Under the Hood

Slap, Stan. (2015). Under the Hood.  New York:  Penguin.

Your great ideas? Your grand theories? Those are parlor furniture. Come with me…  I’m going to take you down to the cellar and show you how the house really works.”  SIGMUND FREUD

This opening quote in Stan Slap’s second book gives you an insight.  He gets down to the basics of culture and eliminates the blizzard of work camouflage in many theoretical books. He opens with a story about a new initiative in a company with all the fanfare of a spirit rally.  When the employees were asked, “do you understand the new strategy?” the response was a resounding “NO>:

“You can’t sell it outside if you can’t sell it inside.”  One thing he reminded me of is that changes in the culture have to be an inside-out process.  It is also a bottom-up as those in the culture watch the leaders’ feet, not their words.  If they don’t see the actions, the don’t believe the words.

Make people smart.  Any time a leader makes people feel less than competent, the battle is lost. The worst thing one human being can do to another is to make them feel small: You’re not. You can’t. You won’t ever be. This is a killing of the soul, of hope, and of potential.

The framework for the book are the Seven Deadly Sins (Hmmm I think Deming had some too).  I have put a few quotes from the book to give a flavor of the sins.  THERE ARE SPECFIC ACTIONS EXPLAINED FOR EVERYONE IN THE BOOK

  1. Failure to Respect the Power of an Employee Culture – You can’t bribe, bluff, or bully an employee culture into sustainably doing anything. You can’t tell the culture what to believe. You can’t stop it from existing
  2. Presumption of Rapid Behavioral Change – People are not Masters of Change; they’re Masters of Putting Up with Change. Not the same thing.
  3. Plenty of Management Where Leadership is Needed – The irreducible essence of leadership is that leaders are human beings who live their own deepest values without compromise and use those values to make life better for other people. That’s why people become leaders and why people follow leaders.
  4. Say What? – Never misinterpret lingering cultural silence as agreement, compliance, or an indication that the culture has nothing to say.
  5. Pay What? – We promise to pay you well (OK MAYBE NOT IN NON-PROFITS AND SCHOOLS), work you hard, make you laugh, drive you crazy, treat you with respect, and allow you to be great.
  6. Asking for Too Much Trust – A value is a deeply embedded belief; under pressure, people will fall on it to protect it with their lives—it’s the last thing that’s sacrificed.
  7. Big Kickoff. Little Payoff  A burning platform is inspirational—unless you happen to be standing on it. The key is to light the unknown road ahead a little bit at a time.

The culture lives under the rug. Leaders have to be in the lounges, by the water cooler, in the classrooms and offices to find out what is really happening. Staying isolated is a recipe to disaster.

DO THIS NOW – Slap has specific ideas in each chapter. The actions provide an action plan to change cultures for the better whether you are a business, non-profit, school, etc.

An old quote from Einstein is, “Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.”        One of the most important data points is an emotional commitment to the work and the company. There are outliers both ways.  People who are paid a high salary and are not committed, and, there are those who are paid low salaries or volunteers who contribute mightily to a mission. Emotional commitment of colleagues could be the most important asset to your workgroup and the company at large.

There is a high cost in money and contribution when we have employees who are uninvolved, demonstrating emotional detachment in their position. The bottom line is, we live our personal values at work in our own role and as a member of our work groups. Emotional commitment is the biggest thing we have to give to our family and company as a human being.

“I’ve rarely met managers who’ve come into their jobs with a cynical worldview, but I’ve met plenty who’ve adopted one as a protective mechanism.”  So, how do we keep a fresh, positive, and energetic culture with a learning attitude and engage those around us?

Chapter 3 has the title, ‘Time Waits for No Manager.’  How many hours a week do you spend working—meetings, e-mail, people problems, crazed customers, not to mention any actual work that accidentally occurs in between? It’s about fifty. How many hours a week do you spend traveling to and from and for work? It’s about ten. How many hours a week do you spend thinking about work? It’s about fifteen hours a week. At seventy-five hours a week, you’re spending more than double your waking hours working than not working. These are the irretrievable hours of your personal life—you do not get this time back.

Most individuals and companies want life and work to run smooth. When a problem surfaces, we tend to reject what is happening and want to reclaim homeostasis. CEO Jim Goodnight said. “Trust people, give them a good place to work, expect a lot out of them and they’ll do the right thing,” I think this only happens with good leadership and commitment between people for the people and the company. “We make decisions based on people rather than based on prescriptive business philosophy.” Maybe we make decisions considering both.

In some ways, your company really has to work for you, before you’ll really work for your company. This is a reason why culture is so important in creating a workplace that honors people while pursuing common goals. Our values guide us in sustaining a workable culture.

WHERE ARE YOUR VALUES? Being a leader means being able to sell your values to others. Where do your values come from?

  • Early upbringing
  • Big decisions and the consequences of those decisions
  • Personal beliefs and priorities placed under extreme pressure
  • Religious and spiritual doctrines
  • Intimate mentors and role models
  • Significant life events

Here are a few questions worth stating:

  • What is the legacy I want to be known for?
  • What are the three things most important to living a fulfilled life that I would tell a child?
  • If I could do it all over, what do I wish I’d known sooner and why?

WHY JOHNNY CAN’T LEAD. There are 380,687 titles in print about leadership—83,524 about “business leadership”—and U.S.-based Fortune 500 companies alone spend an estimated $12.3 billion each year on leadership development for their managers. A lot of that exposure was useless, generalized or wrong. If we start with human beings rather than human doings, we might be better off.  There is an African Proverb that fits here.  “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

 So, how do we enlist people in our culture for better results? There are three ways to get your people’s attention.

  1. One problem: Doesn’t work. The carrot may achieve short-term results, but it won’t inspire the honest, sustained effort a leader needs. The successful leadership battle is fought for your people’s hearts, not their pockets.
  2. One problem: Doesn’t work. The stick may achieve short-term results, but it’s the longer-term results to be concerned about since anger is the natural psychological reaction to fear.
  3. Your hand, reach out that hand to your people. “Grab hold,” you are saying, “and I’ll take you to a Better Place.

A company must let leaders live their values which will positively affect work/life balance.If you’re losing your soul and you know it, then you’ve still got a soul left to lose.

Charles Bukowski