Reading Matter : Management
Wired writes, “Why right-brainers will rule the future.” Wired is wrong. What Daniel Pink actually argues is that success in the 21st century while require a “whole” mind, in which both left and right brain are engaged.
Starting a book with a first chapter entitled “Right Brain Rising” almost made me put it down. But Pink is an effective writer, who quickly makes it clear that he is no New Age enthusiast for right-brain thinking. Instead, he spends Part One of A Whole New Mind laying out an argument for why knowledge workers who depend exclusively on left-brain expertise in sequential logical thinking face a future of shrinking opportunities. Why? Pink sums it up in three key words, “Abundance,” “Asia,” and “Automation.” Abundance means that consumers are no longer satisfied with merely functional products that perform as advertised. From equally functional alternatives they are able to choose those whose design adds aesthetic or other significance to their lives. Asia and Automation mean that repetitive work of any kind, including the kind that gets done with spreadsheets, can be done more cheaply, either by cheaper Asian labor or tireless computers and robots. Success in the brave new world defined by these three A’s will require additional, right-brain skills. And what might those be? In Part Two, Pink suggests six: Design, Storytelling, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. Workers with these skills will create or recognize the edge that good design adds, tell great stories to motivate people to want what they sell, work in harmony with people of diverse talents and tempraments, have a gut feeling for where others are coming from, turn work into play and play into something that adds meaning to the whole of life.
Individually the ideas are not new. I first saw the argument from Abundance in research by the Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living that taught me to ask if a product or add will snap into focus for its target. I learned about the implications of Asia and Automation by reading Robert Reich’s The Work of Nations and got my first exposure to right-brain theory from Betty Edward’s Drawing on the Right Hand Side of the Brain. What Pink has done, however, is to pull these ideas together and forge a persuasive argument that avoids the trap of sour critique and points in positive, perhaps even actionable, directions. Highly recommended.
As anthropologist, adman and activist, John is often involved in discussions of leadership. That is why, when he was scanning his library a few days ago, a book that said, “Read me” was Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman (1999) First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently.
Now if this were just another couple of managment gurus pontificating, he would probably give it a pass. But what Buckingham and Coffman discuss is a research project conducted by the Gallup Organization, in which 105,000 employees of 2,500 companies, covering a wide span of industries, answered questions designed to find out what it is about managers who are able to achieve the leadership goals described above, building strong teams of happy, talented people who not only work well together but turn out to be far more productive as well.
The study began with lots of questions. What the Gallup researchers wanted to discover was which of these questions were most closely correlated with effective, productive leadership. As they analyzed their mountains of data, they focused in on twelve questions. After further research, they pared the list to six.
1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
Turn those questions around and they become a recipe for how to be a good leader.
1. Set clear goals.
2. Make sure that people have what they need to achieve them.
3. Create opportunities for people to use their talents, ideally every day.
4. Don’t be stingy with strokes. As the old proverb has it, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
5. Take the time to show people you care about them.
6. Keep asking yourself, not just “What can they do for us now?” but “What could they do with a little more training and encouragement?”
Think about it. If you had to score your leadership on each of these six measures, on a five number scale where 1 means “Lousy” and 5 means “Great” how well would you score?