Books in Brief

By Leigh Rivenbark Jun 1, 2009
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June Cover​Helping People Win at Work
By Ken Blanchard and Garry Ridge
FT Press, 2009
173 pages
List price: $21.99
ISBN: 978-0-13-701171-7

“Are you going to mark people’s papers, or help them get an A?” asks Ken Blanchard, author of The One-Minute Manager, in this brief volume that focuses on helping employees meet their goals.

Blanchard and co-author Garry Ridge, president and CEO of WD-40 Co., illustrate how to coach employees to do their best work.

The book examines WD-40’s performance review system, which uses “situational leadership” that adapts management’s style to the particular employee and his particular goals. Everyone writes his own performance review; supervisors and managers give feedback regularly rather than waiting until someone’s failing; and performance discussions take place quarterly, not just annually.

Ridge and Blanchard cover WD-40’s conscious effort to build a positive company culture of an employee “tribe” with a shared identity, history and evolution.

Ridge offers his personal leadership ideas in one chapter, while Blanchard provides his tips for helping people win at work, from taking performance planning seriously to delivering reprimands effectively.

The book is the first in a new series, “Leading at a Higher Level,” that provides readers with in-depth case studies of how employers are using Blanchard’s management ideas.

Games at Work
By Mauricio Goldstein and Philip Read
Jossey-Bass, 2009
240 pages
List price: $24.95
ISBN: 978-0-470-26200-9

A young employee offered his ideas to his new team, but company culture took over: Established team members played “marginalize,” failing to invite him to team lunches, forgetting to brief him before meetings and assigning him tasks that lower-level employees should have done.

The employee wasn’t being arrogant or brash; he was just coming up with ideas that threatened the “how we do it here” status quo. He left and took his MBA and enthusiasm to another firm.

Game-playing—or office politics—drives out good workers, damages morale and affects the bottom line. Games at Work authors Mauricio Goldstein and Philip Read show readers what games are common, how to identify when a game’s afoot and why game-playing is more pervasive in today’s offices. Readers learn how to reduce these games with a three-step approach that leads to more openness and honesty at work.

Reducing game-playing at work applies whether you’re a CEO or a new employee. The authors say this book is for employees at every level and for those who themselves play office politics as well as those who stand by and watch.

Among the games readers learn to identify are:

  • Gotcha. Employees score when they point out others’ mistakes.
  • Blame. Make others your scapegoats to excuse your failures.
  • Gray zone. Intentionally promote ambiguity about who is responsible for what, so that no one really has accountability.
  • Big idea. Suggest “visionary strategies” to show how creative you are, without any sense of whether the ideas are realistic.
  • Pessimism. Try to “inflate the difficulty of an assignment” so expectations will be low.
  • No bad news. Keep negative news or data under wraps so everything stays positive.

Readers get a self-assessment test to probe whether they, or their organizations, are affected by game-playing. The book also covers how lack of awareness, the benefits of office politics and fear all prevent people from ending games. Chapters on interrupting and ending workplace games include tips for guiding conversations and choosing not to play.

Primal Management
By Paul Herr
AMACOM, 2009
280 pages
List price: $25
ISBN: 978-0-8144-1396-8

Paul Herr wants his readers to motivate employees. To have engaged, productive workers, employers need to “align perfectly with human nature” by meeting the most basic psychological needs, he argues.

In Primal Management, Herr identifies five “social appetites”—or survival behaviors—that drive people. By understanding and feeding these appetites in employees, employers can motivate employees effectively. Ignoring the social appetites, Herr warns, means ending up with disaffected, disengaged workers. These instincts are:

  • Cooperation. How do you get employees to bond? How do you measure bonding in the workplace? Herr gives a formal approach to bonding and shows both the costs and benefits to strengthening employee bonds.
  • Competency. Mastering the skills a group values increases group members’ self-esteem. Learn how employees as a bonded group set their values and how steps like helping employees master skills and treating them like experts can boost competency.
  • Skill deployment. Structure work so that achievements get rewarded. Tough but fair goals, clear performance standards and plenty of positive feedback promote employees’ exercising their skills.
  • Innovation. Humans need to innovate and invent to solve problems and survive. Tapping into that instinct benefits the workplace. Herr outlines a four-step process for fostering and testing realistic innovation.
  • Self-protection. Management by fear and intimidation triggers employees’ instinct for self-preservation, and they hunker down, demoralized, or leave. Herr teaches how to identify toxic management and how to promote positive management based on equality among employees.

FYI For Your Improvement: A Guide for Development and Coaching
By Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger
Lominger International: A Korn/Ferry Company, 2009
580 pages
List price: $85
ISBN: 978-1-933578-17-0

This textbook, from executive talent and consulting firm Korn/Ferry International, is aimed both at helping mentors and managers develop others and at helping readers work on their own personal development by identifying specific development needs and taking action to meet those needs.

The book is a resource for managers, coaches, mentors and anyone who gives feedback. Authors Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger arrange the book according to three broad topics:

  • Competencies. Using a host of studies from researchers and large employers, the book details 67 measurable competencies, including behavioral skills, technical skills, attributes and attitudes.
  • “Stallers and stoppers.” These factors or personal characteristics can knock a career off track. Learn to deal with your own or others’ defensiveness, lack of adaptability, failure to staff effectively and more.
  • “Global focus areas.”This section delves into specific skills needed for success in the global workplace.

Arranged so readers can turn directly to whatever issue affects them today, each chapter briefly outlines the skills (or lack of skills) involved, potential causes of problems and specific remedies to start applying immediately. Among the areas for development are confronting direct reports, making quality decisions, managing relationships with peers, learning technical skills readily, improving presentation skills and building effective teams.

This is the fifth edition of this book, and new content includes questions and action statements to help readers make their own action plans, updates to suggested reading lists, and a template for a developmental plan so readers can organize their personal development.

Compiled by Leigh Rivenbark, a freelance writer and editor in Vienna, Va.

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