Book 4 of 52: "Three Signs of a Miserable Job" by Patrick Lencioni

It looks like I’m going to be switching back and forth, from fiction to non-fiction books and back again, as I work through this 52 book challenge.

I picked up this book, “Three Signs of a Miserable Job” by Patrick Lencioni, expecting to get to hear tales of jobs where employees are miserable, perhaps learning about how even those “perfect” jobs like actor or rock star don’t end up leading to happiness.

I did learn about why those “perfect” jobs aren’t so perfect – but it was presented in a totally unexpected way.

This book tells a story in the form of a parable, following a displaced and unhappily retired CEO by the name of Brian.  Brian believes that proper management, rather than just focusing on profits and the bottom line, is what leads to happy employees and a happy company.  As we follow his adventures, from buying a stake in a pizza restaurant to trying to turn around larger companies, we get to see his three core beliefs about management at work.

Those beliefs are founded on the idea that all employees seek three things in order to make their careers feel rewarding and enjoyable:

1. Metrics – most employees have no way of truly telling how well they’re performing at their job.  For a hotel clerk who checks in guests, there’s no tracking of numbers – and for someone in the middle of an organization, like an office receptionist, there’s no real numbers to consider at all for evaluating performance.  A good boss or manager needs to find a way to provide real data so employees can track their unbiased performance.

2. Relevance – employees need to know how their work actually benefits someone.  If you file away papers in an office all day, what does that actually do to help the rest of the outside world?  A good manager needs to make sure employees understand who their job benefits – even if that person is the manager himself.

3. Recognition – employees want to have a manager who knows them as more than just a cog in a machine.  Here, we risk straying into some touchy-feely stuff, and there probably are some employees who don’t want their manager to really be a friend.  But Lencioni emphasizes that some level of connection, knowing some facts about employees, whether it be that they live with their parents, just had a baby, or are coming down with a cold, is useful in helping those employees feel like they are truly valued.

Of course, in the parable in the book, application of these techniques works out amazingly for our case studies.  Whether this truly translates into the real world is less certain, but the book definitely resonates with me, and its lessons seem useful and applicable.

Now, I just wish I had some employees to manage…

Time to read: About 2 hours.  As a narrative, this went quite fast.

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