this for now, but I think that open communication really has the largest impact on employee engagement and they really go hand in hand in a lot of ways.

Common Goals / Visions

When people have a common goal or vision to work together on, its easier to dismiss personal differences and specific likes and dislikes between individuals. A common goal is the easiest way to have an immediate purpose together, even with someone you don’t know and it leads to a working relationship that opens new lines for building deeper relationships. The extreme of this is when enemies can even unite to work to one goal. Enemies will quickly realize that if they are after the same thing, its more effective to work together and set aside their differences to reach the common goal.

In order to make progress towards a common goal, those involved have expectations of each other and will begin to communicate these things, whether it is encouraged or not. Getting a group of people to a common goal or vision is a whole other article (or ten perhaps) but once its truly in place, people will help each other and engage with one another to meet that goal at a higher level than if there was no common goal. Individuals will begin to look from themselves and from others the next level of engagement.

Commitment

That next level where there is an engagement between people is that of commitments.  Commitments are a way to ensure that there is discussion between each other and that true engagement is when people hold each other accountable to any commitments made.  Encourage this heavily, be true to your commitments yourself and work hard to ensure that trust is not broken where commitments may not be met.  You can salvage that trust even when commitments are not met by bringing it up early (before a deadline is past), accepting the consequences of it and by apologizing to those you made the commitment to.  All these reinforce the trust and ensure that you can stay engaged with those individuals.  Ask for help when its needed  and continue to talk about the commitments of others instead of simply ignoring them or letting them get by without a commitment. Doing this at an individual level or as a leader to set an example is a powerful way to get more engaged and engage others in your work.

Training

I’m a huge advocate for internal training in the workplace and I’ve seen how this has a huge impact on employee engagement. Internal training programs should be made as visible and public as possible with ideally, a sizable group of people.  Generally having more people discuss, learn and share ideas on a given topic will generate more discussion and engagement among that group and training is a great avenue to bring this into the workplace.  I’ve found that the best courses and training for engagement ensures that every single person in attendance has to participate and that this is done out loud and with some kind of opinion, answer or comment.  I love content that has self-reflection or questions about oneself that you share in a group.  This helps everyone learn more about each other as well as have discussion on one’s own perspective and opinion on things.

Make it Part of The System

None of these methods work entirely on their own and they are all interdependent at some level. In order to ensure that employee engagement is something that gets attention, is measured and has various methods contributing to it, its important that it is part of a system.  Not many things work on their own in business and its important to look at ways to embed it into the business practices.  I regularly read Mission Minded Management where I love I’m OK.  You’re OK.  Let’s fix the system. “  This is true with employee engagement as well as there are always examples where individuals do things right, but unless its fixed at a larger scale, it doesn’t become cultural or lasting, which I think is crucial for engagement.

Employee engagement takes a lot of effort to build and as outlined here, has a number of methods.  To make them stick, they need to be driven on a continual basis, they should have regular discussion with various groups, they should be presented and taught to new employees, measured and used as an evaluation basis for employees, put into procedures and any relevant policies, shared with investors, clients and other business partners and in general, made to be part of the company’s business system in as many ways as possible.  The more ingrained it is into the system, the more likely employee engagement will expand and retain itself as part of the culture in the workplace.

I’d love to hear your ideas on promoting employee engagement and I hope this gives you some ideas on how to become more engaged yourself as it certainly starts with each individual.

Posted by Mike King under Business | 5 Comments »

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