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Book synthesis

Harmful managerial myths (and how to be rid of them)

An organization’s success is based on a strong corporate culture. Employees love receiving feedback. The employees with the most balanced profiles have the highest potential. These widely held beliefs are all false, according to Buckingham and Goodall, whose book dismantles major managerial myths. The authors advocate a more flexible and pragmatic approach that focuses on the employee experience and real-time adaptability to complexities in the field.

Quarterly action plans, long-term objectives, annual interviews, 360° assessments, identifying high-potential individuals… There are now so many systems, processes, and tools that we’re told we can’t do without. But, argue Buckingham and Goodall, they are all based on mistaken beliefs that cause organizations to break down. What’s more, they smother individual uniqueness, frustrating and preventing employees from giving their best. The result is that only 20 percent of employees today feel they are fully engaged in their work1. It’s time to challenge the prohibitive norms and standards that are holding everyone back.

Myth No. 1: A strong culture means strong performance

The first belief that the two authors unravel is this: employees are drawn towards, remain loyal to, and identify with the culture of their organization. It might be the laid-back life at Tesla and Patagonia, the more demanding atmosphere at Apple, or the rigorous modus operandi at Deloitte. However, the culture promoted by a company has little to do with the real world of day-to-day work. In fact, it is the ground-level experience that people have inside your team, including the trust and cooperation between members, that drives the engagement and retention of your employees.

Buckingham and Goodall argue that organizations put too much emphasis on empty rhetoric about their corporate culture to the detriment of their teams, which they ignore, even though this is where all the action takes place. The solution is to step up the frequency of your interactions with your employees and, above all, stay focused on what is happening on the ground. In a world that is constantly changing, top-down plans and quarterly or annual targets (in which organizations invest millions) are immediately obsolete. They unsettle employees more than they motivate them. Setting sales quotas hinders the performance of the top salespeople, who dial back their efforts once they have hit their targets. It also puts unnecessary stress on low achievers, even driving the most insecure employees to indulge in unethical behavior to bump up sales at any cost.

If you want to guarantee the long-term engagement of your employees, it is more effective to give your people real-time information about market developments and to share a clear and concrete vision of the company’s priorities with them. Ultimately you must trust your staff to make decisions based on the actual situations they face.

Myth No. 2: Standardized skills are beneficial

Excerpt from Business Digest N°298, July-August 2019

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Françoise Tollet
Published by Françoise Tollet
She spent 12 years in industry, working for Bolloré Technologies, among others. She co-founded Business Digest in 1992 and has been running the company since 1998. And she took the Internet plunge in 1996, even before coming on board as part of the BD team.