What I’m Reading: On Work

October 4th, 2014 by Miles Leave a reply »

I’ve been making time for more reading over the past few months.  One of the themes I’ve been reading about is work: the why and how of professional careers and teams.

Work on Purpose by Lara Galinsky

A quick and inspiring read is the book Work on Purpose from Echoing Green’s Senior Vice President.  I’ve known Lara for years, although I sorry to say, this I have not made the time to read her book until now.  After meeting with her to discuss the Work on Purpose project that she is leading, I definitely wanted to check it out.

The book illustrates the Heart + Head = Hustle theory of meaningful work (particularly social entrepreneurship or changemaking).  It tells the stories of a handful of Echoing Green fellows came to discover and commit to their purpose.  If you’re looking for inspiration for your personal journey, this is a place for example stories.  If you enjoy the book, you may also be interested in the sample curriculum that Echoing Green has published including an exercise in finding your Head and Heart focus for your personal purpose.

How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth and Karen Dillon

While a bit broader in its scope than merely about career, the book How Will You Measure Your Life is written by a business school professor and does use career as a focus in the book.  While I personally found the style a bit dry, I think it might be more accessible to those that may not immediately feel comfortable reading a book about “softer” topics.  One of the successes of the book is the way it connects your day-to-day choices with your long-term path in life.

The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age by Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh

I find great pleasure is learning a new concept that immediately makes sense and draws me to want to adopt it.  The Alliance, like many business books, could probably even be shorter, although the framework and core concepts are insightful.  I would be interested in connecting with those that have experience implementing it fully in a medium to large company.

Here is how the authors summarize the book:

The employer-employee relationship is broken. Managers face a seemingly impossible dilemma: You can’t afford to offer lifetime employment. But you can’t build a lasting, innovative business when everyone acts like a free agent.
The solution: Stop thinking of employees as family or free agents, and start thinking of them as allies on a tour of duty.

When managers and employees can have a frank discussion about the length and depth of an employees commitment, as well as personal goals, there is an opportunity to create more value.  The power comes from constructing the role for the next X years to meet the company’s as well as the employee’s goals in this explicit way.   I have known individual managers to have these discussions with most although not always all their employees.  I have had these conversations, as well, although seems that it would be powerful to use explicitly throughout an organization much more systematically.

There are some other related ideas and more explanation in the book.  I recommend it.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Structured primarily as a business novel, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team makes for enjoyable read.  The book makes the point that to succeed in business (and most human endeavors) it takes the combined efforts of a team working well together.  How do you create a team that truly works together?  The storyline illustrates the framework that the author proposes for how to build teams and avoid common mistakes.  In the final part of the book, he lays out the framework more explicitly and offers some exercises that can get you started.  Like many other business books, while it provides value, the book appears designed to draw you in for consulting, more books or other purchases.  Even with that sense of holding something back, there was definitely some food for thought for me.

Dysfunction #1: Absence of Trust
The fear of being vulnerable with team members prevents the building of trust within the team.
Dysfunction #2: Fear of Conflict
The desire to preserve artificial harmony stifles the occurrence of productive ideological conflict.
Dysfunction #3: Lack of Commitment
The lack of clarity or buy-in prevents team members from making decisions they will stick to.
Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of Accountability
The need to avoid interpersonal discomfort prevents team members from holding one another accountable.
Dysfunction #5: Inattention to Results
The pursuit of individual goals and personal status erodes the focus on collective success.