Memo to Everyone I've Worked With Over the Last 40 Years: I'm sorry! Honest! Had Patrick Lencioni written this book 40 years ago, when I assumed my first summer management position, I would have been a better leader and more nurturing manager.
His book will get your management juices going again. It's a five-star, must-read, very, very important book. (I've just moved it onto my Top 10 books of all time list--it's that good.)
In story fashion, Lencioni helps us discover why so many CEOs, senior leaders, managers and employees are miserable at work--and what to do about it. His diagnosis is simple, yet profound. The story gives practical solutions and the book concludes with a this-makes-sense discussion of next steps and case studies. Gratefully, he's also posted "miserable" resources on his website, including the anti-misery worksheet for managers.
According to research conducted by The Gallup organization, only 25% of employees are engaged in their jobs, 55% of them are just going through the motions, and 20% of them are working against their employers' interests. What's going on? In the Introduction to his latest book, Patrick Lencioni acknowledges what he characterizes as "Sunday Blues [:] those awful feelings of dread and depression that many people get toward the end of their weekend as they contemplate going back to work the next day...What was particularly troubling for me then [when he had such feelings] was not just that I dreaded going to work, but that I felt like I should have enjoyed what I was doing...That's when I decided that the Sunday Blues just didn't make any sense" and he resolved to "figure out what [personal fulfillment in work] was so I could help put an end to the senseless tragedy of job misery, both for myself and for others."
In this book, Lencioni shares what he then learned during his journey of discovery.
As is his custom, he uses the business fable genre to introduce and develop his insights. His narrative has a cast of characters, a plot, crisp dialog, various crises and conflicts, and eventually a plausible climax. Here's the situation as the narrative begins. Brian Bailey is the CEO of JMJ Fitness Machines. After fifteen years under his leadership, JMJ has become the number three, at times two "player" in its industry. "With no debt, a well-respected brand, and plenty of cash in the bank, there was no reason to suspect that the privately held company was in danger. And then one day it happened"....
The balance of the book proceeds on two separate but interdependent levels: Brian's personal and professional development after JMJ's acquisition by a competitor, and, the impact of that acquisition on JMJ's culture. Both he and the company proceed through what Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas have characterized as a "crucible": an especially severe trial or ordeal during which those involved experience tremendous pressure that either "makes them" stronger and wiser or "breaks them" in terms of their ability and/or willingness to prevail. The details of Brian's "crucible" as well as those of JMJ's are best revealed within the book's narrative. It would also be a disservice to both Lencioni and to those who read this commentary for me to reveal the meaning and significance of the book's title.
However, I feel comfortable explaining why I think so highly of this book. Here are three of several reasons. First, Lencioni is a master storyteller. He makes brilliant use of the components of the classic fable, in this instance (as in his earlier books) creating a contemporary business situation in which human beings are involved, rather than anthropomorphic animals as George Orwell, E.B. White, and Stephen Denning do. Brian Bailey and others are anchored in sometimes "miserable" real-world situations. Their responses to these situations are portrayed with authentic drama, not with a business theorist's facile didacticism. Second, he achieves his objective of determining (both for himself and for his reader) how personal fulfillment can be achieved in a workplace. There are indeed important lessons to be learned, both by managers and by those for whom they are responsible. Finally, Lencioni entertains his reader with appropriate wit without at any time trivializing the seriousness of the issues he addresses. This is a fable, not a sermon.
Those who share my high regard for Patrick Lencioni's latest book are urged to check out his earlier works as well as The New American Workplace co-authored by James O'Toole and Edward E. Lawler, Paul Spiegelman's Why is Everyone Smiling?: The Secret Behind Passion, Productivity, and Profit, and Michael Lee Stallard's Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team's Passion, Creativity, and Productivity.
on September 4, 2007
I picked up this book while on the run. I was intrigued by the title and, more importantly, have been impressed by Lencioni over the years. I've read some of his other books and heard him speak at a conference. Plus, I am always on the lookout for management wisdom because I think we can all use more!
I read the Wall Street Journal review of his book and had to say that I thought it was an unfair review. Although I don't know the reviewer, I do wonder whether the reviewer has ever managed people or been in a situation similar to that of Brian (the main character in the story).
Traditional management theory is hard to really apply on a day-to-day basis; I feel that much of it is written for huge companies--not small ones. I thought that this book was fairly easy to apply for the small business owner because it is based on a small pizza place. The author does a very nice job of developing the characters...one can almost hear the voices of the employees as they all seem to personify others that we've all worked with: the eager beaver, the dissenter, the high-maintenance person, etc. This made the book practical for me as I envisioned the character's problems and attempted solutions.
I also felt that the author's voice was one of reality and practicality--not ivory tower idealism. He does a good job of saying things like (and I'm paraphrasing) "I know this sounds soft" or "this may sound hokey" to confirm those very thoughts.
I believe that the book highlights many important and thought provoking points that bear mentioning: (a) many managers simply manage when they can instead of making a point to do so, (b) the rules of employee engagement differ before and after an interview, (c) some research suggests that aligning financial rewards with goals is not necessarily the right approach, (d) a big part of a manager's job is to get employees to like their jobs, and (e) employees need measurement goals that they can directly impact--not just broad macro goals that they really can't.
I think that the book could have done a better job of explaining how this process is tied to real business results. It seems to simply suggest (albeit vaguely) that happier workers lead to better business results. That makes sense, but I think that point needs further development and discussion.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book and it left me with a series of things to think about and implement.
Work has always held a special fascination for author Pat Lencioni. As a child, he could not believe adults, like his dad, worked eight hours a day, or more, with most not liking their jobs. "Why would people spend so much time away from family and friends and not be happy?" He feared he would meet the same fate... He did, but he refused to settle for misery and changed careers.
Fortunately, for Lencioni and for us, he has found his calling and is fulfilling his purpose by sharing his observations about what it takes to make the work experience something to look forward to, something meaningful.
In his sixth book, "The Three Signs of a Miserable Job," Lencioni identifies the three causes of job misery - irrelevance, immeasurement, and anonymity - and provides an antidote for each. "Three signs" utilizes a fable to drive home each of the "three signs" and the "cure."
Protagonist Brian Bailey loves being a manager, but he has just retired and is bored. After several visits to a local restaurant where he gets poor service and the employees appear to be disinterested in their jobs, Bailey buys into it. He then sets about implementing a "get well" program to turn around the restaurant by changing the employee's attitude toward their jobs.
Lencioni repeats the fundamentals of his "ending misery" model with a second application to a larger company when Bailey returns as CEO of a company in the industry he left.
The principles Lencioni hammers-on will resonate with all who work. He points out that job misery is widespread (a recent PEW study estimates 75%). It affects all who work, the high and mighty as well as those not so high or mighty - doctors, nurses,CEOs of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, bricklayers, toll booth operators, retail employees, sales people, Hollywood stars and other celebrities, pastors, athletes, or any other group you can name!
Managers, employees, head hunters, or recent college graduates will find "Three Signs" to be a critical addition to their library. It provides a clear course of action for those who want to ensure they are not creating misery and discernment for those seeking to escape misery.
And if you have had the chance to meet Pat Lencioni or hear him speak, you would agree he has put his plan into action - he is not miserable, he is having the time of his life "at work."
on August 17, 2007
In his latest tantalizing tale, Lencioni once again clearly exemplifies it doesn't take a high-powered MBA to be a successful manager. Rather, Lencioni's college-less CEO character, Brian Bailey, adeptly applies the seemingly unforgotten practice of commonsense coupled with common courtesy to vastly improve and empower employees in two very unique environments.
Retired in South Lake Tahoe and recuperating from a ski injury, Brian restlessly reexamines how he was able to convert a stagnant Central Valley fitness equipment manufacture into a market leading acquisition that earned him unimaginable wealth. A late night craving and commonly dismissed customer service slip-up at a local rundown Italian eatery inspires Brian to test his hunches. To the shock of his wife, adult children, and perhaps mostly to his cynical and sun laden boss/partner, Brian buys a minority ownership in the restaurant and immediately assumes the "weakend" manager's shift. In short order, Brian incorporates his three theories and transforms an apathetic motley crew into a truly empowered and inspired workforce.
Guided by the woefully underutilized philosophy "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," Lencioni's model will equip any level of manager to lead a more motivated and enthusiastic workforce, ultimately improving any organization's bottom line.
on August 13, 2007
I raced through my copy of The Three Signs of a Miserable Job and all I could say to myself was, "He's done it again". Patrick Lencioni has used his amazing ability to "insight" his way right to the root of the problem with this newest offering. This time he turns his attention to people management. One of the hardest things about today's management/leadership literature is that most people can get through the material well enough, but it becomes harder (if not sometimes impossible) to apply the information to real world situations. I think that happens for basically two reasons: 1) People forget a lot of what they read not too long after they have read it, and 2) the writers get too complicated in theoretical explanations. When this happens, readers fall in love with the book, but at the same time, rarely experience any success at implementing what they learned in any practical way.
One of Lencioni's great gifts is his ability to deliver important messages that are irrefutable, common sense, and made useful by his ability to simplify the message not just by use of the fable, but by his consistent ability to keep the concepts simple to understand - this is a great gift to most managers and leaders even if they are not vulnerable enough to admit it.
With this newest book, he has helped managers to understand three potent concepts that are at the heart of successfully managing people. The concepts of anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurability are spot-on in today's vexing management world. Anyone who can apply this clear, concise, and compelling message will quickly be known for their ability to harness the efforts of others in a truly uncommon way.
on October 8, 2009
As a non-supervisory employee, I thought I might find some insight into trying to make a miserable job not so miserable, or to find affirmation that I do need to move on to a different job. The book is highly readable; I finished it in two days. However, the three items that the author highlights as being the reason people are miserable in any job, regardless of its glamour (or lack thereof) or pay rate, are certainly not reasons that I have found for making me miserable at a job, and I find it hard to believe that these would be reasons for other people to be miserable in spite of all the other characteristics of their job: irrelevance, immeasurement, and anonymity. If I were writing this book, I would tell managers and employees these three reasons that make people miserable (and it's not just me; this seems to be a repeating complaint of other people I have known who are either co-workers at my miserable jobs or people at other jobs who complain of being miserable): inconsistency, dishonesty, and unreasonable expectations. If you are a manager, there is no point in your reading this book because even if you implement what the author suggests, you won't make any difference to the misery level of your employees. If you're an employee, there's no helpful advice here either. You will probably think of how you can write a better book about what actually constitutes a "miserable" job and what managers should do to amend it.
on October 13, 2007
This exceptionally written book is a quick read, but offers sound managerial principles for improving the morale of personnel. I found that some of what I currently do is what Mr. Lencioni recommends, but he has taken what I do a step further, intensifying the results. He also recommends that the manager and employees take co-responsibility for implentation. I intend to put the three principles into practice over the next few months and see how much better the employees like coming to work, as well as what kind of improvements there are to the work.
on October 14, 2007
Patrick Lencioni has a gift for taking complex problems, boiling them down to their critical components and then providing viable solutions in easy-to-read fable format. His latest work, The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, is another excellent example of his talent in action.
I'll admit that I was a bit apprehensive about this one. Everyone has aspects of their job they don't enjoy, but do you really want to read a book about why those things make you miserable, especially if you feel they can't be changed? Having read The Three Signs, I can honestly say the answer to this question is yes, you should. Read it if you're a manager so that you can consider Lencioni's advice for your employees. But regardless of whether or not you're a manager, read it and see if you can encourage your manager to read it; maybe you could even leave it on his/her chair anonymously after you've read it yourself...
Here are some of my favorite excerpts from this fantastic book:
"Too often, (companies) are slow to recognize that they have an employee satisfaction issue, and then when they finally do, their attempts to address it focus on the wrong issues."
(Regarding exit interviews...) "The problem, of course, is that departing employees rarely tell the whole story. By the time people decide to leave an organization, they have little incentive to tell their soon-to-be-former employer the truth -- that they are leaving because their supervisor didn't really manage them, and without a good manager, their jobs eventually become miserable."
"Even in those instances when executives are able to discern that poor management is the real source of employee dissatisfaction, their response, though well-intentioned, is rarely effective. That response usually takes the form of more management training, which often includes mandatory classes..."
"And so I suppose that the real shame is not that more people aren't working in positions of service to others, but that so many managers haven't yet realized that they already are."
This book has given me much to think about in my own role as both employee and manager. Now it's up to me to figure out how to implement Lencioni's advice to improve the situation on both fronts.
on May 11, 2010
Patrick Lencioni continues his series of excellent leadership/management books with The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (And Their Employees) (J-B Lencioni Series). As usual, he uses a fable to make his point. He tells the story of Brian Bailey, a retired CEO who is trying to determine why people hate their jobs and how it can be fixed. Through the fable and the more direct final section, Lencioni identifies three forces that make a job miserable: anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurement.
When workers feel anonymous, especially to the boss, they tend not to care about their work. They just want to get through the day and go home. It is up to the manager to take a genuine interest in each person so that this anonymity is dispelled.
When people feel irrelevant to the company, they often decide that their work doesn't matter. While they may be key to the success of the organization, they may not know that. Someone needs to tell then the role they play and how their work helps others.
While immeasurement may be a word that Lencioni has created, it is a simple concept. Workers need to be able to measure success. They need to know that they have fulfilled their goal. We have to be careful to measure things that we can control, but we all need some way of knowing that we have succeeded.
Lencioni is clear that these are simple concepts, but his insights are excellent. As usual, Lencioni takes very simple things and shows that any manager can master them with some effort. This is one more really helpful tool in leading people.