Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


[Review] Fired Up or Burned Out

It's been a good year for good business books. I just finished Michael Stallard's Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team's Passion, Creativity, and Productivity, and liked it very much.

The concepts in this book are sound, but the reason I liked it so much is that it contains a lot of stories that help illustrate how the concepts work in real life. For example, one of the concepts discussed in this book is about how to establish and maintain "Connection" in the workplace.

Great coaching

Stallard goes on to tell the story of John Wooden, a basketball coach, and how Wooden fostered a sense of family and commitment within his basketball teams (it's a great story) and went on to become one of the great basketball coaches of the game. Wooden coached some truly great players like Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during their college years, and made quite an impact. For example, Abdul-Jabbar wrote of Coach Wooden:

"[He] had a profound influence on me as an athlete, but even greater influence on me as a human being. He is responsible, in part, for the person I am today."

The foundation of Wooden's philosophy was to bring together Values, Vision, and Voice and the impact was extremely powerful. He fostered Connection in everyone on the team - not just the stars, and believed in dealing with issues, challenges, fears and disagreements out in the open. I can't do the story justice here, but it's an inspiring example of connecting individuals into a powerful team.

Not-so-great coaching

Stallard follows this with the story of Howell Raines of the New York Times, who had a disastrous reign due to politics, favoritism, and inconsistent application of policies and values. He fostered Connection in the stars of the organization, but alienated everyone else.

When Raines began to have problems at the paper, he was quickly "thrown under the bus" by the people he'd alienated, and went down in a spectacular mess. You may have heard the story of Jayson Blair, the NY Times reporter who plagiarized and fabricated stories which were represented as fact in the paper. Blair, one of Raines' "stars," was able to get away with this because of the flawed culture Raines fostered.

"[He] had a profound influence on me as an athlete, but even greater influence on me as a human being. He is responsible, in part, for the person I am today."

--Kareem Abdul-Jabar

Protect the Core

Another significant theme in the book is protecting the "Core" employees; not just your stars. Core employees are those employees that are sometimes thought of as "B players" but are essential in getting the job done day-in and day-out. Stallard explores the various motivations of these core employees, and discusses ways to increase their feeling that they are valued, contributing members of an effective organization.

This leads to much of the "meat" of this book, comprised of several chapters that deal with how you can really tap into the power of Vision, Value, and Voice in your organization. This includes increasing information flow, getting rid of things that "devalue" in the organization, and systematically assessing the quality of your company's leadership.

The Best for Last: My Favorite Part

Since I love stories so much, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the last section of the book is a 4-week program featuring a story per day for study and reflection. The section is called "Learn From Twenty Great Leaders Over Twenty Days," and each day includes a very short, powerful discussion of a key concept to help you improve your organization, as well as an "Application" section that tells you how a great leader in history successfully applied the concept.

I truly enjoyed this book and I think you will, too. If you or someone you know wants to improve the leadership and effectiveness within your organization, this book is a great resource.

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