posted 3 Nov 2008 in Volume 12 Issue 2
Book review: Squawk! How To Stop Making Noise and Start Getting Results
A seagull manager learns the three virtues of superior management: the right expectations, communication that clicks and hands-on performance. You might call it the KM formula.
Author: Travis Bradberry, PhD
Publisher: Collins Business
Publication date: September 2008
Here’s a book written in the same style as The Squirrel by Steve Denning or The Organizational Zoo by Arthur Shelley – light reading but heavy content. Squawk! How to Stop Making Noise and Start Getting Results is for middle managers who need to change their management style or the employees under those middle managers who might do well to place this book anonymously on their manager’s desk.
In this well-told fable, Charlie is a seagull manager and he manages in the style of a seagull – swoops in when things aren’t going well, squawks orders with formulaic advice and then flies off, leaving behind steaming deposits of you-know-what on the heads of the people he’s supposed to be managing.
The book is divided into two parts – the fable and the model.
The fable is not child’s reading. Woven into the web of the tale is easily understood counsel. The tale begins when a group of seagulls agree with Charlie that there is too much competition for a limited food supply at the seashore and they follow Charlie to a nearby aquatic theme park where they set up camp and start scavenging for scraps at the food court.
Charlie is a hero until the scraps prove not to be sufficient for a growing population.
The seagulls look to Charlie for solutions, but he has none and the flock complains that all the boss does is swoop in on them with criticism. Charlie vows to change, but he doesn’t, and soon rebellion erupts. The seagulls tell Charlie they plan to return to the beach.
Charlie seeks some management advice from park residents – a turtle, an otter, a dolphin and a dog.
The turtle is a chance encounter as Charlie wanders aimlessly through the park, not understanding his problem and not knowing what to do. The turtle tells Charlie he has learned three virtues of management.
The first virtue is creating full-fledged expectations for every member of the flock. The second is applying a communication style that clicks. And the final virtue he calls ‘paws on performance’.
He sends Charlie off to see the otter who explains what ‘full-fledged expectations’ really means: “There’s a big difference between telling or even showing someone what is expected of them and actually rolling up your sleeves to make sure they completely understand what they’ll be expected to do…”
The dolphin saying he didn’t care how busy Charlie was on administrative stuff, “We all rely on the manager we report to. We need our manager’s support and our manager’s guidance. If our manager doesn’t listen to our ideas, who will?” Thus communication that clicks helps people by working with them, not just criticising them.
The dog explains that ‘paws on performance’ involves praising work well done as well as helping errant performers get back on track, giving the flock a healthy sense of both independence and interdependence.
Dr Bradberry is president of TalentSmart, a global consultancy whose client base includes 75 per cent of Fortune 500 companies. The three virtues of superior management on which Squawk is based come from a TalentSmart study of 150,000 managers. Among the interesting findings:
32 per cent of employees spend at least 20 hours per month complaining about the boss;
An employee whose manager often uses seagull-type behaviour is 30 per cent more likely to develop coronary heart disease;
35 per cent of employees have a tough time communicating with the boss;
More than two-thirds of North Americans are actively considering leaving their current job with the result being an annual loss in excess of $360 billion from employee dissatisfaction.
No, this is not a child’s tale. This is serious business.