First up on my summer professional development reading list is The Ideal Team Play by Patrick Lencioni.
We read his classic The Five Dysfunctions of a Team several years ago as a staff, so I know what I'm getting into.
The problem with books like this (and John Gordon is notorious for this too) is that they are written as fables.
I prefer (by far actually) to read dry nonfiction backed up by tons of research (think Good to Great or So Good They Can't Ignore You or The World is Flat). Or even a story that is then backed up with a ton of data (think The Devil and the White City or The Ghost Map).
I just find fables hard to stomach on a professional level.
First, all the examples are cherry picked. That is, the fable is designed to illustrate the point. That just goes against everything I believe in when it comes to professional development.
I don't just want to read a book that already backs up my beliefs . . . especially when there is NO evidence presented in the text at all to support this.
Anyone can tell a story to illustrate the morals or virtues they want to recognize and promote. It's far more difficult to do the research first and then craft a narrative around the research or to do the research and then find a narrative to support the research.
So going in, I know that will be the hardest thing for me to stomach.
I tried reading Gordon's The Carpenter - and I did make it all the way through - but despite it's great moral, I was practically laughing the whole way through at the outlandish plot and overly visible morals and take aways.
In fact, two weeks ago I was driving to Bismarck, so I thought I'd buy an audio book to help pass the time. I hastily selected Gordon's popular The Energy Bus, which is used by many college and pro teams. The problem - this one too was a fable (I didn't realize that was ALL Gordon is capable of writing). Worse yet, he was narrating it.
Now, I have seen several of his videos, and they are engaging, and I actually show them to my classes on occasion. But there was something about realizing I'd have to listen to him read what amounts to a fiction book for 5 hours was just too much. I couldn't take more than 15 minutes of it. In fact, I shut it off before the character (and let's not be naive here - Gordon's characters are ALL the SAME over and over and over . . . he was the same type of schmuck - too busy with his work to appreciate the little things in his life, like his wife and kids - as in The Carpenter) even got on the mythical energy bus. I left him standing at the bus stop as the energy bus pulled up and opened its door. But I can already picture how this works . . . just like in The Carpenter, he is going to meet the bus driver who is going to serve as a mentor for him and will teach him the obvious moral of the story.
Okay. I have to stop typing about it or it's going to piss me off too much, and I'll never read Lencioni's book.
The saving grace is that I've heard Lencioni speak several times, and he's excellent. I just have to keep that in the back of my mind . . . that he has done the research and he just chooses to write his books as fables to make it more digestible for the masses (which the cynical side of me screams - that means it's dumbed down!).
So here it goes -
Ch. 1 notes
First off, I have to give Lencioni (or his editor at least) some credit for using the proper format of 'was' early in the book when it initially looks like an error. Impressive.
The parable is this - Jeff's uncle, Bob, has some serious heart and health issues and must resign from his position as CEO of a successful construction company. He passes the CEO off to Jeff, who had worked in various companies in Silicon Valley.
Of course, this event is set with drama. How will Bob's workers look at Jeff who seems to have just been given the job because he was Bob's nephew? How will Jeff be able to educate himself on how to run a construction company?
If you've read Lencioni's work - and I've only read his book on how teams fails - so you know that Lencioni is going to have a coach / teach in there somewhere to help our CEO learn about what it means to be a successful team member.
Sure enough, we are introduced to this early on in the book.
Jeff soon meets Bob's two most important employees, Clare and Bobby, who are supportive of Jeff but have let the culture slip a bit. I'm making a prediction now, one will stay and one will quit.
Right now, Jeff realizes that Bob has take on two huge construction projects without enough staff. And if they don't pull these off, the company will fold.
So the plot of the fable is perfect to illustrate what Lencioni is going to focus on: how to hire the right people and get rid of the wrong people.
I like this, but I'd much rather see it in practice in an actual company instead of an invented scenario.
Right now, Jeff - thanks to Clare and Bobby - realizes that some of his best contracts have quit because of cancerous workers (namely Nancy). So right now the company's policy is - if they need 20 workers - to hire 30 because they know 10 will quit. Not very effective.
Jeff's solution: develop culture and support teamwork and you will be able to only higher 10 people . . . because those 10 will do the work of 20 because they will be so motivated because of the culture and positive atmosphere.
We shall see.