The economy has changed and the old ways of managing a team won’t cut it anymore.  That’s the basic premise of Paul Glover’s book WorkQuake.  Managing from a pedestal, shouting orders without listening to employee feedback – none of those will work anymore.

WorkQuake is an essential book for anyone struggling to figure out the best way to impact their team, anyone trying to figure out why things aren’t working as well as they were, and employees who are trying to figure out how they could do it better.  Written in short (often two page) sections, each chapter of WorkQuake focuses on how to fix either an operational issue or a personal performance/productivity issue, and it’s Glover’s writing that really makes this a must read.  He writes with humour throughout, speaking from the heart and giving great wisdom.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

You CAN Handle the Truth

"Many bosses believe employees who interact with them to get work done are telepathic... because employees have learned that most bosses react adversely when asked to clarify or explain the incoherent request or order they just issued, most employees don't ask for any clarification or expectation..."
- WorkQuake, page 6

The main theme running through WorkQuake is communication.  Which shouldn’t be that surprising – communication is something we do constantly and also one of the hardest things to do right.  Whether it’s communicating bad news, issuing or receiving feedback, or innovating new ideas, author Paul Glover suggests that communicating with your team, asking them questions, and listening to their opinions is the answer.

In fact, although communication is only a subject of two chapters, it’s a theme that runs throughout.  Communicating with your team can tell you whether recognition is working, whether expectations are realistic, what the rumour mill is saying, and ways to improve products or services that only those working with customers or products directly would know.  Glover suggests scheduling regular 15-minute one-on-one sessions with employees just to talk about things, but he also marks the importance of being present where employees are – especially when times are tough.  Your physical presence by the water cooler shows that you’re not hiding out – you’re on the front lines just like them.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Stop Trying to Teach the Pig to Dance

"Stop trying to teach the pig to dance... it's a waste of your time and it irritates the pig."
- WorkQuake, page 20

A main theme running through WorkQuake is the reality that not everyone on your team should be there – and to try to change those people (to teach them to dance) will never be effective.  One of the most powerful and effective things that you can do as a leader is to recognize which of your team is “The Others” – those who will not “ever improve their performance, regardless of how much time, energy, and resources a company expends on them”.  Rather than focusing on improving The Others, spend time focusing on Core Employees (the portion of the workforce who will always give 100% no matter what) and team members with potential (Glover calls these “Temporary” – they’re trying to decide whether to be Others or Core Employees.

Not sure who on your team is an Other?  Glover suggests that your employees do, and communicating with them is the key to figuring it out as well as taking action.  Once the proverbial cat is out of the bag, Core Employees will expect you to take care of the problem of the Others (as Glover suggests: awareness + knowledge = expectation).  It is important that before taking action, you ensure that expectations were clear all along the way, employees were trained in meeting these expectations, and employees are rewarded for meeting expectations.  If this is the case and employees aren’t meeting expectations, then they need to go.  Glover’s final statement here is key: if a Temporary Employee sees one of The Others not meeting expectations and not being reprimanded for it, “it becomes acceptable for them to perform at that same low level.”

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Learn to Delegate

"Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don't interfere."
- Ronald Reagan, quoted in WorkQuake, page 133

This is not the first time someone has suggested the necessity to delegate.  But Glover focuses not only on why you need to learn to delegate, but also on what you are giving to the employee you are delegating to.   Make sure that the tasks are worth doing (if they don’t need to be done, you really shouldn’t be doing them), and focus on delegating tasks that you are good at (because you’ll be able to train someone else quickly) and tasks that you aren’t good at.  Finally, Glover instructs to never delegate “motivating, teambuilding, praising, or reprimanding”.  Delegation is not just in clearing off your plate – it’s also in giving others responsibility that allows them to grow.  It is important when delegating to keep the communication open – by clearly communicating expectations beforehand and regularly checking in, you ensure success in delegation.

Regardless of the challenges that you are facing in your organization, you will find applicable lessons within WorkQuake.  Glover’s writing style – short, to the point, and often humourous – allows him to say things that many other management books don’t have the guts to say.

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Ashley Pelley

ABOUT Ashley Pelley

Words have always been food for me – once I pick up something to read, I can’t put it down. Words nourish my mind, whether through imagination or knowledge...
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