Nine workplace lies: Finding a better way

I am excited about Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall’s book, Nine Lies About Work. I heard Buckingham speak about it during a Global Leadership Summit, Taste of the Summit presentation earlier this month. I have ordered a copy and will report further when it arrives. For now, a little taste.

The authors expose nine lies or myths of the workplace that are part of our organisational psyche. They include:

  • People care about which company they work for
    • Not so much. People care about which team they are on
  • The best people are well-rounded
    • Actually well rounded people are average. The best people are spiky (unique)
  • People need feedback
    • We like giving feedback, but what people need is attention
  • People can reliably rate other people
    • We really can’t. People can only reliably rate their own experience

From childhood we learn to focus on weaknesses to become ‘well-balanced’ people. We send children to extra lessons on subjects they struggle with and do very little to encourage and develop their strengths. We do something similar with employees.

Our uniqueness (what Buckingham and Goodall call ‘spikiness’) is what drives us and inspires others. Don’t grind the uniqueness of your team members down. Find ways to embrace it.

Feedback is a judgement call. We judge behaviour against our knowledge, experience and skills. It is about what we would do. Apart from being unreliable, feedback is seldom of any use. Only when there are steps to follow (preparing to land an aeroplane) or matters of fact (how to hold a chainsaw) is feedback required. Otherwise, let employees know how you experience what they say or do. Make ‘I’ statements:

‘I couldn’t understand that part’ rather than, ‘Your report is confusing.’

‘Thanks for your input; I thought it helped everyone understand the issues.’

The authors suggest that we should be humble about what we can reliably say about another human being.


Contact Ian about moving from feedback to attention, from judgement to inspiration  

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Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people, people-management consulting and writing and editing.

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